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Obama's Advice to 9th-Graders: Keep Your Facebook Clean

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 14 2009

Speaking to entering ninth-graders at Arlington, Virginia's Wakefield High last week, President Barack Obama was asked if he had any career advice for the freshmen. With, no doubt, visions of an unfortunate incident where his young speechwriter, Jon Favreau, was caught in a friend's Facebook photo groping a cardboard cut-out of his boss's main primary rival-turned-Secretary of State, Obama's first nugget of wisdom for the kids was to filter what makes it up onto social sites like Facebook and YouTube. (Or maybe he was thinking about Lee Landor, the New York City political aide who resigned after posting some fiery Facebook comments about the Henry Louis Gates incident?) The L.A. Times Top of the Ticket blog captured the exchange:

First of all, I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook -- (laughter) -- because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. And when you're young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff. And I've been hearing a lot about young people who -- you know, they're posting stuff on Facebook, and then suddenly they go apply for a job and somebody has done a search and -- so that's some practical political advice for you right there.

Once bitten, twice shy, it seems. Perhaps its a sign of how attuned Obama is to the new media ecosystem, but it's interesting that the self-revealing president, who has seen his own political fortunes greatly improved by the fact that inhaling has gone from a big no-no to no big deal, is so focused on keeping your youthful expressions off of Facebook. Obama listed keeping your nose clean online as a prereq for a political career before he mentioned doing well in school and finding your passion.