I love the TV show The West Wing.
I bought all seven seasons, watched every episode way too many times, and I measure every other TV show by this yardstick: Does the dialog come close to the clever writing of Aaron Sorkin and the outstanding delivery of The West Wing’s cast?
This week, real life and fantasy collided in a uniquely American way; the Obama White House took a page straight out of The West Wing (TWW) series and conducted the first Big Block of Cheese Day, where White House officials took to social media to answer questions from regular Americans.
In the TV series, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry explains that America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, had a two-ton block of cheese in the White House foyer from which everyone was welcome to eat; a symbol of the openness of the White House to the American people. Leo’s enthusiasm was not shared by all – Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman refers to it as “Total Crackpot Day”, while typically acerbic Communications Director Toby Ziegler calls it “Throw Open Our Office Doors To People Who Want To Discuss Things That We Could Care Less About” Day.
The true story sounds hard to believe: President Jackson received this memorable gift in 1835, and two years later – having not made much of a dent in the big cheese – he opened the White House doors to all who would partake. Here you can see a letter Jackson penned discussing the upcoming event, giving us a unique perspective on what occupied the president’s thoughts at the time.
And if you haven’t heard of the (fictional) Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality or the (very real) Peters Projection World Map, take a look at this. Three minutes of television that forever changed how I look at the world…