Obama’s Big Block of Cheese Day

It’s “Big Block of Cheese Day” today at The White House!

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President Obama is following in the footsteps of not just the West Wing’s (pretend) President Jed Bartlet but also (real) President Andrew Jackson, who hosted the first ever such day back in February of 1837.

According to the White House, President Jackson “hosted an open house featuring a 1,400-pound block of cheese that sat in the main foyer” as the doors of the White House were opened to “thousands of citizens” who were then given the opportunity to “interact with cabinet members and White House staff – and carve off a slice of the four foot by two foot thick slab of cheddar.”

Here’s some additional background on how the day played out the first time around.

It’s worth mentioning that Obama’s day will be a “virtual” reenactment of the original event as dreamed up way back when. And as such, today’s event won’t actually involve any cheese.

While the Jackson administration didn’t have the opportunity to leverage the power of social media, Obama’s day has its own hashtag: #AsktheWH

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the West Wing’s Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) devoted an entire episode to the concept back in 1999.

Here’s a clip from that episode.

When given the opportunity to present ideas directly to the President himself without prior vetting, it stands to reason that you might run into some trouble. In the West Wing episode, one White House staffer meets with a group of citizens bent on getting funding for a wolves-only highway. Another finds himself stuck in a room with a UFO believer.

Frustrated with the sense they are wasting time, White House staffers suggest the day might more appropriate be called “Total Crackpot Day” or “Throw Open Our Office Doors To People Who Want To Discuss Things That We Could Care Less About Day.”

But that was TV, and was clearly just sensationalized for our viewing pleasure.

And unlike President Bartlet’s (pretend) version of the event, Obama’s “Big Block of Cheese Day” will be virtual. And everyone knows that Twitter is full of serious-minded people and isn’t overrun with total crackpots, so it should be fine.

My Storify of the highlights, which will be updated throughout the day, is here.

You can read more about Obama’s “Virtual Big Block of Cheese Day” here.

E-mail me at sargent@globe.com. Follow me on Twitter @lilsarg.