The White House will host a virtual "Big Block of Cheese Day" later this month in a nod to historical tradition — and the popular West Wing television show.
In the show, White House staffers were required on one day a year to meet with citizens and interest groups who normally might not earn attention from top administration officials. The fictional tradition was a nod to President Andrew Jackson, who in 1837 hosted an open house with a 1,400 pound block of cheese in the White House's foyer.
But the real White House said Friday that they would be hosting a real version of the event — albeit in cyberspace.
"On Wednesday, January 29th, with a nod to history (and maybe the TV show the West Wing), the Obama Administration is hosting the first-ever virtual “Big Block of Cheese Day,” during which dozens of White House officials will take to social media for a day long 'open house' to answers questions from everyday Americans in real-time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and via Google+ Hangout," the White House said in a statement.
Users of the social networks can flag questions using the hashtag #AsktheWH.
Real-life West Wing staffers will hope for lobbying less oddball than that depicted on the show. One episode saw the fictional White House press secretary meeting with environmentalists advocating the construction of a highway for wolves, while the deputy communications director heard from alien conspiracy theorists. In another season, staffers heard from cartographers who felt that maps of the world should be flipped upside down.
White House press secretary Jay Carney announced the initiative in a web video with West Wing actors Bradley Whitford and Josh Malina posted Friday afternoon.
It's not Carney's first reference to the NBC show. When Allison Janney, the show's press secretary, joined Twitter, Carney tweeted at her, "Can you teach me how to do the jackal?" In the show, Janney's character lip syncs and dances to Ronny Jordan's song, "The Jackal."