President Obama and Michelle Obama to talk at South by Southwest festival


Michael Idato

US president Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will both appear at the annual technology, music and film festival South by Southwest.

In the past decade, the 30-year-old annual event has emerged alongside San Diego’s Comic-Con and the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals as a key fixture in the pop culture calendar.

President Obama will tackle the subject of “civic engagement in the 21st century”, as part of the event’s interactive technology calendar.

He will be interviewed by the Texas Tribune newspaper’s editor in chief, Evan Smith.

According to organisers, the president’s keynote will explore how people can use their “ideas and talents to make technology work for us, especially when it comes to tackling big challenges like increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama will deliver a keynote in the event’s music calendar, to discuss the Let Girls Learn initiative, which is tackling the issue of access to education for young women around the world.

The president will appear at the festival on Friday, March 11; Mrs Obama will deliver her keynote five days later, on Wednesday, March 16.

It is the first time in the event’s three decade history that a sitting president and First Lady have participated. “I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our event’s 30th year than to welcome both the president and first lady to South by Southwest,” the event’s co-founder Roland Swenson said.

“As each new generation comes up at South by Southwest they look for ways they can be of service, and it’s important to reflect and support that message.”

South by Southwest – or SXSW as it’s also known – is staged annually in Austin, Texas.

Last year approximately 80,000 people attended the event; the music and interactive calendars dominated much of that, drawing almost 60,000 of the total.

Among the varied music and film launches planned for the festival are a range of panel discussions, ranging from doing business in Cuba and hacking the brain to treat paralysis, to deconstructing Google Analytics.

Panels and events are broadly programmed to touch on art, science and inspiration, the future of entertainment, emerging technologies and trends in the marketing and media worlds.



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