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This past Sunday, President Obama delivered a commencement speech to the graduating class at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia; during which he mentioned popular consumer electronics and their potential effect on digital media.
The statement that caught our eye and others in the digital media was as follows:
"And meanwhile, you're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- (laughter) -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy." (The full transcript can be found on whitehouse.gov, while the video is available on YouTube.)
By themselves, the President's comments seem ambiguous and could hint that he's interest in adding more government regulation to the Internet which is currently being played out in Washington. The FCC is considering re-classifying broadband Internet connections; a move that has not been made without criticism.
Also, it leaves the door open to wonder if he truly didn't know how to use those products; especially since President Obama has conveyed a tech-savvy image which stemmed way back to the beginning of his campaign for President. Some of the most buzz worthy stories include one from 2008 in which he shared his iPod playlist with Billboard Magazine and in 2009 he fought to become the first president to be permitted to carry a BlackBerry. His tech-conscious image was a particularly stark contrast from his 72-year-old opponent, John McCain, who admitted he was technically inept by making comments like "I don't e-mail. I've never felt the particular need to e-mail."
Our editor-in-chief, Lance Ulanoff, reached out to the White House for a comment; they responded yesterday evening with the following:
"While the President joked that his level of tech savvy was wanting, his point was that technology offers this generation limitless opportunities and it is up to the individual if they will use these advancements simply for entertainment or as tools of empowerment that, when combined with their educations, will keep America at the forefront of technological advancement in the 21st century," Moira Mack, a White House spokesperson, said.
The comment was a bit too late. Many media outlets took Obama's original comments and ran some of the following headlines, such as Fox News's story: "Tech-Savvy Obama Now Says He Doesn't Know How to Use an iPod," and The New York Post's story, " iPad is iBad for democracy, Obama tells graduates".
Not all stories focused on the President's tech inexperience; cable news star Bill O'Reilly weighed in, stating, "President Obama and me both agree that high-tech gizmos could hurt the country."___