The Obamas Will Speak at SXSW


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will both give keynote addresses at this month’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, organizers announced Wednesday. Their combined appearance will be the first time a sitting President and First Lady have participated in the festival’s 30 year history.

President Obama and Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith will discuss “civic engagement in the 21st century” as part of a “keynote conversation” for the festival’s technology conference, SXSW Interactive on March 11.

One could argue the topic of the president’s talk will serve as a sort of make-good for the festival, which sparked controversy last fall when it cancelled a pair of developer panels about harassment in the gaming community, citing threats of “on-site violence” related to the panels. The cancellations prompted media companies Buzzfeed and Vox Media to announce they would boycott the conference.

“We will feel compelled to withdraw them if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment,” Buzzfeed said in the message announcing its boycott. “We hope you can support the principle of free speech and engage a vital issue facing us and other constituents on the event.”

The first lady, meanwhile, will give the opening keynote speaker at SXSW Music March 16 to speak about the Let Girls Learn initiative, a global aid organization that funding and advocating for education for adolescent girls worldwide.

The Festival organizers said details for both of the Obamas’ keynotes, including information on how to stream them, will be announced soon.

SXSW 2016 will run from March 11-20 in Austin, Texas.