How the White House Is Taking Cues from 'The West Wing'

PHOTO: On "The West Wing," the Presidents Chief of Staff, played by John Spencer, urges staffers to set aside a day to hear from concerned citizens and activist groups that are regularly ignored.Warner Brothers/NBC
In more recent history, the concept was introduced to many through "The West Wing" where the President's Chief of Staff, played by John Spencer, urges staffers to set aside a day to hear from concerned citizens and activist groups that are regularly ignored.

President Obama's team has been using social media to hype up tonight's State of the Union address and in an additional push, he's called in back-up.

Much of the cast of "The West Wing" reunited to create a promo video for the White House's Virtual Big Block of Cheese Day, which is scheduled for Wednesday as a chance for the public to ask top staffers questions about the president's plans.

The concept of Big Block of Cheese Day technically dates back to the early 19th century but most political fiends know about the tradition from "The West Wing."

The show -- and now, the the White House -- alleges that the true concept dates back to 1837 and the presidency of Andrew Jackson.

According to Benjamin Perley Poore, a well-known reporter from the time, the cheese was actually a gift to Jackson on his way out of office and had little to do with hearing the grievances of concerned citizens, though it did bring people from all walks of life into the White House.

"For hours did a crowd of men, women, and boys hack at the cheese, many taking large hunks of it away with them," Perley Poore wrote in his book, "Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis Vol. I."

"When they commenced, the cheese weighed one thousand four hundred pounds, and only a small piece was saved for the President's use. The air was redolent with cheese, the carpet was slippery with cheese, and nothing else was talking about at Washington that day," he wrote.

PHOTO: President Andrew Jackson is reportedly the actual creator of the Big Block of Cheese Day, as he allegedly had a 1,400-pound block of cheese brought into the White House on Feb. 22, 1837 for anyone to come in and chip off a chunk. www.whitehouse.gov
President Andrew Jackson is reportedly the actual creator of the Big Block of Cheese Day, as he allegedly had a 1,400-pound block of cheese brought into the White House on Feb. 22, 1837 for anyone to come in and chip off a chunk.

However, there are faults with that legend, history professor and Jackson biographer H.W. Brands told ABC News.

"Big cheeses weren't new with Jackson. Thomas Jefferson got a thousand-pound cheese. But the idea caught on with Jackson because Jackson was the first to throw the White House open to ordinary people, at his first inaugural," Brands told ABC. "The celebration was a brawl, appalling staid residents of DC and signaling that the people now ruled in America. Under the circumstances, a huge cheese was very fitting."

Brands, who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, said that President Jackson would not have held the event to solicit the opinions of the voters because he "didn't think he should be guided by public opinion."

"We live in a different time. Polling is an accepted part of the political landscape. Presidents want to be seen as in touch with constituents," Brands told ABC News.

This year, the Obama administration will be holding their second iteration of the more modern interpretation of a Big Block of Cheese Day just hours after the President's State of the Union address, with the thinking that it will provide citizens a chance to ask top White House advisers questions about topics discussed in tonight's speech. The virtual question-and-answer session will be held tomorrow on Twitter, and they're holding the actual cheese.

It is the second time that the White House is capitalizing on the idea made famous by "The West Wing," but this time they enlisted the help of the show's stars to help publicize the event.

When they announced last year's inaugural virtual version, then-press secretary Jay Carney just had the help of "West Wing" stars Bradley Whitford and Joshua Malina. In this year's pun-filled video, Allison Janney, Dule Hill, Richard Schiff, Mary McCormack and Martin Sheen are featured telling current press secretary Josh Earnest how it would be a "gouda idea" to host another.

Here's the brie-lliant promo that will have "West Wing" fans bleu in the face.