Invited to the White House: Tweeting the #SOTUSocial Part I

by Dr. Janet Johnson on February 10, 2014

Invited to the White House

How do you get invited to the White House? You tweet– of course.

On January 20 I received the email inviting me to the White House. It was the most exciting email I’ve ever received. I had to fill out information for a background check and RSVP saying yes to both the White House tour and the event. I quickly booked my trip to Washington, D.C. Within 5 days of receiving the invitation, I was in D.C. It was the quickest and most spontaneous trip I’ve ever taken. 

On January 28, 2014 all the attendees of the #SOTUSocial were provided a self-guided tour of the White House the morning of the State of the Union address. You went through a lot of security to get to the White House. Dogs sniff you, IDs are checked several times, and of course metal detectors. After all the chaos to GET to the White House,  I was in awe of the history. I had chills standing in a place where so many powerful men and women stood. No matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat–The White House is America’s house.

The Secret Service agents were very nice in the house. The young men acted as tour guides. One was posted in each room and was knowledgeable about the history and the items in each room. I even had a brief brush with the Bo and Sunny. The dogs sniffed me and brushed up against me. I was too afraid to pet them because I was standing talking to a Secret Service agent at the time. He said, “Ma’am watch out, the dogs are coming…” Well, I had already been sniffed by a bomb dog and thought other german shepards were headed our way. Nope–they were the First Family’s dogs. That’s as close to a President I have ever been. Again, chills went through me because I realized–The President probably petted those dogs that same morning.

I just stood in each room taking it all in. I even backtracked and took in the rooms in again. It’s not every day that you are allowed to be in a space that events took place that shaped our country.

After you left the inside of the White House, you must take pictures in front of the White House’s driveway I was an invited guest–not a tourist. I felt honored.













I found this penny outside of the White House gates.
I believe when I find a penny someone I love who has passed shows me a sign they are thinking of me. I believe this penny was a reminder my Mom was watching over me.



I ran into NBC political correspondent Chuck Todd. I am assuming he was going to the annual off the record anchor luncheon with the President that they were setting up in the State Dining Room at the White House. (Secret Service told me)


Later that day, I arrived back at the White House, but this time in the Eisenhower Executive Office building. This building is adjacent to the West Wing. I arrived with my camera, laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Also, chargers. I was ready to tweet my heart out. I was one of the first ones who arrived. Lucky for me, I had a very good aisle seat that allowed me to stretch out and have access to an outlet to keep my laptop charged. Unfortunately, the Wifi was very slow. The connection would not allow me to tweet that much during the State of the Union. I noticed a lot of my Tweets went into the draft folder. Many of my tweets were missed by my followers. It’s hard to tweet fast on an iPhone, which at least had a 4G connection rather than WiFi AND was my most valuable resource at the time.

Here is the Twitter stream for the #SOTUSocial:

The Open for Questions panel consisted of:

  • Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary (@JEarnest44)
  • Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
  • Betsey Stevenson, member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (@CEABetsey)
  • Dan Utech, Director for Energy and Climate Change (@Utech44)
  • Christen Young, Domestic Policy Council
  • Marlon Marshall, Principal Deputy Director of Public Engagement

Also, a surprise guest, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez stopped by and discussed increasing minimum wage as well as showed us his CostCo card.

Perez had very high energy since he JUST got back from the State of the Union with the President. It must be nice to have hitched a ride with the President of the United States back to the White House. (I’m still in awe that I was able to experience what it is like for a President and his staff to prepare for such an event)

You can read Reuter’s White House Correspondent Roberta Rampton’s story about the event here: At the White House, the State of the Union is #social

I met a couple of panel members and was lucky enough to get a picture with Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer before he left to go watch the State of the Union. He was just with the President minutes before he left and told us the final draft of the speech was approved at 8:15pm that night. Wow! Even the White House cuts deadlines close.



Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest


Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy Roberto Rodriguez


Here is the video of the the panel discussion Open for Questions 2014. Want to see my question, fast forward to 32:29. The panel discussion was interesting as well as the questions that were being asked. I have been told by several people that they liked my question.

Someone asked me what surprised me the most about my White House visit. My answer: everyone was NICE! Everyone I talked to from Secret Service to the White House staff made us feel very welcome. Thank you White House and to Kasie Coracco for organizing this event. The White House Social Media team knows how to make the White House accessible.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss the social media experience itself. I learned a lot about social media’s relationship with the political process. There are many stories and a possible research paper. I collected 1599 tweets from the hashtag #SOTUSocial to show how the White House is creating a social media powerhouse. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to work at the White House? They must need a rhetorician to analyze tweets? Hmmm….

 Read Invited to the White House: Tweeting the #SOTUSocial Part II

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