This year’s South by Southwest festivals in Austin, Texas, will have more than the usual dose of Washington, D.C.
President Obama will be talking with the editor in chief of The Texas Tribune in an conversation that will open SXSW Interactive, while first lady Michelle Obama will deliver the keynote address for SXSW Music.
SXSW started nearly 30 years ago as a scrappy music festival that drew up-and-coming bands. A decade in, it added spin-off festivals for film and technology. The gathering in Texas grows larger and larger year by year, becoming what NPR’s Elise Hu has called a “super-gathering.”
This year, it’s snagged the leader of the free world as opening speaker.
The president will be discussing “civic engagement in the 21st Century” with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune, calling on SXSW attendees to develop tech-centric solutions to political disengagement and global climate change.
Previous SXSW Interactive keynote speakers have included Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chelsea Clinton. The SXSW Music keynote lineup is a little more, well, musical, including Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash, Little Richard, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga and Snoop Dogg. But then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards did deliver the main address in 1993.
The SXSW website notes that this year will mark the first time a sitting president and first lady have participated in the event.