U.S. Embassy Pretoria Prepares for Vice President Biden's Visit to South Africa

June 10, 2010
Vice President Biden Departing Kenya for South Africa

About the Author: Sharon Hudson-Dean serves as the press attache at U.S. Embassy Pretoria.

Big events mean big names. VIPs, motorcades, and lots of staffers looking out for their “principals.” A normal big visit requires lots of meetings, site visits, and discussions with local government counterparts. Will there be a photo spray when exiting the limo or only a press conference after the meeting? How many staff can stay in the room during the meeting, and who warrants a seat at the formal dinner? Secretary Clinton's visit to South Africa in August 2009 started like that. Lots of how-do-we-make-this-work frenzied planning meetings, and in the end, it flew by as fast as the police motorcade (very successfully by all accounts). We embassy folks go through this sort of thing for any high level visit but doing such a visit for the opening of the World Cup is a whole new animal.

The South African media and others started flirting with the idea that President Obama would attend over six months ago. Our President is a real rock star here. He visited in 2006 when he was a junior Senator and while many South Africans did not know who he was, those who follow political rising stars certainly did. There's a group of South Africans these days who can proudly say, "I met him when…and I knew there was something special…" President Obama's election was a sea change in our relationship with South Africa -- the first African-American U.S. president with a father from Kenya and a real interest in the continent. People went nuts. Radio DJs gushed about our new leader in between kwaito and hip hop songs; academics organized conferences on the new U.S. relationship with Africa; and my office created a President Obama mobile platform (with a free ringtone) that reaches up to 12 million users.

In the end, the White House decided that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill would come for the opening. Ultimately, soccer is the focus of this week, and only one country gets to take center stage (at least until the trophy is awarded) -- the host nation. So we swung into high gear to pull this visit together, which has proven no small challenge in the face of FIFA rules, at least 50 other incoming heads of state and royalty, and 500 media outlets swarming around. While the Vice President holds official meetings, his wife will visit a day care center in Soweto accompanied by Kami, the HIV positive muppet from South Africa's version of Sesame Street. Both of them will attend the opening game and the U.S.-England game. This should be a feel-good visit with a solid message: the United States is South Africa's friend, partner and -- when it comes to hosting the World Cup especially -- enthusiastic cheerleader.

We've come a long way in our official relationship with this country in my three years here. Now our Presidents are easy colleagues; our Secretary of State and her equivalent, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, are committed friends; and our Ambassador dines with ANC leadership weekly. I'd have to say that we're in braai season with the South Africans -- the weather's great; the conversation is enjoyable and real; we trade off who hosts with ease; and everyone not only looks forward to, but also takes for granted, the next one.

Read more about Vice President Biden's visit to Africa on WhiteHouse.gov.To view photos from the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, click here.Follow the U.S. Embassy Pretoria on Facebook and Twitter.For information on the World Cup in South Africa, visit the U.S. Mission's website.See Sharon Hudson-Dean's previous entry: U.S. Soccer Team Connects With South African Youth.

Comments

Comments

Joseph M.
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Oregon, USA
June 11, 2010

Joseph A.M. in Oregon writes:

The U.S. Department of State's interest and coverage on the South African World Cup is absolutely fantastic and I am enjoying every minute of it! Its great seeing Vice President Joe Biden attending the opening ceremony and the opening games. I am absolutely delighted that the U.S. Vice President will be present in Johannesburg. For South Africa, hosting the world's greatest sport has been truly a monumental achievement, they have come such a long way in overcoming the injustices and inequalities of Apartheid and hosting the FIFA World Cup-2010 is truly well deserved!

Today, on the eve of the 1st game, Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria South Africa will become the "epicenter of the globe!" The FIFA South African World Cup, promises to be the most viewed, watched and intense sporting event on the planet. Yes, the biggest and most exciting and most viewed sporting event globally -- the 2010 FIFA World Cup is about to begin later today! Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and twenty-two heads of state, will be attending the opener, S. Africa vs. Mexico, along with the approximately 90 plus thousand S. African fans. As the opening game begins, there will be sheer pandemonium and unrelenting cheering for "Befana, Befana"! Today, Johannesburg and South Africa is placed on the "world stage." Additionally, on Saturday June 12th, there will be two extremely intense and exciting games, where we will witness some exceptional football (soccer), beginning with Argentina vs. Nigeria and later, with the U.S. vs. England.

The estimated three billion viewers worldwide, will be watching Mexico vs. South Africa during the opening game alone -- I don't think anyone knows with accuracy how many people will be watching the entire event lasting approximately five weeks?

If I may share a personal note, I do have my favorite team (since childhood) and I would like to wish them the best of luck, they are known as the "Azzurri" from Italy, so then -- Forza Italia and go U.S.A!

Donald M.
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Virginia, USA
June 11, 2010

Donald M. in Virginia writes:

6 11 10

The largest OIL spill in History and the Vice President Biden is in Africa? Sure we all would of enjoyed to visit the world soccer cup, but right now the priority should be to get the OIL stopped. You can watch the game on the televsion, and record it, but if this OIL leaks are not stopped, the complaints from the South will only grow and get worst. The President mentioned how he is listening to his advisors, apparently its NOT working. Find something that works before you have another disaster on your hands. 54 days and world soccer is more important? Invoke FEMA, Get the US Navy down there, place some experts and capping the OIL wells. Trying to run the show from Washington D.C. is ridicious. Get down there and Lead. People of our Nation is counting on Leadership, not politics in D.C. and Name Calling will not plug the hole. Show Leadership and above all means get this situation under control, the entire world is watching not just the United States. This is not the time to be watching television, worried about elections, people of Lousisiana, Florida, Alabama are counting on a President and Vice President who have what it takes to get this job done. You can sit back and blame President George W. Bush for the next 100 years and he will laugh because he is NOT the President. Barack Obama is the President when this oil leak happened. Use all the resources to mankind to get this thing under control. The dangers and perils by having this oil continue to leak, future hurricanes, which could destroy billions of dollars in property in 3-6 US States. Put your game face on, and get results. The world is counting on resolve, NOT excuses!!! or blaming people.

Susan C.
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Florida, USA
June 11, 2010

Susan C. in Florida writes:

You are so right, Donald in VA.. I am on the east coast of Florida but we all know that if this well is not capped, and the clean up aggressively undertaken, the devastation will be all the way up the coast to North and South Carolina, and, perhaps, even farther. The beaches of Florida are so very beautiful. It is unimaginable that they will no longer exist. I know that the people of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi feel the same way about their states. And then there is the economic repercussions. It is hard to understand why we are not pressuring BP more. I cannot watch the news at night. It is so very, very difficult to look at all that oil pouring into the Gulf. Thanks for your comment.

Eric
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New Mexico, USA
June 11, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Donald, how are ya?

You know I thought about what you said and I would have to place a bet that VP Joe Biden would agree with me that the World Cup "is a big {expleted deleted} deal."

Maybe not as big a deal as the ongoing disaster in the Gulf, but like you said, if there's nothing anyone can do from DC, I venture there's probably not much the VP could do in the region except get in the way of clean-up crews and the coast guard anyway.

I have heard some seriously outragous theories on how to cap the ooze including using a nuclear weapon to "cauterize" the opening, and one slightly downgraded to include the use of a MOAB to do so.

I gotta say this all makes my humble little idea of stuffing 'lil Kim and gang into a mini-sub and using that to plug the hole seem quite reasonable in practical application.

The way I figure, by the time we got that mini-sub to 5000ft. depth, it would be just about be 6 inches in diameter from the crush of pressure and fit rather nicely into the end of that pipe.

Donald M.
|
Virginia, USA
June 12, 2010

Donald M. in Virginia writes:

Hey Eric,

The world cup is a big deal sure, when our allies watch us enjoying ourseleves why should they pour in relief to help our Nation? When Haiti happened, it was a big deal. Congress should have an emergency session to establish a plan to help those people. The President needs to take steps and action, above all Lead from the Disaster. If I was from Europe or from another country that was an ally of the United States and watched our VP having a good time in Africa, why should I donate or do anything to help? The State Department also needs to get involved and showing the situation to help obtain funds. This disaster effects everyone NOT just the gulf states, so even I agree with Susan that were in a Disaster that needs help asap! Congress gave money to the State Department to help with disasters. This OIL leak is a disaster. Have a meeting, put your smart power to work, right now everyone that is apart of the Obama team including the Energy Secretary, FEMA, CONGRESS, STATE DEPARTMENT, FIRE & Rescue, US Navy, US Coast Guard, and any contract company that has the skills, experience, to get these wells capped, need to be in action. Waiting until August is lame. This OIL leak will have a big impact on our National Secuirty and if not handled properly, bigger and larger disaster could be on the way. The high winds, hurricanes, oil sludge being carried to the lands, once the water dries, and oil sticks, heat rises, then you would have spontainous combustion. Homes, families, animals, businesses all could go up in flames. People in the United States put their trust and faith in our Federal Governemnt and right now, they need support, arguing and disputing, is wrong, once again...action speaks louder than words...

Saman B.
|
Iran
June 12, 2010

Saman B. in Iran writes:

It's not a civil debate concern of U.S. folk, I'm anxious rather than Eric and Susan C. and their folks it's a international tragedy, in troth I waited open a page in the Dip note since 54 days ago for this major, so dear Susan and Eric did it.

what is the nature sin? obviously the B.P CO is convict so intentional negligence; who is/are bail and sponsor this company? because that's second convict.

It's not a eruption or tornado who everyone has caught memorialize pictures, it sealed on history in the blushed ward, I hope to moor it and make amends for it! But How?

( One benefit of this event, everybody be able to swim, all the fierce sharks and octopus are fleeing other seas )

Thank You

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 12, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Donald,

I appreciate the anger and frustration you feel, but when Thadd Alan says to the press corps that the US military flat doesn't have the kind of tech or expertise to deal with it, I tend to believe him. DOD isn't in the deep water oil extraction buisiness.

State is involved in coordination with other nations offering assistance, as well as upholding our legal obligation to nations in the region to aprise them of the situation and any effect it may have on their soverign territory. All that boom that arrived in Mobile a few days ago from Canada is proof State is on the job here.

Every federal agency in one way or another is involved as well.

I tend to think that controlled burns in the marshes themselves will drive wildlife from affected areas (which will in itself lower their risk of exposure) , the marshes will grow back and the wildlife will return.

Folks are getting sick because they are being exposed to organic vapors from petroleum and this does pose a serious health risk to folks as it lowers immune systems and has long term nurological and internal organ damage potential. The Fed should make sure that anyone on a clean-up crew has a NIOSH approved respirator fitted with organic vapor filters (which can be found at any paint supply store or Home Depo).

I honestly don't think the government can do more than it is already doing to end this problem.

Thing to remember is that this too will pass, and America didn't stop having a good time just because 9/11 happened. Heck, we were told to "go shopping."

I actually remember GW Bush asking folks to "put brains to work" in the days following but folks don't generally remember that today.

It will take time for the environment to fully recover, but it will.

Hurricanes will do one of two things, either drive the oil inland or disperse the oil at sea, and that is up to mother nature.

Most of the volatiles evaporate very quickly, so it won't "spontaneously combust".

I've worked with oil-based products and solvents and if you have oil soaked rags, What do you do with them so they won't start a fire? One of two things, either set them out so all the volitiles evaporate or put them in a container filled with water.

So both processes are at work in the marshes and I doubt we'll be seeing your scenario take place.

And if it becomes a risk, there's ways to deal with it in a controlled manner so it doesn't have that effect on homes and property.

Susan might be interested to know that the tarballs on Florida's beaches have been tested and found to be fuel oil, not from BP's well.

Which means that folks are dumping bilge waters from ships as they pass through the area.

That's a million dollar fine they are risking just to save a buck in port cleaning out bilges because they think they can get away with it and because there's oil in the gulf from BP anyway so it won't be noticed.

Well it has been.

I hope that anyone caught doing this will be taken out into the gulf, given a life jacket, and tossed overboard to swim ashore in the muck.

That would be fitting punishment in my book on top of being blacklisted from ever working on a ship again. I'm talking about the entire crew of any guilty vessel taking a swim.

If they don't make it back to shore, that's just too bad for them.

If the FED and the Justice Dept. were to publicly state that this is the fate that awaits anyone caught dumping and taking advantage of the situation, I think it would serve to put a quick end to this criminal activity.

Ervin K.
|
Israel
June 14, 2010

Ervin K. in Israel writes:

America can contribute a HYMN for the big game, here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsNj39pJC-o

Sincerely
Ervin

Donald M.
|
Virginia, USA
June 13, 2010

Donald M. in Virginia writes:

I have come up with another approach to this problem with the oil leak. The Gulf States like Louisiana and Mississippi should install pumping stations, filtering, with the ability to drill beneath the ocean layer from the beach. My theory is that the drills are putting holes diagnal to the spot where BP is drilling, if this works, then once the pumping starts it would happen from the coast reducing the oil being leaked. Drill down and sideways until they reach oil and pump it out. This makes more sense that adding more Oil Rigs. Seems like they should be able to drill from the coast until they hit the gusher of oil and then send it up through the pipelines in Louisiana.

Paul
|
Georgia, USA
June 14, 2010

Paul in Georgia writes:

Once again corrupt Kenyan politicians are perpertrating crimes against their own people. Yesterdays explosions at Uhuru Park are what all Kenyans know, an attempt by those opposed to the new constitution to derail the referendum.Those whom were responsible are TERRORISTS against their own people and should be labelled and treated as such by the international community!!

Ervin K.
|
Israel
July 4, 2010

Ervin K. in Israel writes:

Please, promote this song as the HYMN of the World Cup 2010, the contribution of America :
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsNj39pJC-o

Vibration

I love the People
‘Cause you are one of it
Big small heavy and slim
We are all mankind
White black brown
Red and yellow
All are my kind
I love the people
‘Cause you are one of it

We together you and I
Hand in hand will make
This world a better one with love

I love the people
Of our streets
Of all faiths
We are one
From west and north
From east and south
I love the crowd
‘Cause you are one of it

We together you and I
Hand in hand will make
This world a better one with love

Open your eyes, baby
And look around and see

Open your eyes, baby
And listen and hear
The crowd the people
And feel the vibration
Of a brighter future

We together you and I
Hand in hand will make
This world a better one with love.

“To future generations”
and
God Bless America.
p.s.
(I have the copyright of this song , and I hereby declear that you are free to use it as you wish).
Sincerely
Ervin

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