On January 30, President Barack Obama, certainly no stranger to making history, sat down with the American public to answer questions in a Google+ hangout. It was the first time in American history a U.S. President or the White House conducted an online interview in real-time.
According to the White House release, before the event 227,000 people had taken time to participate and submitted questions for President Obama to answer before voting for their favorites. The votes were submitted over the course of two weeks on the White Houses’ YouTube Channel. In total, there were approximately 133,000 questions asked online and over 1.6 million votes cast.
During the Google+ Hangout, which is a 10-person maximum virtual video chat room now available on the growing Google+ social media network, Obama answered a series of questions from previously selected citizens from across the country. The hangout was hosted by Google mediator Steve Grove from the Google Headquarters, while President Obama spoke to the public live from the Roosevelt room of the White House.
The other citizens invited to the Google+ Hangout were Jennifer Woodall from Fort Worth Texas, Paris Patel from Detroit, Michigan, Adam Clark and his classmates from Fremont California, Christine Wolf in Evanston, Illinois and Ramone Ray in Montclair, New Jersey. In addition to the live participants, YouTube questions were fielded by President Obama on a range of topics to include the economy, living wages for working students and H1B visas.
Answering the first question from a college student in Greenville, South Carolina regarding a living wage for working college students, President Obama set the tone for the virtual interview with a sense of optimism.
“First of all, I just want to commend you for working hard at school and at work,” Obama said. “I think this is representative of the spirit that is out there in this country. Nobody expects anybody to do anything for them, I think everyone is working hard and trying to make ends meet and trying to get ahead in what has been a very difficult economy in the past three years.”
Obama added that the country is starting to see signs the economy is picking up, his administration was successful in creating 3 million jobs in the past 22 months, and expressed his support for the extension of a payroll tax cut and making college more affordable for students.
Among those invited to hang out with the President, Woodall told of her husband that had an engineering degree yet had been laid off and had not been able to find a permanent job in his field. She asked why the government continued to extend H1B Visas (a visa allowing U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations) “when there are tons of Americans like my husband that have no job,” asked Woodall.
President Obama said there is a huge demand for engineers across the country, he said many companies are asking for engineers and if their family was having a problem finding work, that they could forward her husband’s resume’ and he would make certain the companies got it. He also stated H1B Visa’s should be reserved for companies that could not find an American worker to fill the position.
Woodall said she was going to take the President up on his offer.
President Obama also fielded questions on the auto industry and lauded fuel efficient cars and trucks, working with businesses through the SBA more efficiently, reaching to the children of our nation, helping the nations homeless. He said his goal was to have “no homeless veterans” and said this was part of the reason his administration was increasing the VA’s budget.
Another topic of discussion was higher education, which Obama said higher education didn’t necessarily mean a four-year college degree, but lauded technical training programs and community colleges. “We’ve tried to make education more affordable without putting a burden on taxpayers,” he said in reference to removing student loan subsidies from banks and lending the money directly instead to students. President Obama also urged state legislators, colleges and universities to work to minimize the costs of higher education.
On a lighter moment, Obama teased a Barack Obama impressionist that he needed to update his act due to a lack of grey hair.
When contacting Google about the success of the Google+ Hangout with the President, a Google Spokesperson replied via e-mail. “Google is long committed to using online video to give voters access to elected officials. Since 2007 YouTube has provided a platform for political debates and interviews. Google+ Hangouts are the next step in bringing greater access to the political process through online video.
“We announced in mid-January that over 90 Million people have joined Google+ since the service launched last June. Google+ users are very engaged with our products – over 60 percent of them sign-in daily, and over 80 percent sign in weekly. We're really pleased with the results we've seen before but these are still early days for Google+.
In just less than 24 hours, more than 312,000 people have watched the archived hangout on the White Hose YouTube channel. If you missed the hangout you can watch it on here.