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Obama tries to recreate SXSW at White House

🕐 2 min read

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama liked his March trip to Austin’s South by Southwest festival of technology and music so much that he decided to try to re-create the SXSW vibe from Texas on the South Lawn.

On Monday, he rolled out “South by South Lawn,” or SXSL, bringing together artists, innovators, musicians and entrepreneurs for the equivalent of a giant White House block party for tech nerds.

The president made a midday visit to the South Lawn to check out booths and vendors promoting everything from virtual reality technology to fake tattoos. He planned to speak to the crowd about climate change later in the day in a joint appearance with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

In an email promoting the event, Obama wrote that SXSL was “at its heart, a call to action. The folks out on the lawn today are artists, creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who will share how they’ve used their unique skills to engage their communities in making the change they want to see — whether it’s curing cancer, fighting poverty, empowering women, and so much more.”

DiCaprio’s documentary film on climate change, “Before the Flood,” was to get its domestic premier on the lawn later in the day.

Tech blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash said the South Lawn event was a way to connect the dots between SXSW, with its ideas for changing the world, and the people who are “doing the actual work” to use technology to improve worker rights, civil rights and more. Panel discussions included topics such as “feeding the future” and “fixing real problems.”

The White House tech fest also featured a student film festival, a wall of art made of Post-Its, Lego statues, demonstrations on the science of food and using technology to help the disabled and lots of music. Among those performing: the Lumineers, Gallant, Black Alley, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and DJ Bev Bond.

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