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Michelle Obama in South Africa, Botswana: Second solo trip

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obama south africa.JPGThen Sen. Barack Obama visiting Nelson Mandela's cell, 2006. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle south africa.jpgFirst Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha in South Africa

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama landed in South Africa on Monday for the start of a trip taking her to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana. Her mother, Marian Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha and Leslie and Avery Robinson, the children of her brother Craig are also on the trip.

This is the third visit to Africa for the Obama daughters: In 2006 they accompanied then Sen. Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama to Kenya.

This is Mrs. Obama's second solo international trip. In April 2010, she flew to Haiti and Mexico City.

Since you are going to ask who pays for Mrs. Obama's relatives who are with her on this official trip: A portion of the personal expenses will be billed.

From the East Wing:

First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana during an official visit to Africa from June 20 - 26 focused on youth leadership, education, health and wellness. The trip is a continuation of Mrs. Obama's work to engage young people, especially girls and young women, at home and abroad.


In South Africa, Mrs. Obama will visit South African sites then Sen. Obama stopped at in his 2006 visit, including Robben Island and the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto. She will also meet with Desmond Tutu; then Sen. Obama met with him at his office in 2006, and Tutu prophetically teased him about being the president of the U.S.


From the June 20 pool report filed from Pretoria.....

First Lady Michelle Obama who is traveling with her mother, daughters, niece and nephew arrived at Waterkloof Air force base in Pretoria, South Africa following an uneventful flight at approximately 9:20 pml ocal time. The plane was refueled in Cape Verde. In Pretoria, she was greeted by U.S. Ambassador Donald Gips, Mrs. Elizabeth Berry Gips, Benjamin Gips - age 14, Samuel Gips - age 18. South African officials Grace Mason, acting Chief of Protocol, Department of International Relations and Cooperation Minister and Nosiviwe Mapisa - Nqakula, Minister of Correctional Services also greeted FLOTUS and her family.

FLOTUS wore a bright orange and black Duro Olowu sweater. The designer is of African descent, WH officials said.

The Obama daughters were given South African blankets with colors of the nation's flag by young children of the protocol officer as a welcome. They wrapped themselves in the blankets. It is winter here and a chilly 51 degrees. After the brief open press arrival attended by your pool, four traveling colleagues, and a few broadcast cameras, Mrs. Obama's motorcade headed to Johannesburg where she will stay for the night. This is the first lady's fourth trip to the continent of Africa and her first to South Africa. This is her second solo official visit. The lid is on but will alert if there are updates.


At the click....White House briefing on Mrs. Obama's trip.

Here is Mrs. Obama's Africa schedule:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - Pretoria, South Africa

First Lady Michelle Obama is arriving at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa. After meeting with President Jacob Zuma's wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma at the capital, Mrs. Obama will visit the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. Mrs. Obama is meeting with the former First Lady of Mozambique and wife of President Mandela, who will be able to give her a tour of the foundation and President Mandela's archives.

Later in the day, Mrs. Obama is visiting a daycare center in Johannesburg, and is ending her day with a tour of the Apartheid Museum, a testament to the inspirational progress that South Africa has made.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa

In the morning, Mrs. Obama is traveling to the Regina Mundi Church in the Soweto township, where she delivers the keynote address to a U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum. Forum participants include young women from across sub-Saharan Africa who are leading or involved in social and economic initiatives in their own countries.

The Regina Mundi Church, where the Forum is taking place, holds particular historical significance for the people of South Africa and the Soweto community. Political gatherings were banned during the anti-apartheid movement, and churches became hubs for activity. During the Soweto student uprising of June 16, 1976, a number of young people sought cover in the Regina Mundi Church where they were followed by police and fired upon. Students like twelve year-old Hector Pieterson were shot and killed by apartheid government police, galvanizing international pressure on the apartheid regime. The church remains a national symbol of the struggle.

After delivering the keynote, Mrs. Obama is visiting the Hector Pieterson Memorial. The Memorial displays an iconic news photograph of Hector's body being carried through the streets of Soweto, his distraught sister running along-side him. The date Hector was killed, June 16th, 1976, has been commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa, and this year June has been declared Youth Month.

In the afternoon, the Young Leaders will participate in breakout sessions to build and foster networks among one another, and discuss the issues that are important to them. The First Lady will visit several of the breakout sessions, before joining fourm participants in a community service project at a local community center. An event that is in line with the First Lady's focus on service around the world and the importance of young people serving their communities in the United States and abroad.
Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa

Mrs. Obama begins the day in Cape Town, thanking United States Consulate employees and their families for their service.

Then, the First Lady is visiting Robben Island - where former President Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 imprisoned years.

As a continuation of her commitment to engaging young people, supporting educational opportunities and promoting youth mentoring, Mrs. Obama is inviting students from area schools in historically disadvantaged communities, for a day-long university "immersion experience" at the University of Cape Town. The University of Cape Town is providing the students with campus tours, discussions with University students and exposure to studying on campus. The students are attending a full day of activities at the University of Cape Town, concluding with remarks delivered by the First Lady.

Mrs. Obama is completing her day with a visit to the Cape Town Soccer Stadium, site of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches. There she is meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mrs. Obama is meeting with organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, including using soccer as a means to convene and educate South African children about HIV/AIDS.

After the meeting, Mrs. Obama is joining girls and boys from the Cape Town area, including its townships, on the soccer field for activities and drills.
Friday, June 24, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

The First Lady is visiting the Botswana Baylor Children's Clinic Center of Excellence's Teen Club. Teen Club was assembled to teach leadership among teens and encourage young people to teach others HIV/AIDS education. Mrs. Obama joins Teen Club members in a service project at the site for the planned Botswana Baylor Adolescent Center.
Saturday, June 25, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

Mrs. Obama is beginning her day by thanking U.S. Embassy employees and their families. Following this event, Mrs. Obama and her family are departing for a family safari.
Sunday, June 26, 2011 - Gaborone, Botswana

Mrs. Obama and her family are departing Gaborone, Botswana at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.


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Below, briefing on Mrs. Obama's trip......


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release June 15, 2011

CONFERENCE CALL BRIEFING

BY DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS BEN RHODES,

SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR AFRICAN AFFAIRS MARY YATES,

AND CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY TINA TCHEN

TO PREVIEW THE FIRST LADY'S TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA

Via Conference Call

4:36 P.M. EDT

MS. TCHEN: Thank you very much, George, and thank you all for joining the call this afternoon. Our apologies again on the delay. We just had some conflicting schedules over here.

What we want to do on this call is to give you a preview of the First Lady's trip next week to South Africa and Botswana. We sent a media advisory out earlier this afternoon that gives you the schedule and the day-by-day of what we will be doing, and we'll be going through that.

To take us through the schedule, we're joined on the call by Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and also Mary Yates, who's Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs. And then as George said, my name is Tina Tchen and I am the First Lady's Chief of Staff.

Our trip from June 21st to 27th is going to focus on youth leadership, education, health and wellness. It's really a continuation of the work Mrs. Obama has been doing on her previous trips abroad with the President to Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, India, her first solo trip to Mexico and also the United Kingdom, where she has throughout those trips met with students, met with youth to encourage them to excel academically, and serve, and lead, and really make those connections with youth.

And we see continuing those in South Africa and Botswana as underscoring, as you will hear from Ben and from Mary, the important stake the United States has in the success of Africa, as evidenced in South Africa and Botswana, and an opportunity to make connections between the youth in Africa and our youth here.

It also really builds on the work we've done here in the United States with mentoring youth, especially our mentoring program for young girls here, and encouraging youth from all background to really gain international experience and learn about the world.

And we really see this trip as following, as you will hear from Ben, in the work the President has already done, especially with his Young African Leaders Forum, and the keynote the First Lady will give to the Young African Women Leaders Forum to be held in Johannesburg.

So with that, let me turn the call over to Ben to go through the schedule. Ben?

MR. RHODES: Great. Thanks, everybody, and sorry for the slight delay there. We just had a conflict that Tina referenced.

I just want to underscore a couple of things, and then we'll go through the schedule and then some of the key points associated with the schedule. And then Mary can say additional comments.

I think it's important to underscore that this trip by the First Lady is very directly connected to the President's agenda in Africa and the Obama administration's foreign policy in Africa. So it's a very unique opportunity for the First Lady to address issues associated with young people that she has taken on both here and around the world that entirely converge with our foreign policy priorities.

We see this as a very important opportunity for the administration to advance our agenda in Africa through the First Lady's visit. So it's both a very important trip in terms of the First Lady taking, I think, her second trip by herself abroad. And it's also a very important trip for the administration's Africa policy.

The President spoke at length about his approach to Africa when he was in Accra, Ghana in 2009. I think he laid out a vision in which he saw Africa not as separate from the world, but fundamentally interconnected to the wider world, and that that was rooted in the fact that we have common interests with the African continent to include Sub-Saharan Africa.

We have common interests in fostering economic growth and development, healthy populations, democratic governance, and a governance that delivers for the people both because that's a good in and of itself, but also because the United States will be more secure when Africa is more secure; that our health and well-being will be more assured when the health and well-being of the African people is more assured; and that in a time period when threats and challenges move across borders so rapidly, we have to see the extent to which we have a stake in Africa's success.

In service of that, we've pursued a number of priorities. We've strongly supported democratic governance in Africa through a variety of means, ranging from speaking out in instances such as the recent unrest in Côte D'Ivoire when democratic legitimacy was under threat, to building the capabilities and capacity of Afghan institutions so that democracy is strengthened, to empowering positive democratic models.

And that last piece is certainly relevant to this trip. The First Lady is visiting two strong African democracies, South Africa and Botswana. It's no coincidence that she would be visiting countries that have embraced democracy, in many respects, have shown that not only does their democracy deliver for its citizens, but it can provide a positive example for the neighborhood that these countries are in as well.

Similarly, we pursued a range of development priorities: food security, global health initiative, support for civil society and education in Africa. These are all leading priorities for the administration. And these are all themes that the First Lady will be touching upon during her trip, as she has throughout many of her travels.

I think the last thing I'd say before I start to get into the schedule is that we have seen, in the First Lady's travels with the President and on her own, a tremendous capability to connect with a foreign public, to speak to the aspirations particularly of young people abroad, to highlight some of the very good work that's being done by civil society around the world.

And so I think she has a demonstrated capability to connect with people and to create a sense of empowerment around areas such as education, health, and wellness that are so important to the successful and sustainable development of societies abroad and, in that respect, very important to U.S. interests, because, as I said, the success of communities to provide economic opportunity, education and wellness and health for their populations very much is in America's interests.

So with that I'll just go through the schedule briefly, which will also amplify some of these points.

The First Lady will begin by going to South Africa, flying to Johannesburg on the 20th of June. On the 21st, she'll begin her day by traveling to Pretoria, the capital, where she'll have an opportunity to meet with the President and his wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, at the official residence of the President. So she'll be able to have a meeting with her counterpart there.

She'll then be able to attend a reception with some South African leaders at the embassy, going together, and to thank our staff there at the embassy for the work that they're doing.

She's then going to be moving on to visit the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. The President and the First Lady obviously have extraordinary admiration for President Mandela. President Obama speaks on occasion to President Mandela, was able to meet with him in the past. And so Mrs. Obama is very much looking forward to the chance to go to the Mandela Foundation and to be able to meet with the former First Lady of Mozambique and wife of President Mandela, who will be able to give her a tour of the foundation and President Mandela's archives.

Later that day, Mrs. Obama will visit a daycare center in Johannesburg, and then she'll conclude the day by touring the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, which is, of course, a symbol of all that South Africa has overcome, which is an inspiration both to South African people across the continent, but of course, to so many people in the United States as well -- among them, the President and the First Lady. I think you've heard the President speak repeatedly about the very first political cause that stirred him to action -- was the anti-apartheid movement in this country. So there's obviously a deep connection that the Obamas feel, along with so many other Americans and people around the world, to the South African experience in overcoming apartheid.

On Wednesday, the First Lady will deliver the keynote address at a U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum at the Regina Mundi Church in South Africa, which is, of course, such a -- one of the very many powerful symbols of the anti-apartheid movement.

I'd just highlight a couple things here. The President hosted here at the White House the Young African Leaders Forum in 2010. This was in conjunction with the anniversary of the independence movements across Africa. It was a unique event in that the President reached out to young people from across the continent from different sectors of civil society.

We had activists, NGOs, journalists, people who were doing very important and powerful work in all parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and the President had a town hall meeting here with them where he was able to hear directly about their concerns.

And it sent a powerful message I think from the President, which is that the independence movements marked a huge chapter in African history, but now we're at the onset of a new chapter in which there's going to have to be a consolidation of so many of the gains that have been made but also that next step is going to have to be taken to solidify democratic governance and economic opportunity for the people of Africa, and that young people are going to have to play a critical role in that effort.

There are massive youth populations across Sub-Saharan Africa, of course, and not only are they representing a disproportionate size of the population, but they have a tremendous amount of positive energy that can be a harness to meet a set of challenges.

And in particular, of course, the First Lady is reaching out to young women leaders. And what we've seen in country after country is an undeniable trend that in places where women are empowered, that societies are more prosperous and more democratic. So we believe it's a very important message to send that the empowerment of women and girls in Africa and around the world will help foster greater peace and prosperity going forward.

So this Young African Women Leaders Forum builds directly on the President's Young African Leaders Forum here at the White House last year. And it will be able to focus about the role that young people play broadly, and also of course the role that women and girls play in particular.

So the First Lady will deliver remarks there. She will then visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial to again honor yet another icon of the anti-apartheid movement, where tragically this 12-year-old boy was killed by the government police.

Following that, she will proceed to participate in several breakout sessions of the Young African Women Leaders Forum. So what we did here in Washington is the President had a town hall, and then the Young African Leaders who we invited here to Washington participated in a series of sessions around issues that were important to them.

Similarly, here after the First Lady's remarks and discussion with the Young Leaders, they will have breakout sessions where they'll be able to build and foster networks among one another, and discuss issues that they're working on, issues that are important to them. And the First Lady will be able to visit with several of these breakout sessions.

And, again, the purpose here is both to deliver a message, but also to foster connections among these young people who have come from different parts of the continent, because, frankly, the connections they forge with one another can serve them very well.

We've already seen, for instance, many of our Young African Leader participants who came here last year have stayed in touch and have cooperated on issues of common concern.

So following the participation in those sessions, she will complete her visit to Johannesburg by joining the foreign participants at a community service project at a local community center. This is of course in line with Mrs. Obama's focus around the world on service and the importance of young people serving their communities here in the United States and abroad.

Then, that night, the First Lady will move on to Cape Town, and on Thursday, June 23rd, will pursue a program in Cape Town, South Africa. She'll begin her day by thanking the employees of the U.S. Consulate there for the work that they're doing. She will then go on to visit Robben Island, where of course President Mandela was imprisoned for the bulk of his time -- in prison for all those many years.

This is of course something that has a powerful symbol of the sacrifice that was made by President Mandela and others over so many decades in the anti-apartheid movement. It's a place that President Obama was able to visit when he was a United States Senator, and so this will be a very important chance for the First Lady and her family to pay respects to the sacrifice that President Mandela made by visiting Robben Island.

Following that, she will invite students from area schools, particularly schools from disadvantaged communities, for a day-long university immersion experience at the University of Cape Town. So this is an opportunity for the First Lady to underscore her focus on education as the key to empowerment for young people; to give people from disadvantaged backgrounds a glimpse of their extraordinary and unlimited potential, including their potential to live their dreams through participation in university education.

She's had similar events in other places, most recently at Oxford in London where she was able to connect a group of children from disadvantaged backgrounds with Oxford to open the doors of opportunity to them so that they can see their potential.

And so this will be a similar experience for her to underscore the importance of education and education for all people, including those who come from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Following that, she'll complete her visit in Cape Town by going to the Cape Town Soccer Stadium. This is, of course, the site of the World Cup in 2010, which was a symbol of Africa's achievement, South Africa's achievement in particular. Africans take great pride in the great success of the World Cup. President Obama spoke about this actually in an interview with South African television, and she'll be able to underscore that success.

She'll also be able to meet there with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who's, again, been such a force for reconciliation in South Africa and around the world, and then will be able to meet with several organizations who are dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa. HIV/AIDS, of course, continues to be a first priority for this administration in terms of making sure we're increasing our resources to fight HIV/AIDS while also pursuing a broader global health initiative that strengthens the capacity of South Africa and other countries to provide for the health of their people.

After that, at the Cape Town Soccer Stadium, Mrs. Obama will have the opportunity to join some area girls and boys on the soccer field to pursue some activities and drills and have some fun.

The next day, she'll move on from Cape Town in South Africa to Botswana. Botswana is another country I think that has shown just how much democracy can deliver for its citizens. They've made great strides in ensuring that they're building the long-term foundations of a stable democracy and that they're pursuing an economic development model in tandem with their democratic development that can deliver for the people of Botswana. So we believe it's an important partner of the United States in the region and an important example to hold up in the region, as well.

In Botswana, Mrs. Obama and her family will visit the Botswana Baylor Children's Clinic Center of Excellence. This will provide the opportunity for her to further underscore the importance of young people's awareness as it relates to fostering health and also to provide education around combating HIV/AIDS.

I think it's worth highlighting here -- just as we underscore our own current program by the administration in terms of combating HIV/AIDS and fostering public health, the First Lady has had a longstanding commitment to awareness and education around these issues. What we've seen is education of populations about how to take precautionary measures -- for instance, in terms of preventing HIV/AIDS -- can be a critical factor.

The First Lady and the President, in a previous trip to Africa, of course, were able to take an HIV-AIDS test, which was -- sent a very powerful message around the region about the importance of getting tested. So this issue of awareness around HIV/AIDS is one that she's been working on for many years now and she'll be able to underscore with her visit to this clinic.

She'll then be able to join with members of the community in a service project at the site for the planned Botswana Baylor Adolescent Center. This is a new facility that's being constructed, and this service project again can underscore both her commitment to public health as well as her commitment to service in communities around the world.

Finally, she'll be able to meet with the President of Botswana to discuss a range of issues that she's working on and the range of issues that our two countries are working on together.

So those are the key events that I covered. Mary may want to fill in any gaps that I've missed or build off any of the areas of emphasis that I discussed. But again, I think the important thing to underscore here is that this is a very important trip for the administration's Africa policy, directly connected to a range of priorities that not only the administration has, but Mrs. Obama has, as well.

And I would particularly underscore their outreach to youth populations, empowerment of civil society, and a focus on service, education and health and well-being, which everybody knows Mrs. Obama has been focused on here in the United States and around the world, but that also forms such a core of our Africa police and our development policy writ large.

So, Mary.

MS. YATES: Thanks, Ben. I don't really have much to add. That was terrific. But I just would like to underscore that the Obama administration is working on a number of fronts this year to really strengthen our engagement with Africa, certainly building on the Ghana speech. And Mrs. Obama's visit will completely underscore the themes that began in that -- there are at least 17 nations having national elections this year -- so continuing to look at good governance and moving forward with success in those elections.

The President has taken a lot of interest and personally has involved himself with Sudan, with the resolution of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, and we certainly appreciate that leadership. Just the week before last, he had two Oval Office visits, one with the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, and then with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo. And we're just greatly appreciative that the First Lady is traveling and is going to be doing all the things that Ben outlined.

I think I would also note that both South Africa -- as Ben said, South Africa and Botswana are model examples for this same democratic theme. And both are increasingly important partners in multilateral fora, as well, where we are all addressing many of the global issues that challenge us all. We certainly appreciate the role of South Africa at the U.N. Security Council and in many other fora.

And Botswana is a democracy that works on behalf of its people. It uses its resources. It has been -- successive democratic elections in a nation, so we're looking forward to Mrs. Obama sitting down with President Khama there in Botswana.

I will leave it at that and see if we have questions.

Q Hi, everyone. Thanks for doing the call. My question is on President Mandela. Did you actually request -- or have there been any efforts made for the First Lady to meet with him in addition to his wife?

MR. RHODES: Sure. Thanks for the question, Jeff. I think -- there's no current meeting scheduled. Obviously, we're very sensitive to President Mandela's schedule and whatever his ability to receive visitors is, so I think this will be something that we'll just have to update you on if there are any changes.

I do think that we obviously did want to make sure that there were a range of engagements with the Mandela Foundation, with the iconic symbols of the anti-apartheid movement. And so I think Mrs. Obama is very much looking forward to her visit to the museum, to the Mandela Foundation, her meeting with, of course, Archbishop Tutu, who is such a compatriot of President Mandela's, and of course, the visit to Robben Island.

So I think she will be paying tribute to President Mandela's legacy throughout her visit. She, of course, would treasure any opportunity to interact with President Mandela. I think it depends on his ability to receive visitors. I will say that President Obama has really much enjoyed the ability to check in from time to time with President Mandela. They've spoken on the phone several times while he's been in office. And we, of course, always have him in our thoughts and prayers here and are hoping for his good health and well-being.

So we'll keep you abreast if there are any scheduling updates, but we're making it a core part of the trip to again -- once again, honor the legacy of President Mandela and all the work that he and his foundation have done.

MS. YATES: And she will also be seeing Graca Machel, President Mandela's wife, at the foundation.

Q Hi, there. Thank you so much for taking the question. Just wondering if you could preview a little bit her anchor speech, that main speech that she's going to give? And also could you talk a little bit about what her message will be? I know you talked about education in terms of HIV. As you know, we just marked the 30th anniversary in this country. Will she be announcing any new initiatives or any new education programs there to enhance awareness about HIV/AIDS?

MR. RHODES: Yes, I'd just say a couple things, and Mary may want to chime in, but that I think that the First Lady has a message that is very in line with the President's message, which is one of both speaking to the extraordinary potential of young people around the world, but also challenging young people around the world, as well, to reach for their highest aspirations.

And so I think what she'll be able to do is very much in line with that the President spoke to the Young African Leaders Forum here in Washington about, but focused on some of the issues that she's been particularly concerned with.

So you have the overarching message, which is that Africa has made extraordinary progress; South Africa's story embodies that progress in terms of being able to move towards a democracy, of being able to bring about a degree of economic growth, but the work is not done, and that there's a lot more that needs to be done to foster greater access to education for young people, greater public health and well-being for populations writ large, and greater ability for all Africans to reach their potential; and that young people, in particular, are going to play the determinant role in taking that next step within Africa and consolidating democratic gains, fighting corruption, which has stood in the way of democratic gains in many different countries.

And again, this is a message I think to all of Africa, it's not simply a message to South Africa, and also taking action within their own communities to bring about greater access to education and health and well-being.

So I think it's a message of empowerment, a message of shared responsibility, and a message that young people can take their own futures into their hands and shape the destinies of their country.

In terms of what she'll be doing on the public health side, I think a lot of what we've tried to do in Sub-Saharan Africa and different parts of the world is empower positive models. There are the steps that we take and the assistance we provide on issues such as HIV/AIDS. But as a part of our broader approach of global health, we wanted to strengthen public health systems and that means getting behind positive models through clinics, positive models through what some NGOs are doing.

And so, the types of visits that she'll be making are meant to underscore positive approaches. So, for instance, when she's in Botswana, she'll be visiting with -- this particular Center of Excellence's Teen Club, which is a really unique organization that was assembled so that young people could teach each other HIV/AIDS education.

And so I think this is kind of a part of a broader approach where we lift up and highlight service projects that are working that might be replicated in different parts of countries and the continent more broadly so that public health systems can overcome the extraordinary challenges of HIV/AIDS and other diseases that have ravaged a continent.

So there's our own assistance that we provide through drugs, through certain health capabilities. But then there's also the empowerment we do around African capabilities.

But I don't know if Mary -- if you want to add anything to that.

MS. YATES: I think what I'd like to add is we learned -- back to the speech and the youth forum, the women's youth forum, what we learned with the President's youth forum last year is bringing the young people together, they tell each other stories. They learn from each other. They're empowered by each other. And I think that's exactly what the First Lady wants to do in her speech. She wants to share her stories, but she wants to listen to them.

And it's built on a construct, so there are these breakout groups afterwards so that they can share. And I think they're going to look for social media ways for the dialogue to continue, because we can all learn from the best practices of others, and it doesn't have to be something that's very expensive. You can be a leader in your community by doing something small.

Q Hi, thanks for taking my call. I had a question. I understand that Sasha and Malia will be accompanying the First Lady on this trip, and I just wanted to know if there was any plans to include her in it? And also I was wondering if there was any plans to videotape a portion of it for playback or any other reference purposes? Thank you.

MS. TCHEN: Yes, Mrs. Robinson, Sasha and Malia, and also Mrs. Obama's niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, will be accompanying her on the trip. And as for a playback, yes, we'll be -- I think -- I think South African TV will be carrying her speech live in South Africa, and we will be able -- have a capability of -- on a delayed basis, having that replayed. And we'll probably be posting it. And look for more information. We'll release more -- what we'll be able to put up on whitehouse.gov that you'll be able to access.

Q Hi. Thanks for doing the call. I think there was some anticipation or expectation ever since the President took office that at some point during his presidency he would go to Africa and make a -- you know, maybe visit two or three or four countries on one trip. I know he went to Ghana in 2009, but to what degree is Mrs. Obama's trip designed to sort of do what he so far hasn't yet been able to do, which is do this kind of trip that a lot of people have been expecting him to do in Africa?

MR. RHODES: Thanks for the question, Darlene. I'd say a couple of things. First of all, as you said and pointed out, he did a -- the one stop in Ghana. The speech in Accra I think was one that was intended to be to the people of Ghana but also to the continent more broadly.

We looked for ways for him to continually speak to the African people directly. There's been a range of interviews he's done with Kenyan television, with South African television, for instance.

The Young African Leaders Forum was consciously designed to bring people from across the continent here to Washington, so he was reaching people from across Sub-Saharan Africa.

And we've, of course, taped messages to Côte d'Ivoire -- video messages to the people of Côte d'Ivoire during their crisis, and as recently as last night the President took time out from his schedule to tape a message addressing the violence in Sudan.

That said, he's not yet been able to make the type of trip you describe, a multi-stop trip to Africa. There's not one currently on the schedule right now. I think our next -- you know, the next trip that we're certain that we're making abroad is, of course, to Asia, because we're hosting the APEC summit in Hawaii, in Honolulu, but then they're scheduled to travel to Indonesia to participate in the East Asia summit.

So we don't currently have a trip on the schedule for Sub-Saharan Africa. We do think that Mrs. Obama's trip does -- is intended to demonstrate the personal outreach from the President and Mrs. Obama to the African continent, as well as to address some of the policy priorities that the President has spoken of.

So we designed the trip so that it would be very much in line with what we've tried to make the signature issues for the President and the administration in Africa, and they happen to fully dovetail with Mrs. Obama's signature initiatives in terms of her international agenda.

So the President has tried to make it very clear that he has an agenda centered around young people, centered around African capacity building, instead of simply the provision of assistance, and that that capacity building is best focused on areas related to empowering democratic models like South Africa and Botswana, and then that it's focused on health and education and civil society more broadly.

So, you're right, I think, in your analysis to say that Mrs. Obama's trip is intended to advance the administration's agenda as well as Mrs. Obama's personal agenda that she's of course cultivated over the course of the last two and a half years. So it should be seen as a next step in the administration's outreach to Africa.

The President, of course, himself, would welcome the opportunity to continue his personal engagement with the African continent, and he'll do so through his meetings with African leaders, through his outreach on African media, and potentially in the future through additional travel.

So I think this takes place in that continuum, and we're very pleased that Mrs. Obama is able to do this. And it's her second solo trip abroad, her longest solo trip abroad. So in that respect, we think it sends a powerful message about the Obamas' commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Q Thank you.

Q Thank you all for the informative call. I have a multi-part question, please. Do you know off-hand how many people approximately are traveling with Mrs. Obama? And with respect to the family members -- the Obama daughters, Mrs. Robinson, the niece and the nephew -- can you help us understand whose costs are paid for by the U.S. government and who pays privately out of pocket? And lastly, if I may, is there an estimate in how much overall the trip will cost the United States government, please?

MR. RHODES: I'll say a couple of things. This is Ben Rhodes. We -- first of all, as it relates to your last question, we get this as it relates to presidential travel sometimes. I think the important point that we'd make is that this is not something that is necessarily determined by the White House. The Secret Service and others make the determination about the requisite security associated with any travel abroad by the First Family. So they would be the ones that make the decisions. We don't have a number for you. But I think that it's important to note that they're the ones that determine kind of the security piece of this, which often has costs associated with it.

In terms of who's traveling, I think -- and similarly, there's always a support element from the Secret Service that they will make their own determinations about what capability they need. From the administration, I know Mary, you know best -- Mary is traveling with the First Lady, as well as her own staff and others --

MS. YATES: No, I'm the only one --

MR. RHODES: You're the only from the White House? Okay.

MS. YATES: Right.

MR. RHODES: Okay, so Mary Yates, you know, who is our Senior Director here for African Affairs, will be traveling as the White House and NSC representative. And then members of the First Lady's staff will accompany her, and the family members that Tina referenced. And then we have -- of course, we'll be working with the embassies and consulates in the places that we're visiting.

Q Thank you. But, again, I don't mean to ask about the numbers of security or cost of security. I would imagine that'd be private. But can you tell us who pays out of pocket and whose costs are borne by the government, please?

MS. TCHEN: We can get back to you. We obviously follow the guidance of Counsel on what portions of the cost would, if any, have to be borne privately. And we are working with them on that.

Q Thank you.

Q Thanks for the call. I have a policy-related question. You've talked about the administration's engagement with Africa -- and if there's anything you'd like to add to that. And can you also respond to criticism from some in the NGO and scholar community on this contention that the U.S. is backing away from its commitment on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly when it comes to AIDS treatment and antiretrovirals, that sort of thing?

MR. RHODES: Yes, I'd say a couple of things, and Mary may want to add in to it. Just on your first point, I think as it relates to our policy in Africa, you've seen several countries of focus -- particularly countries of course where there have been conflicts or difficulties, the President has put an enormous amount of personal effort into Sudan, into ensuring a successful referendum for southern independence.

And, right now, we see a very fragile -- and, in some instances -- violent situation as we approach the date of independence for southern Sudan. So harnessing international action behind a peaceful outcome in Sudan has been a focus. Côte D'Ivoire was the focus for a long period of time as we supported what ended up being a successful transition to democratic governance there, albeit one that also was accompanied by violence.

So, in many different countries, we've had to weigh in on behalf of democracy, and as Mary said, this is a year of many elections in Africa, and we, the United States, is investing a lot of diplomatic time and effort into ensuring that those elections are free and fair and speak to the consolidation of democracy across the continent.

We also have, associated with our democracy efforts, a number of anti-corruption initiatives that we've pursued through international mechanisms, with -- through the G20, through our Open Government Initiative, where we're trying to figure out ways to empower citizens and NGOs to hold their governments accountable so that corruption can be reduced, particularly in places like many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where that is an area of particular grievance.

On the development side, I think our priorities have been, number one, food security. The President made this a priority from the beginning of his administration. At the first G20 in London, we rallied a broad international consensus around a global approach to food security, one that not just provided food assistance but also helped teach and give capabilities to African farmers so that they could be empowered to feed African populations.

We've continued to put resources into that and to try to galvanize resources from across the international community.

On the health side, on the HIV/AIDS question that you asked, our view is twofold. One is we have actually increased resources for HIV/AIDS. So not only have we maintained the resources that made such a huge contribution under PEPFAR under President Bush, but we've actually gone over and above that in terms of the resources that we're providing to combat HIV/AIDS on the continent.

So we're very comfortable with our commitment and believe that it's been able to advance the gains made under the PEPFAR program.

We've also nested it, though, into a broader global health initiative, because our analysis was that it was necessary to fight HIV/AIDS directly with antiviral drugs and other capabilities, but what was really going to make the game-changing difference in the long run was building up African public health systems -- so how can doctors and nurses improve the capabilities that they need to care for African patients? How can we empower models like the First Lady is going to do on this trip so that we take a clinic that is doing extraordinary work in a corner of Africa and lift up that experience so that others can learn from it, can get connected to it?

So the Global Health Initiative -- and also focuses, frankly, on diseases like malaria that we believe we can deal a knockout punch to if we provide additional resources.

And I should add finally child and maternal health has been nested in that, and we believe that the data shows that if you invest in the health of women and girls and child and maternal health, in particular, you can actually increase life expectancy. You can cut back on unnecessary death and disease, so child and maternal health has been a key focus of our approach, as well.

So the First Lady's emphasis, particularly on the health side, is very much in line with our theory of building African capacity, just as her focus on HIV/AIDS is around things like awareness and education on HIV/AIDS that are necessary to reduce the rates of infection and eventually eliminate the disease.

And then finally, I think what she's doing on the civil society side, which is the engagement side you referenced I spoke about, that's relevant to all these policies because a vibrant civil society is necessary to cultivate democracy. A vibrant civil society is where you're going to get solutions to public health challenges and food security challenges, as well.

So we see this not as a separate issue, but we see the engagement around young people in civil society as, frankly, the long-term solution to Africa's security, health and well-being challenges.

But I don't know, Mary, if you --

MS. YATES: I think the only thing I would add from that is under sort of the Global Health Initiative, I don't see this as backing away at all from PEPFAR and the focus on HIV/AIDS only, but just as Ben said, it's taking a wider look at health, working to build their capacities.

I just returned from the travel last week with the Secretary of State in Tanzania, and we heard great appreciation for the Global Health Initiative funding exactly for this reason because it gives flexibility. If malaria is the problem in a certain area, I mean it gives you a wider range of tools, or the funding in a mechanism to address a variety of the health issues. And I think that HIV/AIDS was seen as a key point in both of these stops, of course, in Botswana and in South Africa, just exactly to underscore the importance this administration puts on HIV/AIDS, so I don't think we're stepping away from it at all.

MR. RHODES: I'd just add a quick note unrelated just because Mary mentioned her traveling. Now, Mary has been senior director here for a year and is deeply engaged in all of our policy development, but, of course, also traveled frequently most recently with the Secretary to the region, so she'll bring that perspective to bear.

Similarly, Mary's predecessor here, our previous senior director for African Affairs, Michelle Gavin, many of you know was just confirmed as our ambassador in Botswana and just got out there, so there's a nice continuum for the team here at the White House in that Mary will be on the trip and her predecessor, Michelle Gavin, will be the ambassador hosting the First Lady in Botswana.

MS. TCHEN: And with that, folks -- I apologize for the late start, but that has to be the last question for this. So we thank you for dialing into the call, and we will be issuing additional information as it becomes available.

Thanks, all.

END 5:21 P.M. EDT


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 20, 2011 5:38 PM.

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