White House Invites SOTU Questions from Citizens via Twitter

The White House used social media to put a new twist on an old idea.

by / January 29, 2014
Starting at 2 p.m. ET, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (@LaborSec) answered citizens questions about minimum wage, unemployment insurance, skills gap and apprenticeships. Twitter

The White House dusted off an old idea on Jan. 29 called the “Big Block of Cheese Day,” an online event in which the public logged onto Twitter to tweet questions about the State of the Union address to the president’s cabinet members and the White House staff.

Virtual attendees of the 2014 event used the hashtag #AsktheWH to ask questions of officals who were categorized into different time slots throughout the day. From 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time, for example, Director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy Dr. John Holdren (@WhiteHouseOSTP) answered questions about science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM), a recap of which can be found at the Center for Digital Education.

Big Block of Cheese Day History

The event got its name from a similar event held by President Andrew Jackson in 1837, in which the public was physically invited to the White House to ask questions. When they arrived, there was a 1,400 pound block of cheddar to be shared. Jackson, who was known to have a hot temper and was also addicted to coffee, alcohol and chewing tobacco, sure knew how to party.

From 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew (@DavidAgnew44) addressed state and local government issues. One question was which state bills are being tracked during the 2014 legislative sessions, to which Agnew responded, "... minimum wage, marriage equality, Medicaid expansion, gun violence, climate," to name a few. 

More high quality pre-kindergarten education was among the issues mentioned during the president’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28, and was the primary topic during the #AsktheWH event.

When the health care Q&A period began at 4:00 p.m. ET, one citizen asked what the benefits of ObamaCare are, which required a double-tweet from Director of Progressive Media & Online Response Jesse Lee (@JesseCLee44) to answer:

And the final "Big Block of Cheese Day" chat revolved around rebuilding America's infrastructure with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (@SecretaryFoxx)

One question and answer of particular interest was this:



And then a bit of fun ... with some truth in Foxx's response:



Check out the full day’s schedule with links to each White House Twitter account that participated on the White House website.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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