How to Get a Conversation with President Obama

Big debate in social media use — can online action turn into offline action? What is the point posting all this stuff online if no one will go offline and use that information?  Last week, social media proved to be extremely useful. MTV, BET and CMT hosted a town hall meeting called A Conversation the President Obama. Viewers were able to ask President Obama a question through Twitter. Questions were chosen based on the most trending topic using the hashtag #ask [insert topic here].  It is a pretty big deal that social media was chosen as the communication vehicle to ask the Commander-in-Chief a question.

Tweets came in like crazy. One group in particular wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. STAND, the Student-Led Division of the Genocide Intervention Network, launched a Twitter campaign that became the most trending topic in Washington, D.C. STAND members used the hash tag #asksudan to question what the Obama Administration will do to prevent an outbreak of war this January when South Sudan may vote to secede from the North.

In the 1980s, there was a civil war in Sudan and the genocide has been occurring in Darfur since 2003. In 1983, nearly two million civilians were killed in southern Sudan and more than four million were forced to flee their homes. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005, which stated that in 2011, the South could vote to secede from the North.

Activists have wanted to know what President Obama will do prevent war in Sudan, but it was not until last Thursday that there was an answer to correspond with this question. Getting this answer was not an easy task. It took 250 contributors and 761 original tweets to get President Obama’s response. Alec Ross, Secretary of State’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, tweeted this ask. This social media campaign took place in less than 24 hours. The #asksudan question fell under the foreign policy category. President Obama, however, only answered one question in that category, and that question was on Sudan.

MTV used social media to garner questions from American youth. Not only does this show the significance of social media in our time, it demonstrates that online action is incomplete without offline results.

Watch A Conversation with President Obama at http://on.mtv.com/9GSzrT.

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