Obamas to headline South by Southwest festival

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were announced Wednesday as headliners of South by Southwest, the celebrated showcase of cutting-edge technology and music.

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were announced Wednesday as headliners of South by Southwest, the annual technology showcase in Austin, Texas. © AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were announced Wednesday as headliners of South by Southwest, the annual technology showcase in Austin, Texas.
© AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD

Obama will be the first sitting president to appear at the closely watched annual conference in Austin, Texas, famous for providing early exposure to platforms such as Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat as well as numerous bands.

The president will speak before the creative audience on March 11 about “civic engagement in the 21st century.”

“The president will call on the audience to apply 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,” the festival said in a statement.

Obama has been a longtime champion of new technology, with his 2008 presidential campaign considered groundbreaking in its embrace of burgeoning social media sites.

But more recently his administration has been embroiled in a row with Apple as the FBI tries to force the technology giant to unlock an iPhone in the San Bernardino attacks probe.

His appearance comes two years after the headliner at South by Southwest was former government contractor turned privacy activist Edward Snowden, whom the Obama administration wants to prosecute for his leaking of intelligence secrets.

Michelle Obama will speak separately on March 16 during South by Southwest’s music session where she will push the “Let Girls Learn” initiative that aims to bring education to some of the 62 million girls around the world who go unschooled.

The Obamas’ participation marks the 30th anniversary of South by Southwest, with each year throwing a spotlight on technology, music and film.

“As each new generation comes up at SXSW they look for ways they can be of service, and it’s important to reflect and support that message,” the festival’s co-founder Roland Swenson said.

“President and Mrs. Obama’s visit here will inspire attendees to that purpose,” he said.

  NC – AFP

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