It hasn't happened in the 30-year history of the South by Southwest Festival. But, it's happening this year. The President of the United States and First Lady will be keynote speakers at the iconic Austin event.
Hugh Forrest is the Director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival and said he’s worked years to get the President here. ”There was a point in the State of the Union address when he mentioned Austin, I kind of got a good feeling when he said that, so that was pretty neat.” Wednesday morning Forrest finally got the official confirmation President Obama would be part of the interactive portion of the festival. “The message that the President really wants to get out there is for digital creatives, for start-ups, for geeks, for the tech industry to help remake Washington. Really trying to encourage people to go to D.C, more people to put that technology talent to making an even better government,” Forrest said.
Will Snow lives in Austin and is planning to attend the interactive event, he said he's involved in a group trying to launch some new apps and hopes it can help. “South By has clearly grown by quite a bit given the fact that he's actually making an appearance shows that all the different industries and all the different tech side of things, how big it is becoming that the President is actually willing to show up for South By at this point.”
On top of many locals minds is the traffic. Last time Obama was in Austin in 2014, they shut down both sides of I-35 for his motorcade. Roland Swenson is a Co-Founder of South By Southwest, “The Secret Service is in charge of this, and no doubt there will be some traffic during that period, happens every year, and I don't know how worse it can get than it already is,” he said. But Swenson said having the President at the event is the perfect way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the festival. “We really wanted something special for our 30th anniversary and you know the fact that this has happened, I am kind of speechless about it,” he said.
President Obama will be speaking Friday the 11th. He will be part of a keynote conversation, in the interactive portion of the event. Michelle Obama will be the opening keynote for the music festival on March 16th.
In order to be considered for the event, you must have gold or platinum badges. Next week, officials will announce how access will work.
You can get more information here.