The next big thing: Obama speaks to America on Twitter
Obama is the first president to utilize the social media website to address the public.
Jul. 07, 2011
President Obama set a new precedent for communication between the government and its citizens in the first-ever hour-long Twitter “town hall” meeting Monday, where he answered burning questions about the economy and his administration.
“I am going to make history here and be the first president to live tweet,” Obama said.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was the moderator in the video discussion that combined selected questions via Twitter with the president’s live answers. The questions were chosen based on popularity and covered topics ranging from job creation to the economy.
According to the White House’s blog, citizens were encouraged throughout the week before the meeting to ask questions to the president via tweet with the hash tag, “#AskObama,” or join the discussion by following the White House and town hall’s twitter accounts.
Several hours prior to the discussion, congressional republicans took to the cyber waves and flooded the Twitter with critical questions, such as “Why is the only factory you are creating jobs for the redtape factory?” from U.S. Representative Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and “My constituents want to know, where are the jobs?” from U.S. Representative Buck McKeon, R-Calif.
The first question regarded the president’s actions in the recession and what he would have retrospectively done differently.
“I think that probably one thing that I would do differently would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take awhile to get out of this,” Obama tweeted in response. “Even I didn’t realize how long it would take to get out of the recession. I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take.”
As questions progressed from industry to space exploration, Obama dwelled on the idea of advancing the United States technologically.
“Now we need the next big thing," Obama tweeted. "Rather than keep on doing the same thing, let's invest in new research in new technologies that can get us places faster. Let's start thinking about what the next horizon is.”
Dorsey said, prior to the president’s entrance, the U.S. economy was one of the most actively discussed topics on Twitter, and over half of these tweets also mentioned the president. Obama’s answers reflected upon much of this economic turmoil and conversation.
In the beginning of the discussion, Obama himself tweeted a question for listeners to answer: “In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?”
The answers to this question varied, from “cutting military spending” to the blunt, “We need to raise taxes – period.”
Obama ended the discussion with the basic idea of the ideal life of a U.S. citizen: receiving a good education, finding a well-paying job, sending children off to college and retiring confidently.
“What ties us together is this idea is that everybody's got a shot,” Obama tweeted. “Anyone can go and build up a company and help bring the country together. That's what makes this country outstanding.”