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January 22, 2009

Change Comes to Whitehouse.gov

At 12:01 pm January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama became President Obama, whitehouse.gov underwent a dramatic change as well.

The Bush administration’s whitehouse.gov became a new site modeled after Obama’s campaign and transition Web sites. The Obama administration’s Web presence is aimed at improving government transparency and allowing citizens to provide feedback and input to the administration, mirroring his campaign’s use of the Internet to foster grassroots organization among supporters.

This report looks at the increased importance of online communication in politics and how the new Obama administration could use its influence to inspire the public to volunteer and become involved.


“In moments, change came, to the Web site that used to promote the Bush White House. With a few keystrokes, WhiteHouse.gov became President Obama’s new site. The site declares it’s backing up a campaign pledge to make this the most transparent and accountable administration in American history.” – Ray Suarez

“I volunteered in other ways in my community, but never politically – I feel like my little piece is a contribution, then, you know, I’m willing to devote more of my time. And I think a lot of people are; I’m not alone in that.” – Bill Brothers, Obama supporter

“Throughout this campaign, I don’t text with a lot of people, maybe six or seven. Obama was actually one of them, because I would get text messages from him, just because, you know, I was following the campaign. That’s different; that’s personal.” – Jose Antonio Vargas, The Washington Post

Warm Up Questions

1. How does the Internet make your life different than someone who was your age 20 years ago?

2. During the 2008 election, how did the McCain or Obama campaigns use the Internet? Did you receive communications from the campaigns?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think the new whitehouse.gov will lead to any real changes in how people interact with the government? Why or why not?

2. How do you think Obama will use his list of e-mails and Web site to mobilize his supporters?

3. Does it matter to you that Obama sends a YouTube message instead of a simple radio address? Does a politician speaking to you via the Internet make you more interested in their message?

4. Do you think the community activists in the report will continue to organize a year or two years from now? What will it take to keep people as energized as they were during the Obama campaign?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript


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