On the Thursday following the State of the Union address, President Obama will spend forty-five minutes answering questions from a group of citizens that may include a homeless man, an unemployed Marine, and a high-schooler.
Technology has repeatedly disrupted the way politicians interact with their constituents and it is happening yet again. Radio's moment came in the 1940s, television upended politics in the 1960s, and now the Web is forcing politicians to connect with Americans more quickly and personally than ever before.
YouTube will not only be among the sites live streaming President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, it will also, for the second year in a row, be hosting a question and answer session with the President, to be streamed live over the Internet, during which people will have the opportunity to pose their questions about healthcare, education police, and unemployment directly to the president.
The question submission process is open to anyone, and the final list of questions that Obama will answer will be determined based on the number of votes each one receives. Over 14,000 questions were submitted last year, the first year YouTube hosted the interview with the president, and over 5,000 have been uploaded so far this year (Learn more about submitting a question here). This year it will also be possible to submit questions via Twitter using the hashtag "#AskObama."
YouTube's Q&A allows Americans to be among the first to question Obama about his State of the Union address, while also providing the president with a platform to broadcast his message, in his own words, directly to voters.
"It's an unlikely audience that will have the chance to be brought into the White House on a video screen to talk to president," said Steve Grove, YouTube's head of news and politics. "People have the chance to access the White House in a very democratic way right after the year's most important speech."
The conversation with Obama is part of a series of interviews with world leaders that YouTube will be hosting, a program that marks the continued blurring of the lines between YouTube-as-platform and YouTube-as-content-creator. The video-sharing website was reportedly in talks to acquire Next New Networks, a producer of Web content that could potentially grow the original content produced by YouTube.
See some of the questions that have been submitted thus far in the slideshow below.