The First Family traveled to South Africa on June 29 and June 30. The visit began in Pretoria, where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were welcomed by South African President Jacob Zuma and his wife, Thobeka Madiba.
In a joint press conference with President Zuma, President Obama began by saying, “…Our thoughts -- and those of Americans and people all around the world -- are with Nelson Mandela and his family, and all South Africans. …The outpouring of love that we’ve seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Nelson Mandela and this nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit -- the yearning for justice and dignity that transcends boundaries of race and class and faith and country. That’s what Nelson Mandela represents. That’s what South Africa, at its best, can represent to the world.”
President Obama then underscored that the United States views South Africa as a critical partner, a country at the forefront of trends on the continent. Young people play an important role in shaping those trends, as nearly one in three Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35.
After meeting with President Zuma, President Obama held a town hall at the University of Johannesburg – Soweto Campus, where he spoke with 600 young leaders, ages 18-35. More young people from Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda joined via satellite. During the town hall, President Obama discussed the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to invest in the next generation of African leaders. As part of that commitment, President Obama announced the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a program which will bring young African leaders to the United States each year, beginning in 2014, for leadership training and mentoring.
While the President held a town hall, the First Lady held a Google+ Hangout to discuss the importance of education with students from across South Africa and the United States.
The next day, the First Family toured the prison at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe, and Jacob Zuma were imprisoned for fighting Apartheid before they went on to become Presidents of South Africa. The First Family saw the quarry where inmates were forced to work, the prison yard, and Mandela’s bare, six-foot-wide cell. First Lady Michelle Obama described the visit as “an experience we will never forget” and encouraged us to read more about President Mandela’s life and seek to live up to his example in our own lives.
The First Family concluded their visit to South Africa in Cape Town, where President Obama held a roundtable with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and delivered remarks at the University of Cape Town. Today, the President travels to Tanzania. You can follow his trip on WhiteHouse.gov.
About the Author: Stephen Wood serves as an editorial assistant for DipNote.