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RNC 2016: 4 things Peter Thiel said about tech, the economy, and Silicon Valley

Venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention in support of Donald Trump. Here are some top takeaways from his address.

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Image: Stephen Shankland/CNET

The US Presidential race has officially entered the general election season, kicked off by the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH. The event saw republican frontrunner Donald Trump claim the formal nomination from his party among his family and a host of supporters.

Among the speakers at the event, perhaps the most surprising was noted tech billionaire and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Known for his work in founding PayPal and his investments in companies like Facebook, Thiel took the stage to speak on the state of the American economy and how it relates to the Silicon Valley tech industry.

SEE: Peter Thiel: Entrepreneur. Investor. Author. Former national chess master.

Thiel, an entrepreneur and company builder himself, opened his address by referring to Trump as a "builder," and lauded the fact that, like himself, Trump was not a politician. In his full presentation, which lasted about six minutes, Thiel touched on a few different topics. Here are the four key themes Thiel spoke about:

1. Our economy is broken

One of the core themes was the "broken" American economy. Thiel mentioned that wages were flat across the nation and that he believed things now aren't as good as they once were.

"Americans get paid less today than ten years ago. But healthcare and college tuition cost more every year. Meanwhile Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton's speaking fees," Thiel said.

Originally from Frankfurt, Germany, Thiel's parents immigrated to America in 1968, when Thiel was 1 year old, and landed in Cleveland. He said that, at that time, opportunity wasn't confined to certain cities in America, but it was available throughout the country.

2. We need to bring Silicon Valley's prosperity to whole country

Like many in the tech industry, Thiel works in the Silicon Valley area in California. Because of the prosperity of that particular area, when you live there it is "hard to see where America has gone wrong," Thiel said, noting that much of the progress of the tech industry has been confined to Silicon Valley.

"My industry has made a lot of progress in computers and in software, and, of course, it's made a lot of money," Thiel said. "But Silicon Valley is a small place. Drive out to Sacramento, or even just across the bridge to Oakland, and you won't see the same prosperity. That's just how small it is."

While talking about his time growing up in Cleveland, Thiel said that in 1968, "the world's high tech capital wasn't just one city," but rather that "all of America was high tech." The overarching theme here is that innovation and "high-tech" are, at least, some of the keys Thiel sees as necessary to rebuilding the American economy.

SEE: How the 'PayPal Mafia' redefined success in Silicon Valley (TechRepublic)

3. Our government was once high tech too

Another system that Thiel addressed as broken was the American government, explaining the perceived failures he sees in government technology and projects.

"Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can't even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government's software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn't even work at all," Thiel said.

This, he said, is a far cry from the country that once completed the Manhattan Project, and showcases a level of incompetence that wouldn't be deemed acceptable in Silicon Valley.

4. Culture wars distract us from the problem

As a speaker at the RNC, Thiel is especially notable as he is openly gay, which is especially interesting given the party's recent public opposition of transgender bathroom use. However, Thiel addressed both of these issues head-on in his presentation, even making light of the latter.

"When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union," Thiel said. "And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?"

Thiel did say that every American is unique in their identity and that he is proud be gay, a Republican, and an American. And, while he admitted that he isn't on board with every tenet of the Republican platform, he said he believes there are bigger issues to address.

"I don't pretend to agree with every plank in our party's platform; but fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump," Thiel said.

You can read the full transcript of Thiel's speech here.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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