Last year, President Obama delivered a speech to promote Computer Science Education Week in which he emphasized the important of learning how to code. During this year’s event, Obama put his money where his mouth is and actually sat down to write a simple javascript program. Even though he didn’t actually wrote lines of codes, but used a drag-drop interface, it’s safe to say that official Obama is the first US president who actually wrote a computer program, albeit rudimentary.

The Programmer President

Obama computer science

President Barack Obama talks with students during an “Hour of Code” event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, attended by middle-school students from Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin).

This year’s Computer Science Education Week was organized by Code.org, a non-profit organization which aims to spark interest in technology and inspire people to learn how to code. On code.org, anyone can initiate themselves in the basics of computer programming by taking specially designed one-hour long tutorials. The tutorials are aimed at different age groups, from preschoolers to centenarians.

In this video, Obama can be seen guided through his first computer program by middle-schooler Adrianna Mitchell. Even though he’s “an old man”, as the President jokingly remarked, Obama completed his assignment from stage three of the Code.org Frozen tutorial, where he had to drag and drop pre-coded javascript tutorials to make Elsa walk around in a square pattern.

“Learning these skills isn’t just important for your future, it’s important for our country’s future,” Obama said in a YouTube video. “If we want America to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans like you to master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about everything.”

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Image: University of Washington

While Obama is spot-on about more people having to learn to code, I feel he may be overstating things a bit. The blue line in the chart above shows how interest in computer science from freshmen at the University of Washington in Seattle has skyrocketed since 2010 compared with other engineering fields; and the UW is not alone. This is a situation that is common in universities throughout the US. Clearly, there is a huge interest in computer science among freshmen and apparently universities can’t keep up. This is where programs like Code.org or the Khan Academy step in to empower people, teaching them how to code in a non-formal environment. Nevertheless, maybe it’s better to encourage people to find their true calling. I’d love to just as much interest and resources that go into learning code being awarded to programs that guide people so that they might find what they’re actually good at.

Discurse co-founder and CTO Jeff Atwood wrote ““I would no more urge everyone to learn programming than I would urge everyone to learn plumbing.”

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