Barack and Michelle Obama will be guests of honor at the 30th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival this year, reports the Washington Post. The Obamas will headline the annual media conference later this month in Austin, Texas, alongside other keynote speakers at this year’s SXSW, Ellen Page and Ian Daniel. Barack and Michelle Obama will be at SXSW to promote a new White House initiative called “Let Girls Learn,” a program designed to promote education for adolescent girls in developing nations.
The Obama program “Let Girls Learn” builds on earlier successes by Michelle Obama in establishing and promoting early education for young women in countries where girls are typically barred from school, or face significant social or economic pressure to keep them in the home.
“To educate a girl is to build a healthier family, a stronger community and a brighter future. Unfortunately today, 62 million girls around the world are not in school. Half of them are adolescents, we know that countries with more girls in secondary school tend to have lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS,” reads the White House Press release.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be at SXSW to promote the initiative on March 11th, delivering a keynote speech with Evan Smith, editor of the Texas Tribune. It will be the first time in the 30-year history of the media festival that a sitting president and first lady take the stage.
“I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our event’s 30th year than to welcome both the President and First Lady,” SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson told Billboard.
The Obamas’ keynote speech will take place in two parts, the first, headlined by President Barack Obama, will focus on civic engagement and the role that technology can play in increasing participation in the democratic process. SXSW, traditionally a media and technology festival/conference, will play host to the discussion between President Obama and Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith in an effort to highlight the transformative power technology has on the political process – at home and abroad.
“In 2012 when the president was running for re-election, there were fewer than 1 billion smartphones in the world. This year on a daily basis 1 billion people go to their Facebook page on their smartphone every day, that’s in four years,” a senior White House official told the Washington Post.
The first Obama campaign in 2008 capitalized on social media to build their grassroots network that eventually supplanted “inevitable” candidate Hillary Clinton, and won Barack Obama his first term as President – and again in 2012 against Republican nominee Mitt Romney. But today, as the Post points out, the White House is fully aware that the increased use of social media has also helped Donald Trump undermine the Republican establishment and bring him perilously close to a nomination.
Nevertheless, the Obamas remain on message about social media, fully embracing new technologies as they transition into their lives post-presidency. The “Let Girls Learn” initiative is presumably a part of that pivot, as President Obama enters his final year as president, launching the initiative at a venue like SXSW insures that it’ll be picked up and discussed by influencers in every sphere of the entertainment, technology, and social media industries.
The “Let Girls Learn” initiative is a joint project between President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and U.S. aid organizations The Peace Corps and USAID, building on past successes to try and establish a lasting impact on the lives of young women worldwide by reducing barriers between girls and a solid education.
[Photo by Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images]