Who says tweeting is a pointless, waste of time? Actually, lots of people, but Friday, September 9th, 2011, I got an opportunity to prove those naysayers wrong and demonstrate some of the strengths of the social media. I was selected from a pool of over 250 applicants to attend the first ever White House Tweet-Up, a private press conference with Press Secretary Jay Carney at the White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. The tweet-up planners, as directed by Kori Schulman, the voice behind the @WhiteHouse Twitter account, selected 15 diverse individuals from all over the country to participate in an opportunity to speak with Press Secretary, Jay Carney about issues that effect us as Americans and how the Obama administration plans to address these issues. After a tour of the White House grounds, we spoke with Macon Phillips, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy about the administrations telecommunication goals. He is responsible for developing www.WhiteHouse.gov, which went live immediately after President Barack Obama was inaugurated. My question for Mr. Philips was as follows; “The internet is a great source of information, both correct, and often incorrect. What efforts does your office take to seek and address incorrect information disseminated about current policy as well as the administration, and does this include ensuring your accurate policy information can be found using the same internet searches as those that produce incorrect information?” After joking that his mother is the only person he knows who has www.WhiteHouse.gov as their internet homepage, Mr Phillips’ response was www.WhiteHouse.gov often partners with other more traveled websites providing links to relevant policy on the pages of websites similar in topic or related to the issue at hand. When healthcare was the buzz, there was a link on www.webMD.com, when tax code and credits were the buzz, there was a relevant link on www.hrblock.com, etcetera, etcetera. Our next meeting was with Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President within the Office of Science and Technology Policies, who gave a presentation on what the administration is doing to close the digital divide in America. There are plans to create an internet and telecommunications “HOV” lane to ensure first responders and citizens in crisis situations can call for help. Case in point when the earthquake hit Virginia and rippled up the east coast, I was on a call that didn’t drop, and I was able to receive incoming calls, but I couldn’t make outgoing calls. If I were in a crisis situation, I wouldn’t have been able to access help. Moreover, first responders still use the antiquated shortwave radio format which is still effective but far behind the current technology. The administration is also working to make internet ready classrooms, which allow teachers to educate leaders for the 21st century, in a 21st century format. Printed information is vastly outdated making books sometimes inaccurate, no matter how recently they were printed. Teachers need the ability to support their teachings with Internet resources that provide the most current data. The presentation was ended with the “We the People” Petition Tool Demo. We the People is a new website found at www.WhiteHouse.gov/wethepeople which is in essence an electronic petition that charges the government to act on issues the voters believe are important and require attention. Beginning by completing the phrase, “We believe the current administration should_____,” visitors can circulate a petition that must be signed by a minimum of 5,000 individuals before it requires the administration to address the petition and take action. This is exciting because it charges Americans to act on the issues they feel are important by holding their government responsible. My first petition will be to urge development of an inexpensive electric car. Before you mention the Nissan Leaf, $30,000 is not inexpensive. On that note, I’ll give you two words, Saturn EV1. Go forth and research. The website will be launched in the near future, and is not officially active as of yet. Our final appointment of the day was a private Press conference with Press Secretary, Jay Carney. I initially thought I would have to compete with the likes of journalist from Associated Press, CNN and so forth, but I quickly learned this opportunity would be solely for our select group. My question to Press Secretary Carney was “It’s often said by politicians that corporations are given tax credits in efforts to stimulate the economy by hiring individuals to work, a process which is clearly not working as evidenced by events in recent past. What efforts are being made to level the tax code to prevent giant corporations from paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than comparable to a senior citizen on a fixed income of social security?” With a stern political fist, thumb on top, he replied, this is an issue President Obama feels passionate about, reminding me of the references in the President’s speech from the previous night. Though he didn’t give a clear answer, he agreed the tax burden on American families was considerably greater than that of American corporations. He then punted the question to Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council and Special Assistant to the President, who supported my question with statistical data, of which I was already aware of, and then exclaimed how he also believed it was unfair for wealthy individuals to pay fewer taxes than poorer ones. In the end Press Secretary stated the tax issue was a problem that couldn’t be fixed over night, another fact I was already aware of and finished by expressing how with all the president is facing, it’s best if the administration picked it’s battles. I wasn’t offended by the evasion of my question. My profession has taught me any question so tactically avoided is either a tough one, or has no answer in which the individual is willing to share in that moment. Moreover, everything isn’t as clear cut as we would hope it to be. With that, I relinquished the floor to other tweet-up participants. In conclusion, I was genuinely honored and grateful to all the White House staffers who made this event possible, and to have been invited to participate in this historic, first ever White House Tweet-Up. Throughout the day, I was excited, mesmerized, overjoyed, overwhelmed, hard-nosed and professional all at once. I was a virtual roller coaster of emotions. In the end I reminded myself to lose my awe and focus on why I was there. To get a real life answer to a real life question asked by a real live ordinary American.