The First Lady began her tour of South Africa meeting a parade of leaders from government, industry, non-profit and education, but it was her encounters with the very young and the very old that likely resonated most deeply with Michelle Obama and her family.
Her voice cracked and halted as she made an emotional speech in front of young women leaders in Soweto. She likened their nation’s journey to the American story, that began more than 200 years ago. At the close of her talk, in a crowded church, she reminded the group of a well known battle cry: “If anyone tells you, ‘you shouldn’t’ or ‘you can’t’, I want you to say with one voice — the voice of a generation, ‘Yes, we can’.”
Mrs. Obama then had the honor of a special tour of the Mandela Foundation with her two daughters, her mom and nephew. They were greeted by the gracious Graca Machel, wife of the former president, Nelson Mandela. Together they glimpsed the personal papers and an array of remarkable documents and photographs laid out for the First Family’s visit: the calendars Nelson Mandela used to count the days of his nearly 27 years in prison; letters he wrote home to his wife and children from his cell; the original Life Imprisonment sentence that seemingly cut short Nelson Mandela’s life and political influence.
Next came a visit with Mandela himself at his home nearby. The photos that emerged from that personal meeting (courtesy of the Mandela Foundation) showed him presenting Mrs Obama with an advance copy of his soon to be released book, Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorized Quotations Book.
From the political, business and civil stratosphere of South Africa, the Obama entourage traveled to a poverty stricken township outside of Johannesburg. But their visit to a community center, where the whole family played games and sang songs with a group of 30 small children left the visiting Americans inspired with warmth, color and fun.
With their mom, Sasha and Malia took turns reading pages of Dr. Seuss’s Cat In The Hat to the kids gathered around.
Visit www.whitehouse.gov/youngafrica to keep following the journey!
WATCH the close of the First Lady’s inspiring speech, and below that, a video of dancing and singing with the kids of the Emthonjoni Community Center…