The focus of Geithner's speech was on the economic relationship between the U.S. and China.
"Even though we compete in many areas, our economic strengths are largely complimentary," he said.
But the first question out of the box from the audience, perhaps not in the way he expected, was not about China, but rather fiscal policies here at home.
"Bank of America got bailed out, the people got sold out, thousands are being foreclosed," one person said.
Nancy Mancias, a member of Code Pink and Occupy SF, posed what Geithner says is the dominant question he's asked -- why the Obama administration bailed out the nation's financial institutions.
"We didn't do it for the banks, we did it for the economy," Geithner said. "We did it for the innocent victims who are suffering so much and faced of course the tremendous value in their savings, the risk their savings in banks would evaporate."
Geithner praises the president for what he calls an effective strategy for rescuing the American economy, but acknowledges times are still tough. And the Treasury secretary says events beyond our borders can impact growth.
He heads to China next week for the fourth formal economic dialogue in Beijing.
"We have a long way to go; they are just in the process of dismantling the overwhelming state dominated economy, but they are making changes that are fundamentally good for the U.S. and it's very much in our interest to encourage those reforms," Geithner said.
Geithner believes the biggest threat to this nation's economic recovery is partisan politics -- the fight over reform.