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Carroll School of Management

Meeting President Trump

Edward H. Bastian

Chief Executive Officer, Delta Air Lines 

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

March 9, 2017

TAKEAWAY: Meeting President Trump

You were among a group of airline leaders that met with the president a couple of weeks ago. What was that like? Was there anything confidential that you’d like to share with us—this intimate group?

Yeah, he’s the same person you see campaigning as well as in meeting. Listen, put personal politics aside, right? The one thing I will say about the president that I drew from the meeting was the message he was sending to us and to me was that I want you to tell the politicians what they need to do, rather than the politicians telling you what you need to do to work for them—to make them successful. He’s flipped it on its head.

Whether this model works or not—jury’s out, who knows? But he’s trying to run the country like a business. It’s the only thing he knows, right? And he’s surrounding himself with some really smart businesspeople who are accomplished and skilled in their own right. For years, I have always had people come up and say, well, why don’t you run for this, or why hasn’t the business community put its best minds out there to help solve the issues in our economy? Well, guys, we’re doing it. It’s happening now.

So we’ll see how it goes. But it was an encouraging meeting. It was one that I think things will get done. I think it’s probably going to take more time than expectations now. They don’t have the people staffed, and the cabinet departments are still looking for people to start working with. But there was a positive atmosphere. As a business leader, for me to be in the White House with the president within less than a month of him being inaugurated was awesome—is awesome. Unfortunately, we never had that experience with the prior administration. And I think this is an administration that we’re going to do our very best to work with.