Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Morocco’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC
July 29, 2013
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warm wishes to King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan people as you celebrate your national day this July 30.
When Morocco granted American merchant ships safe passage after the outbreak of the American Revolution, it signaled the beginning of a strong and enduring friendship. We are also proud that the Moroccan city of Tangier is home to our oldest diplomatic property in the world.
After more than 225 years of friendship and peace, we continue to work together to expand trade, promote stability in the region, and enhance mutual understanding between our nations.
During this time of profound change in the region, the United States supports Morocco’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the rule of law, human rights, and good governance. We look forward to building on our long history of relations as we work together to advance common goals.
As you gather with family and friends on this special day, the United States wishes you a future of peace and prosperity. Ramadan Mubarak.

Sec. Kerry Speaks At UN Security Council Ministerial On The Great Lakes Region

United Nations
New York City
July 25, 2013
SECRETARY KERRY: The 7,011th meeting of the Security Council is called to order. The provisional agenda for this meeting is: “The Situation in the Great Lakes Region: Supporting the Great Lakes Framework.” Without objection, the agenda is adopted and it’s my pleasure to warmly welcome the distinguished Secretary General, the ministers, and the other distinguished representatives in the Security Council chamber. I think everybody’s participation here is an affirmation of the importance of the subject matter that is under discussion.
Under Rule 37 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite the representatives of Belgium, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.
Under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, to participate in the meeting. It is so decided.
On behalf of the Council, I welcome Dr. Kim, who is joining today’s meeting via teleconference from Washington. And under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Mrs. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the Great Lakes region. It is so decided.
Under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, all of these rules which I’m obviously enormously familiar with – (laughter) – I invite His Excellency Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.
And under Rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, I invite Mr. Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Actions Service, to participate in this meeting. It is so decided.
The Security Council will now begin its consideration of item two of the agenda. I want to draw the attention of the Council members to document S/2013/387, the report of the Secretary General on the implementation of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region. I also wish to draw the attention of Council members to document S/2013/394, a letter dated 3 July 2013 from the chargé d’affaires at the interim of the United States Mission to the United Nations, addressed to the Secretary General. And before you is a statement by the President on behalf of the Council, and the subject of today’s meeting.
I want to thank all the Council members for their very valuable contributions to this statement. And in accordance with the understanding reached among the members of the Council, I take it that the members of the Security Council agree to the statement, which will be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/PRST/2013/11. It is so decided.
Now it is my privilege – and I mean that, an enormous privilege – to make a statement in my capacity as the Secretary of State of the United States of America. I begin by saying how genuinely honored I am to be able to join you at the United Nations, presiding over the Security Council in our role for this period as the Secretary of State. And it’s also a privilege to chair the Security Council on a subject, a challenge that is central to the mission of this vital organization – that is, realizing the promise of peace.
For far, far too long, far too many lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the broader Great Lakes region have been ravaged by targeted, grotesque violence. They have been subjected to human rights abuses and the region has been disrupted by dangerous instability. The crisis that we witness today underscores what we already know. It is a stark reminder of what fills the vacuum in the absence of good governance, basic dignity, and in the absence of firm leadership that holds accountable those who violate basic standards of decency. It reminds – or it ought to remind – all of us of an obligation that we all share – not only to end the killing, the raping, the forcing of children into combat, the devastation and the fear, but the obligation to establish a lasting peace and the climate of development, and in doing so, we can create the space for productivity and partnerships, for greater opportunity for the citizens of the D.R.C., and for the birth of a new generation of stability and of hope.
We can actually prove to the world that all of us working together, and I might add, prove it at a time where many people are doubting the capacity of institutions to function and where they doubt the capacity of political leadership to solve problems. Well, we have the ability to prove to the world that together, we actually can make a difference. The seeds of this promise have already been planted, but our job doesn’t end with the creation of the framework. It continues in the cultivation of the seeds in making sure that we implement the framework, that we create a vigilant, accountable, and cooperative effort in order to see those seeds grow into a full-blown peace that is sustainable.
I want to recognize our partners in that effort. First, I thank the Secretary General for his personal engagement. I thank World Bank President Kim for the same kind of engagement and for their partnership. President Obama and I are very grateful to both leaders and the institutions that they lead for the very novel UN-World Bank partnership that has been created, which provides incentives for political progress through projects that create stability and improve infrastructure. Clearly, boosting regional commerce in the short term is one path to realizing stability and security in the long term. And I think that we’re all very hopeful that this approach can succeed in the Great Lakes region, and perhaps even serve as a model for other areas like Mali and through the Maghreb and beyond.
Regrettably, we have no dearth of locations where we are challenged and could use this kind of model today. I’d just say parenthetically that in the Middle East, in the West Bank and Palestine, we are beginning to look at a similar kind of model in hope that we can combine our efforts over the long term to find new ways to build sustainable peace.
I want to particularly also thank UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson, a longtime friend, somebody I have admired for a long time. And I reiterate the United States support for her work with regional leaders in the implementation of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. We particularly welcome the priority that she places on including regional women’s groups, local communities and civil society in the framework peace process as we seek to break the cycle of violence and break down the barriers between humanitarian aid and the people who are desperate for it.
The day before President Obama nominated me to be Secretary of State, I met with Denis Mukwege, who just a few weeks earlier had fled the D.R.C. after an attempt on his life. Denis has demonstrated the courage to stand up and protect women and children from the weapons of war, which too often people only talk about in a whisper. The victims of these horrific crimes and humanitarians like Dr. Mukwege who protect and treat those people and all of the people in that region desperately need a voice.
And I know, and I obviously, because he chose her, the Secretary General knows that Mary Robinson is committed to being that voice as the region and the international community address the full range of issues involved in translating the broad principles of the framework into concrete benchmarks for implementation. So thank you, Mary Robinson, for what you’re doing. We’re grateful for your continued public service.
It’s also a great pleasure for me today to introduce all of you and to introduce U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold, former Senator Russ Feingold. The suffering in the Great Lakes which we are going to debate and talk about here today is a high-level priority for President Obama and for me, and it is one that we believe must be met by high-level leadership. I had the pleasure of working in the United States Senate for 18 years with Senator Feingold. And there is no one, in my judgment, in the Senate who was more trusted for his expertise in African issues. He brings enormous intellect, passion, and courage to this challenge. And I am very pleased that he has consented to take this on.
I also bring you the greetings of former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who asked me to give you a warm good morning and hello. And we chatted briefly before coming here, so I could get the latest tips on exactly what to do and what not to do today.
The United States joins every single one of you in welcoming the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework. It is a very important first step, but we also recognize that the progress the region has made since February is extremely fragile, and the key question before all of us today is whether the commitments prescribed in the framework can be kept, will be kept. Will they come to life, or are they only going to be destined to live on paper?
Let me underscore, the United States stands ready to support the signatories and we will work with you with focus and energy and persistence in order to implement the framework. But as President Obama said, there has to be follow-through. I want to make it clear, in that context, the United States is deeply concerned about recent reports of external – resumed external support to M23 as well as of collaboration with the FDLR.
So I want to be emphatic here today. All parties must immediately end their support for armed rebel groups. All governments must hold human rights violators and abusers accountable. We must end the era of impunity and that, unfortunately, has been rampant.
To this end, the United States welcomes the deployment of the intervention brigade and we support its mandate to neutralize all armed groups and protect civilians so that peace can take hold. We believe that it is now time for everyone in the region to exercise restraint and to return to the constructive path that you have set out for yourselves to move forward together so that we can address the root causes of this conflict and end it once and for all.
I believe this is doable. I believe it is the absence of governance and the absence of an international presence that has created the vacuum that has permitted people to act with the impunity they have acted. I know that moving ahead isn’t easy. I know it takes courage. But we have to all accept that this is our responsibility.
So as the chair of this debate and as a representative of a nation that, like all of yours, has a stake in the stability of the Great Lakes, I want to urge all of us around this table to take advantage of the unique opportunity that the framework provides.
The United States challenges, respectfully, all of those who have committed themselves to the framework to respect, in turn, the national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the D.R.C. We can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that everyone fosters cooperation across borders.
We challenge everyone to finalize the benchmarks that are outlined in the framework and to adopt them during the UN General Assembly in September. We strongly urge everyone to formally include the voices that Special Envoy Robinson has engaged, voices that have too often been excluded, particularly those of women. And we challenge the D.R.C. to continue implementing reforms to its security sector and to reestablish state authority, particularly in the east.
And finally, we pledge to join the Security Council, the D.R.C., regional governments, and the international community to do everything in our power to achieve a comprehensive peace accord.
Every one of us here understands the complex history of suffering in the Great Lakes region. But we all have a responsibility, a universally endowed responsibility, to ensure that a history of violence is not going to be followed by a future of vengeance. The only way to properly honor the millions of lives that have been lost is through peace, and the only way to achieve that piece is for the United Nations and all of the countries in the region and all of the countries with the capacity to step up and help to show the way forward.
So thank you for the privilege of sharing a few thoughts with you. I will now resume my function as president of the Council, and I give the floor to Secretary General, his Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Liberia’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 25, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and all Americans, I congratulate the people of Liberia as they celebrate 166 years of independence on July 26.

As Liberia also celebrates 10 historic years of peace, we look forward to continuing to help the Liberian people make greater strides in promoting economic development, addressing corruption, encouraging reconciliation, and improving the investment climate.

I commend the Government of Liberia for contributing to a secure and prosperous future through its participation in emerging peacekeeping activities in the region. The United States remains a steadfast partner of the people and Government of Liberia, and we look forward to advancing our common agenda for democracy, human rights, and economic prosperity.

I extend warm wishes to the people of Liberia as you gather with family and friends on your national day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

African Women’s Entrepreneurship Exchange Promotes Business Growth

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

July 22, 2013

Thirty women entrepreneurs from 27 African countries arrive in the United States this week to look at ways to grow their small and medium businesses. The U.S. Government is committed to empowering women and supporting entrepreneurship to spur economic growth around the world.

The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), a special initiative of the International Visitor Leadership Program, runs from July 22-August 9. Now in its fourth year, AWEP elevates women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa who are transforming their societies through business and are voices for social advocacy in their communities. The participants travel to cities across the United States to visit local businesses, business incubators, schools, and non-governmental organizations.

The participants begin their program in Chicago, and then split into smaller groups based on their expertise to travel to Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, or Albuquerque. The entire AWEP group then comes together to travel to New York City and Washington, DC.

The women represent Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Once they return home, the women connect with AWEP chapters in more than a dozen countries, where they work with AWEP alumnae to mentor women in their communities and share their experiences.

For more information on the program, please contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at

Newest African Ambassadors Present Letters of Credence At White House

Washington DC

July 22, 2013

On Thursday, July 18, 2013, 3 new African Ambassadors presented their Letters of Credence to President Obama at the White House.

The Ambassadors are:
* Her Excellency Oliver Wonekha, Ambassador of the Republic of Uganda
* Her Excellency Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda
* Her Excellency Liberata Rutageruka Mulamula, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania

The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The United States Congress Celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 95th Birthday

(c) AMIP News Photo – House Speaker John Boehner Delivering Opening Remarks
July 18, 2013

Story by Cindy Saine (VOA News)

CAPITOL HILL — Leaders of the U.S. Congress held a ceremony Thursday celebrating the life, legacy and values of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African President Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 95th birthday.

A colorful ensemble of traditional South African singers, dancers and drummers danced their way into Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, where a large group of U.S. lawmakers, civil rights leaders and members of the African Diplomatic Corps were gathered.

House Speaker John Boehner thanked the Congressional Black Caucus for organizing the event, and paid tribute to Nelson Mandela for keeping his humility and faith through 27 years in prison and his long struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

“At times it can almost feel like we are talking about an old friend,” said Boehner, who called Mandela beloved in the halls of Congress. “And the reason for that I think is scarcely a week, a day goes by without us pointing to Mandela as an example.”

Democratic Party Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who led anti-apartheid protests and was a leader in the California movement to divest state pension funds from South African companies — which became a national divestment movement — paid tribute to Mandela’s decades of sacrifice, calling him “the most significant historic figure in the world in the past 100 years.”

Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell called Mandela a very rare individual.

“Rarer still is a leader who can directly challenge an established order, upend nearly every convention of a society, and still find a way to establish himself as a unifying figure,” he said.

Mandela has spent more than a month in a South African hospital for a lung infection, though family members and doctors said Thursday they are encouraged by his progress.

Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States, said there can be no doubt that Mandela will leave a lasting legacy of standing up for the oppressed all over the world.

“Even today, as the angels wrestle with his soul, he refuses to pass simply out of human existence,” Rasool said. “It is reported that he is watching television with his headphones on.”

The audience of dignitaries came alive when musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz played Hugh Masekela’s “Bring Him Back Home.”

Members of Congress took turns reading short passages from Nelson Mandela’s own words from different phases of his life, and recalled that he spoke to a joint session of Congress twice, inspiring Democrats and Republicans alike.

President and Mrs. Obama on Nelson Mandela International Day

File Photo | June 2011
Office of the Press Secretary


July 17, 2013

On behalf of our family and the people of the United States, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes and prayers to Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 95th birthday, as well as to Graça Machel, the Mandela family, and the government and people of South Africa as they mark the fifth annual Nelson Mandela International Day.

Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba’s former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility.

On Nelson Mandela International Day, people everywhere have the opportunity to honor Madiba through individual and collective acts of service. Through our own lives, by heeding his example, we can honor the man who showed his own people – and the world – the path to justice, equality, and freedom.

May Nelson Mandela’s life of service to others and his unwavering commitment to equality, reconciliation, and human dignity continue to be a beacon for each future generation seeking a more just and prosperous world.

# # #

Powering Africa: An Editorial By the New York Times Editorial Board

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Ubongo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 2, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

July 15, 2013


President Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative, unveiled during his recent trip there, has the potential to make a major impact on a continent where millions of people — including more than two-thirds of those in the sub-Saharan region — live every day without reliable access to affordable electricity. But the outcome depends heavily on how the plan is designed and carried out and whether it is sustained.

In raw numbers, Mr. Obama’s pledge to invest $7 billion over the next five years in eight countries is modest. The International Energy Agency estimates it would cost $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access in the sub-Saharan region by 2030.

Still, the initiative holds promise because it provides a vehicle for leveraging private sector investment and, significantly, anchors the United States firmly in the kind of trade and investment relationship that increasingly will help determine Africa’s future. The White House says that companies have already committed to more than $9 billion in projects. In Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania, the focus will be on electricity; in Uganda and Mozambique, it will be on gas and oil development.

For too long, the international response to poverty, war, famine and dictatorial leaders in Africa has consisted largely of humanitarian aid. Today, there are still many problems, but they are increasingly offset by positive trends; six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa. In recent years, China has spent so much on African infrastructure projects and natural resources that it has surpassed the United States as the continent’s main trading partner. America has a lot of catching up to do and ignores these markets, with their growing middle classes, at its peril.

The initiative has been enthusiastically endorsed by Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian whose Heirs Holdings has pledged $2.5 billion to expand a power plant in Nigeria and develop other projects. In an essay, he called power the “single biggest obstacle” to Africa’s development.
Before his trip, Mr. Obama was faulted for not showing enough interest in the continent where his father, a Kenyan, was born. But his administration was central to the independence of South Sudan and has invested heavily in improving Africa’s agriculture production through the program.

Still, he has been overshadowed by two predecessors who left a lasting imprint with signature programs, George W. Bush on H.I.V. and Bill Clinton on health care and reduced trade barriers. Having now raised expectations that he intends to make a difference with “Power Africa,” it is vital for Mr. Obama to follow through.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MD – Govnr’s African Affairs Commssn to Host Community Summit – August 3rd

File Photo – Gov. Martin O’Malley
Baltimore, Maryland
Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives

July 15, 2013

Governor Martin O’Malley’s Commission on African Affairs will host a Community Summit on Saturday August 3rd at the Montgomery County Eastern Regional Services Center in Silver Spring. The summit will address a wide range of subjects affecting African immigrants in the state including immigration, education, and health care.

The summit is appropriately timed since it follows President Obama’s recent successful trip to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa (June 27 – July 2), during which he announced Power Africa, a $7billion power initiative for Africa, and the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders which will bring more than 500 young African leaders to the United States each year for leadership training and mentoring.

In 2011, the Governor’s Commission hosted the inaugural African Summit attended by representatives of President Obama’s administration, embassy officials and high ranking Maryland officials. The August 3rd summit is open to the public, community members, churches, leaders and organizations with interest in the African Diaspora community.

On May 14, 2009 Governor O’Malley signed an executive order to establish the Governor’s Commission on African Affairs to effectively address the concerns of the African community.

“Diversity is one of Maryland’s greatest strengths. For this reason I believe it is important to recognize the African community which plays a vital role in moving the State forward. By identifying and addressing issues in the African Diaspora, I am confident that this Commission will help strengthen and grow our One Maryland.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley

Additional details and registration information is available at this link.


Deputy Secretary Of State William Burns Travels to Cairo

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

July 14, 2013

Deputy Secretary Bill Burns will visit Cairo, Egypt from July 14 to July 16. While in Cairo, he will meet with interim government officials as well as civil society and business leaders. In all these meetings, he will underscore U.S. support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two African Museums Among U.S. State Department’s 2013 Museums Connect Cultural Exchange Awardees

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

July 10, 2013

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums, announces today the selection of 11 new projects as part of the Museums Connect program. Museums Connect links U.S. communities with communities around the world through innovative, museum-based exchanges that foster mutual understanding while focusing on important topics like climate change, women’s empowerment, disability awareness, and civic engagement, among others.

Projects pair cultural institutions in the United States with partners from 11 international locales and involve community members, particularly youth, to reach beyond institutional walls.

Awardees include:

* Ancient Shores, Changing Tides – Developing Local Archaeological Heritage Expertise
Palawan State University Museum, Palawan, Philippines
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, WA

* Citizenship Unbound: Flag Stories
Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

* Common Ground: Connecting Communities through Gardens
Egyptian Agricultural Museum, Giza, Egypt
Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum, King City, CA

* Design Diaries International
Palestinian Heritage Museum, East Jerusalem, Palestinian Territories
Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, MN

* emPOWER Parents: Fostering Cross Cultural Networks between Families with Autism
Museo ICO, Madrid, Spain
Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY

* Forest Guardians
Sicán National Museum, Ferreñafe, Peru
Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, CA
Working with Three Mountain Alliance, Līhu’e, HI

* From the Ground Up: Nutritional Values, and Cultural Connections
Gidan Makama Museum Kano, Kano, Nigeria
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

* A Journey through the African Diaspora
Museu Afro-Brasil, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center, North Brentwood, MD

* Re:building Home: Climate Change in New York and Samoa
Museum of Samoa, Apia, Samoa
American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

* Scaling the Walls/Escalando Paredes: Creating Urban Green Spaces
Interactive Science Museum, Quito, Ecuador
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

* Turning the Table: Understanding Cross-Cultural Movements
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán, Mérida, Mexico
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, TX

For more information on the awarded projects, visit or

Statement by Secretary Kerry On São Tomé and Príncipe’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 11, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send my congratulations to the people of Sao Tome and Principe on the 38th anniversary of your independence this July 12.

The United States applauds your commitment to economic and democratic development. From the time Sao Tome and Principe gained its independence, your country has emerged as a force for peace and stability in the Gulf of Guinea and beyond. We also recognize your engagement on environmental issues, which are so vital to the region and demand a shared response.

As you celebrate your anniversary of independence, the United States looks forward to continued friendship and stands ready to work with the people and Government of Sao Tome and Principe to seize the common possibilities that lie before us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On The Republic of South Sudan’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 9, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, we extend our best wishes to the people of the Republic of South Sudan on the second anniversary of your independence.

I will never forget the moment I shared with the people of South Sudan as the world witnessed the birth of a new nation. I saw long lines of people waiting for hours, reveling in the privilege of voting for their freedom. When I mentioned to some voters the need to be patient and remain in line despite the delays, they said we have waited 55 years, we can wait a few more hours.

Today, their wait is over and South Sudan is an independent nation. But we all know that much work remains to be done. Elections alone don’t create working democracies or provide the guarantees of good governance that free people rightfully demand. We have an obligation to do more to make sure that we’ve helped free people give birth to a lasting and successful nation.

The vision that South Sudan laid out for itself two years ago requires a sustained commitment to democracy and good governance, justice and accountability, and respect for the rule of law and the human rights of all of South Sudan’s people. We support South Sudan’s efforts to institute governmental reform at all levels, resolve outstanding conflicts, promote economic growth, and ensure peace and stability.

The United States remains committed to helping South Sudan build a more prosperous, inclusive, and democratic society – one that is at peace internally and with its neighbors. On the second anniversary of your nation’s independence, the journey continues and we stand ready to help support economic prosperity, democratic governance, and respect for human rights in South Sudan for years to come.

Representative Karen Bass Calls On Americans To Change Africa Tunnel Vision

July 8, 2013
Washington, DC

Rep. Karen Bass , D-Calif., is ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

In a recent Capitol Hill policy discussion on U.S.-Africa trade, an African ambassador passionately proclaimed that the best thing the United States can do for Africa is to remove the negative stereotype that if one nation has a problem then the continent as a whole is damned.

The point is hard to argue with when all we hear about is Africa’s epidemic diseases, famines and despotic leaders. Too often, Africa’s trade and investment potential for American business is overshadowed by a false notion that the continent is a tinderbox, ready to ignite at any moment.

President Barack Obama’s recent visit to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania underscores that the time has finally come to dramatically
reframe how we think about and how we engage with Africa’s 54 nations. We as Americans must lose our tunnel vision and learn to see Africa as a continent of immense opportunity.

The data speaks for itself.
For more than a decade now, the world’s fastest-growing economies have been in Africa. Countries including Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique have annual gross domestic product growth of 8 percent to 11 percent. With more than a billion people living on the continent and rapidly expanding middle-class and youth populations, opportunities abound to leverage new consumers and engage new leaders to connect with each other and global markets.

In 2012 alone, we saw the transition of power in several African nations to illustrate that peaceful changes in leadership are the norm rather than the exception. In Ethiopia, Malawi and Ghana, three African leaders died in office, and their successors transitioned in without military intervention or major protest.

Frankly, the United States can’t afford to cede Africa’s economic momentum to foreign competitors such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC nations. While we as a nation continue to tinker with our Africa policies, China’s trade with the continent continues to expand. Last year alone, China’s trade with Africa totaled some $200 billion; we lagged behind at $95 billion.
These numbers are particularly troubling when we consider the reservoir of good will the United States enjoys on the continent, spanning both Democratic and Republican administrations.

One of President Bill Clinton’s signature accomplishments was signing into law the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which eliminates trade tariffs for African goods exported to the United States. And no one can forget the success of President George W. Bush’s efforts to address the HIV and AIDS crisis through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Obama has similarly contributed to these legacies with efforts such as the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future and the Young African Leaders Initiative. Despite being bogged down with a global recession and wars winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama has focused his policy on some of Africa’s most enduring and persistent challenges that have kept Africa from reaching its full potential.
During Obama’s first term, he also launched the Doing Business in Africa program to promote U.S. trade with the continent and announced the first-ever trade mission to Zambia, doubling bilateral trade between the two nations.

The affinity Africans have for the United States, which was significantly strengthened by Obama’s 2008 election, must be leveraged to ensure America holds its seat at the table and doesn’t lose ground to economic competitors.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

President Obama Announces Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Official White House Photo
Office of the Press Secretary

June 29, 2013

Today in front of an audience of more than 600 dynamic young leaders from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, President Obama announced the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the new flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Beginning in 2014, the program will bring more than 500 young African leaders to the United States each year for leadership training and mentoring. It will also create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to use their new skills to propel economic growth and prosperity, and strengthen democratic institutions.

The Washington Fellowship will:
· Invest in a new generation of young African leaders who are shaping the continent’s future.
· Respond to the strong demand by young African leaders for practical skills that can help them take their work to the next level in the fields of public service and business.
· Deepen partnerships and connections between the United States and Africa.
· Build a prestigious network of young African leaders who are at the forefront of change and innovation in their respective sectors.

Washington Fellows will primarily be between 25 and 35 years old, have a proven track record of leadership in a public, private, or civic organization, and demonstrate a strong commitment to contributing their skills and talents to building and serving their communities.

Welcoming Promising Leaders to the United States
 Beginning in 2014, each year the United States will bring 500 of Africa’s most promising young leaders to U.S. universities for training in public management and administration; business and entrepreneurship; and civic leadership. Training in each of these sectors will focus on the skills young African leaders need to run better ministries, start and grow businesses, and serve their communities. Within the next five years, the initiative aims to grow to 1000 young leaders each year.

Washington Fellows will spend six weeks at top American universities and colleges that will provide tailored training in the sectors above, leveraging top faculty, cutting-edge curricula, and local opportunities to impart practical professional and leadership training. Formal university training will be augmented by workshops, mentoring, and networking opportunities with leaders in each field, as well as internships across the United States.

For example, U.S. agencies such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank will host Washington Fellows as interns to expose them to the U.S. workplace and practices, and build their technical skills. Washington Fellows will also benefit from partnerships with American companies like Boeing, which will provide leadership training at the Boeing Leadership Center in St. Louis to extend Fellows’ campus-based training. The Fellows will also have the chance to interact with President Obama during an annual Summit in Washington, D.C., along with other senior U.S. government, business, and civic leaders.

Investing in Opportunities on the Continent
The U.S.-based training Washington Fellows will receive is only the beginning of the long term investment the United States will make in these young leaders. To ensure that participants can put their newly-acquired skills and experiences to use, the U.S. Government is working with businesses, governments, and institutions to create meaningful opportunities to allow them to put their skills to practice in Africa.

The Washington Fellowship will offer participants valuable access to internships and job opportunities in the private and public sectors. We are establishing partnerships with companies, government ministries, research institutions, regional organizations, and non-profit and community-based organizations across the region to provide meaningful career opportunities for these young leaders. For example, Microsoft will connect Washington Fellows with internships in their offices across Africa, including in Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, Abidjan, Dakar, Accra, Lagos, Abuja, Luanda, Johannesburg, and Nairobi. Ethiopian Airlines will offer participants the opportunity to train at their business management and corporate governance platforms at its hubs around the world.

Washington Fellows will have access to dedicated funding opportunities to support their ideas, businesses, and organizations. More than $5 million in small grants will be awarded in the first three years by the U.S. African Development Foundation to Washington Fellows seeking to start their own businesses or social enterprises. The U.S. Department of State will invest an additional $5 million over the course of the program to help alumni establish or grow non-governmental organizations, undertake a project to improve their community, or work collaboratively to build the network of young African leaders, including reaching into underserved areas. USAID will establish regional hubs and coordinators to connect Washington Fellows to these opportunities and leverage over $200 million in ongoing youth programs and initiatives on the continent.

Sustaining a Strong Alumni Network
Washington Fellows will be a part of a vibrant network that will continue to connect them to new opportunities in Africa and to each other. Regular local and regional events and networking opportunities will sustain strong ties over the years as program participants assume leadership positions in their respective sectors. Participants will be required to mentor other promising young leaders, enhancing the impact and sustainability of the initiative, and growing the network to encompass other leaders, especially in disadvantaged communities.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On The Union Of The Comoros’ National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 5, 2013

President Obama and I join the people of the United States in congratulating the people and government of Comoros on the 38th anniversary of your independence on July 6.

As Comoros begins its second decade of democracy, with peaceful transitions of power between elected leaders, we send our best wishes for continued success, peace, and prosperity.

On this special day, we share Comorans’ pride in what they have achieved, and we look forward to continued good relations.

As we collaborate on economic, educational, cultural preservation, military and security projects and assistance programs, the United States seeks to expand other areas of cooperation that will enhance stability and prosperity throughout the region.

We stand beside Comoros as a committed partner and friend.

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Malawi’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 5, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I would like to extend congratulations to the people of Malawi as you commemorate 49 years of independence on this July 6.

The U.S. Government recognizes the progress Malawi has made during the past year. We value our relationship with the Government of Malawi and its role as a democratic leader in southern Africa. In the coming year, we look forward to sustained partnership on key development goals such as food security, agricultural development, women’s rights, and healthcare. The United States and the Government of Malawi share a commitment to ensuring positive livelihoods for all Malawians.

The United States wishes the government and people of Malawi a festive celebration.

Statement by Secretary Kerry On The Republic Of Cape Verde’s National Day

Department of State
Washington, DC

July 4, 2013

On behalf of all Americans, I send my best wishes to Cape Verdeans as they celebrate 38 years of independence on July 5.
As a New Englander, I am keenly aware of the historic contributions of Cape Verdeans in America, and of the many binding ties that our people share.

As someone who represented Massachusetts for 30 years, I know that nothing links our countries more closely than the presence of half a million Americans of Cape Verdean descent, concentrated in southeastern New England where they began to settle in the 1700s.
With a common identity as nations of immigrants and entrepreneurs, we cherish freedom, democracy, and good governance. By providing renewable technologies and creating access to markets, we look forward to helping Cape Verde emerge as a global leader in energy independence and as an ideal place to grow and invest.

The United States is a proud partner of Cape Verde, which has become one of Africa’s greatest political and economic success stories.
Our second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, worth over $66 million, is evidence of our abiding commitment to that relationship. We are also pleased with our expanding collaboration on a number of regional and maritime security issues.

The United States hopes to play an even stronger role as a friend and ally in achieving our common goals and enjoying greater benefits of peace and prosperity in the coming year.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Profile America – Facts About July 4, 2013

The Fourth of July 2013
On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million
In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.
Source: Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970

316.2 million
The nation’s estimated population on this July Fourth.
Source: U.S. and World Population Clock

The Signers

Numbers of signers to the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston comprised the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration. Jefferson, regarded as the strongest and most eloquent writer, wrote most of the document.
It’s also worth noting that:
* John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first signer. This merchant by trade did so in an entirely blank space making it the largest and most famous signature – hence the term John Hancock, which is still used today as a synonym for signature. There are 7,354,043 businesses with paid employees in the U.S., according to the 2011 County Business Patterns.
* Benjamin Franklin (age 70), who represented Pennsylvania, was the oldest of the signers. Franklin County, Pa., had an estimated population of 151,275 as of July 1, 2012. Edward Rutledge (age 26), of South Carolina, was the youngest.
* Two future presidents signed, John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President). Both died on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration (July 4, 1826). There are 12 counties nationwide named Adams and 26 named Jefferson.
* Robert Livingston, who represented New York, was on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence but was recalled by his state before he could sign it. Livingston County, N.Y., was home to an estimated 64,810 people as of July 1, 2012.
* Representing Georgia in 1776 were Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton. Gwinnett County, Ga. (842,046), Hall County, Ga. (185,416) and Walton County, Ga. (84,575) were named for these signers.
* Charles Carroll, who represented Maryland, was the last surviving member of the signers of the Declaration. He died in 1832 at the age of 95. Carroll County, Md., named for him, had an estimated population of 167,217 as of July 1, 2012.
* Roger Sherman, who worked as a land surveyor and lawyer, represented Connecticut. Today, there are an estimated 30,445 surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists employed full time, year-round, and 840,813 lawyers employed full time, year-round nationwide, according to the 2011 American Community Survey.
* Nelson County, Va. (14,827) and Wythe County, Va. (29,251) were named for two of the six signers who represented the state of Virginia – Thomas Nelson Jr. and George Wythe.

Sources: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012,,
2011 American Community Survey,
and 2011 County Business Patterns (NAICS)


$218.2 million
The value of fireworks imported from China in 2012, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($227.3 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $11.7 million in 2012, with Israel purchasing more than any other country ($2.5 million).

$231.8 million
The value of U.S. manufacturers’ shipments of fireworks and pyrotechnics (including flares, igniters, etc.) in 2007.
Source: 2007 Economic Census, Series EC0731SP1, Products and Services Code 325998J108


$3.8 million
In 2012, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($3.6 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics

Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2012. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $188,824 worth.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics

$302.7 million
Dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation’s manufacturers in 2007, according to the latest published economic census statistics.
Source: 2007 Economic Census, Series EC0731SP1, Products and Services Code 3149998231

Patriotic-Sounding Place Names
Fifty-nine places contain the word “liberty” in the name. Pennsylvania, with 11, has more of these places than any other state. Of the 59 places nationwide containing “liberty” in the name, four are counties: Liberty County, Ga. (65,471), Liberty County, Fla. (8,276), Liberty County, Mont. (2,392) and Liberty County, Texas (76,571).
One place has “patriot” in its name. Patriot, Ind., has an estimated population of 209.
The most common patriotic-sounding word used within place names is “union” with 136. Pennsylvania, with 33, has more of these places than any other state. Other words most commonly used in place names are Washington (127), Franklin (118), Jackson (96) and Lincoln (95).

Sources: TIGER Shapefiles, the Census Bureau’s geographic database (Place/MCD/County combined “used within name” count), Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011

The British are Coming!

$109.8 billion
Dollar value of trade last year between the United States and the United Kingdom, making the British, our adversary in 1776, our sixth-leading trading partner today.
Source: Foreign Trade Statistics

Fourth of July Cookouts

65.9 million
Number of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2013. Chances are that the pork hot dogs and sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to 20.3 million hogs and pigs. North Carolina (8.9 million) and Minnesota (7.8 million) were also homes to large numbers of pigs.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service,

6.3 billion pounds
Total estimated production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2012. Chances are good that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for nearly one-sixth of the nation’s total production. And if the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (estimated at5.1 billion pounds) or Kansas (estimated at 3.8 billion pounds).

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Number of states in which the value of broiler chicken production was estimated at $1 billion or greater between December 2011 and November 2012. There is a good chance that one of these states — Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi or Texas — is the source of your barbecued chicken.

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

345 million
Acreage planted of potatoes in Idaho in 2012, the most in the nation. Washington followed with 165 million acres. The total 2012 potato crop is forecast to exceed 467 million hundredweight (cwt), the highest level since 2000 when 523 million cwt was produced. Potato salad is a popular food item at Fourth of July barbecues.
Source: USDA, National Agriculture Statistics Service, Economic Research Service
How Do We Know?
As we celebrate this Independence Day, we reflect on how our Founding Fathers enshrined the importance of statistics in our Constitution as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy. Since 1790, the U.S. Census has been much more than a simple head count; it has charted the growth and composition of our nation. The questions have evolved over time to address our changing needs. Today, the 10-year census, the economic census and the American Community Survey give Congress and community leaders the information they need to make informed decisions that shape our democracy. These statistics are how we know how our country is doing.

Visit to view and to learn more about “How Do We Know?” Follow @uscensusbureau on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest (#HowDoWeKnow) for updates.
Editor’s note: The preceding data were collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office: telephone: 301-763-3030; fax: 301-763-3762; or

President Obama Issues Statement On Egypt

Photo courtesy of Xinhua/Amru Salahuddien

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Washington, DC

July 3, 2013

As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.

No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Michelle Obama & Laura Bush Speak At African 1st Ladies Summit In Tanzania

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Kaster/AP

Serena Hotel
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

July 2, 2013

9:56 A.M. SAT


MS. ROBERTS: What a great occasion, and what a tremendous honor for me to be here. Thank you so very, very much for inviting me to come to Tanzania. And thank you, Mrs. Kikwete, for hosting this. This is very — it’s important to do.

President Obama said in South Africa on Sunday, quoting the best possible source — his mother — (laughter) — he said that you can measure how well a country does by how it treats its women. And, of course, President Obama’s mother said that long before we had the data — and we now have tons and tons of data to show that the single two biggest factors in development are the education of girls and the economic empowerment of women.

And for all the reasons that you’ve just delineated, Mrs. Bush — the importance of the education of girls and the empowerment of women. So my hat’s off to all of you, and especially the first ladies of Africa — who are wearing wonderful hats, by the way — because you work on these issues every day in your countries, pushing and prodding the powers that be — and yes, your husbands — to do the right things; to help your countries by helping the women and girls in your countries. So congratulations to you.

And this is a session where we are going to have some congratulations and also some learning. And in that spirit, I was going to start by saying, why can’t the guys get together like this, but now they are getting together. (Laughter.) They’re getting together this morning; I think they’ve probably taken their example from you.

MRS. OBAMA: They’re learning from us as women. (Laughter.)

MS. ROBERTS: Exactly. But you know, this question of “First Lady” has always been somewhat fraught. You quoted Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Bush, but it really — particularly, I know in the United States, Americans have always been a little bit wary about first ladies — they’re not elected, and they can’t be fired — (laughter) — and they have a whole lot of power. But it can also be a little confining, I think is a fair way to put it.

Martha Washington, our first First Lady, wrote in the first year that she was First Lady, she wrote to her niece that she felt like a “Chief State Prisoner.” (Laughter.) But she was able to do good — she lobbied for all of those veterans that she had been to camp with through the Revolutionary War. And people don’t realize that first ladies have been doing that kind of thing from Martha Washington –

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely.

MS. ROBERTS: And, Mrs. Obama, you talked about — you’ve talked about, wherever you go, there’s a light that shines, and that you’re able to shine that light on something that needs attention that wouldn’t otherwise get it. Talk about that a little bit.

MRS. OBAMA: That’s absolutely true. I always joke that we have probably the best jobs in the world because, unlike our husbands who have to react and respond to crisis on a minute-by-minute basis — they come into office with a wonderful, profound agenda, and then they’re faced with the reality. (Laughter.)

On the other hand, we get to work on what we’re passionate about. And I think that that’s something that I would encourage all first ladies to never lose sight of. You have an opportunity to speak to your passions and to really design and be very strategic about the issues you care most about. And I just found it just a very freeing and liberating opportunity.

MS. ROBERTS: No state prisoner? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: No, there are prison elements to it. (Laughter.) But it’s a really nice prison, so –

MRS. BUSH: But with a chef. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You can’t complain. But there is definitely elements that are confining.

MS. ROBERTS: And she said that before tweeting and cell phones.

MRS. OBAMA: That’s right, 24-hour media.

MS. ROBERTS: And she could cover her hair with that cap. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Right. But being able to pursue our passions and do things that not only help our country and connect us with the rest of the world, it’s a great privilege. So while people are sort of sorting through our shoes and our hair — (laughter) — whether we cut it or not –

MRS. BUSH: Whether we have bangs.

MRS. OBAMA: Whether we have bangs. (Laughter.) Who would have thought? I didn’t call that one. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: I said that just because our daughter, Barbara, cut bangs at the same time Michelle did. They commiserated –

MRS. OBAMA: I was doing what Barbara was doing. (Laughter.) I was just following her lead. But we take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we’re standing in front of.

MRS. BUSH: We hope.

MRS. OBAMA: They do, and that’s the power of our roles.

MS. ROBERTS: Mrs. Bush, you quoted, again, Lady Bird Johnson, talking about, I have a podium and I’m going to use it. But it’s a unique role, and there must be a learning curve. And I remember as you were leaving the White House, you said that at first you were “dense” — (laughter) — about how hard it was; how the role is really not something that you understood the power of.

MRS. BUSH: Well, and I should have understood it, because I had a mother-in-law who was a First Lady. I had watched her, of course, the whole time she served in public office with her husband, my father-in-law, President Bush. And so, I really had an advantage that — the only other First Lady that’s had this advantage was Louisa Adams, whose mother-in-law had been first lady as well.

So I really did come to the White House knowing a lot about the White House and knowing where things were, and we even knew the staff — the butlers and the ushers — because we had stayed there so often with President Bush and Barbara. But what I didn’t really understand was how people would listen to the First Lady.

And right after attacks of September 11th when — I gave the presidential radio address to talk about women in Afghanistan. And right after that, I was in a department store with my daughter, Jenna — she was a freshman in college and I was in Austin seeing her — and we want to a department store. And the women who sold cosmetics at the department store said, thank you so much, Ms. Bush, thank you for speaking for the women in Afghanistan. And that was the first time it really occurred to me that people really did hear me, and that I really did have that podium that Lady Bird Johnson knew about and had told us about.

And so, I want to encourage every first lady to speak out and speak up and let people know, because people are watching and they are listening. And you can be so constructive for your country if you speak up about issues that you think are important.

MS. ROBERTS: Did you have an experience like that?

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely, but I just want to take a moment to commend Mrs. Bush, because she and her staff helped my team with that transition. And that’s a powerful lesson for other leaders, is that there’s a lot of give and take when you’re campaigning, but when the dust settles, we are all in this together. And Laura has been just so helpful. Her Chief of Staff, Anita McBride, and many of the team members left notes for my staff. My chief of staff calls Anita on a regular basis — (laughter) — I think it’s daily or weekly or something like that.

But having your predecessors be people who are willing to extend themselves on behalf of the country, to help with that transition makes the world of difference. But nothing prepares you. (Laughter.) Nothing prepares you for this role. I mean, it is so startling that the transition of power in the United States happens so quickly that you don’t have access to the house until the President takes the oath of office.

So, literally –

MRS. BUSH: During the inaugural parade — one family moves out and the next family moves in. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Literally. And I remember walking into that house and I didn’t even know where the bathrooms were. (Laughter.) But I had to get ready for a ball. (Laughter.) It was like, and I’ve got to look nice? It’s like, what door is this, and you’re opening up all these doors, and you can’t find your toothpaste, you don’t know where your kids are. (Laughter.) So that’s day one.

MRS. BUSH: Exactly.

MS. ROBERTS: That’s a daunting experience. One of the things — we did ask the first ladies of Africa if they wanted to submit some questions, and one of the things that was true throughout the questions was the sense of continuity; that — was there a way to keep your efforts going after the spotlight does go away. Now, Mrs. Bush, is this one of your ways of doing that?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, this is. But for George and me, through the Bush Institute, we’re able to focus on four areas that were so important to us when George was President.

When you are President, every issue comes to the desk of the President of the United States. First ladies have it a little bit easier because we can choose specific issues to focus on, but now that we’re home, through the Bush Institute — the policy institute that’s part of our Bush Presidential Center at SMU — we are able to continue to work on issues that were important to us.

MS. ROBERTS: And you said, Mrs. Obama, that you want your issues to have a lasting effect, so how do you do that?

MRS. OBAMA: Four to eight years is really a blink of an eye. And you often find that you’re just starting to get your teeth into your issues, and then it’s time to go. But none of the issues –

MS. ROBERTS: — your children.

MRS. OBAMA: That’s true, that’s true. (Laughter.) That’s absolutely true. But none of the work that we do and any of us does will be concluded at the end of a term. I tell the young people that I work with around health, the military families that I support, that for me, these issues are — I say a forever proposition.

This isn’t work that I’m just doing
(Audio drops out.)

MRS. OBAMA: — that I find in this position that there are girls around the world who are looking to us and how we behave and how we carry on our issues. And they’re going to be watching us for decades to come.

MS. ROBERTS: There’s that prisoner thing again.

MRS. OBAMA: There it is. (Laughter.) Keeps coming –

MRS. BUSH: But there are things that you could establish, like the National Book Festival that I started. I’m the librarian, and so it was a very obvious sort of thing for me to start. I started a Texas book festival in Dallas — I mean, in Austin, when George was governor, and then started one that the Library of Congress now runs. And so it continues to go on.

But Michelle’s right — we’ll never finish with education. We’ll never get to rub our hands together and say, oh, we took care of that. There will be another little class of kindergartners. And it’s something we’ll always work on.

MS. ROBERTS: Well, again, it’s like child-raising. Yes, it’s like child-raising.

MRS. BUSH: Exactly — it’s never over.

MS. ROBERTS: But, Mrs. Bush, you all talked about the — agenda and it gets disrupted, but your agenda got disrupted too. And you were on Capitol Hill about to testify before Ted Kennedy’s committee about education when September 11th –

MRS. BUSH: That’s right. I mean, of course, things happen that you don’t expect, like what happened to us in the United States on September 11th. And the National Book Festival that I founded, it — just then the weekend before — the Saturday before that, September 8th. And then I was scheduled — in fact, I went onto Capitol Hill on the morning of September 11th because I was going to brief the Senate Education Committee on a summit that I had hosted that summer on early childhood education, and got to the Capitol and joined Senator Kennedy in his office then as we watched on television and started to see the towers fall. And we knew — he knew and I knew — that everything had changed for us and for our country, really.

And that’s what happens to presidents also; those kinds of issues come up that you don’t expect, and it changes your whole focus. In fact, in our new presidential museum, the very first part of it is everything that we thought we would be working on — tax cuts, the book festival, the faith-based and community service projects, tee ball on the South Lawn of the White House — (laughter) — our first state dinner, which was with Mexico — which is where we really expected to spend a lot of our time in the Americas because we were from a border state — and then September 11th –

MS. ROBERTS: And that’s how you got involved with the women of Afghanistan.

MRS. BUSH: That’s right.

MS. ROBERTS: One of the questions that has come in from the South African — or from the African first ladies refers to both of you as the mothers of girls — and you are now the grandmother of a girl.

MRS. BUSH: That’s right, the grandmother of another girl — baby Margaret Laura. (Applause.)

MS. ROBERTS: And the question of the education of girls — and you, of course, know how important it is in your own lives, but as I alluded to earlier, one of the things we now have just so much data on is that if you educate a girl, you can save a country. And the first ladies here are saying, what can you do to work with them globally for the education of girls?

MRS. BUSH: Well, we both obviously spend a lot of time on education, especially the education of girls. But the fact is, in the United States, now more girls are graduating from high school than boys. And more girls are in college and more girls are in masters programs — women are — than boys. And that –

(Audio interruption.)

MRS. OBAMA: — Mandela’s most important quote of the millions of things he has said is that education is probably the most powerful weapon for change. But a lot of our kids don’t understand that. In the United States, many of them take it for granted. Many of them have a mindset that they can’t do it because they’ve been grown up to be taught that they can’t.

So there’s a large part of my initiative that’s really trying to get into the heads of these young people and use my story as an example of what — the power of education. And I tell kids all across the country, I want them to look at me not as the First Lady, but as one of them.

I was a girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, my parents didn’t have much money, but they invested in my education. And they invested in my education as equally as they did my brother; there was no different bar. And as a result of that training and preparation, I have had opportunities and I am sitting here now as First Lady of the United States of America because of education. (Applause.)

MS. ROBERTS: It was — one of the things that the PEPFAR program is doing is not just reaching — not just treating people — which is, of course, wonderful — but getting to the orphans and vulnerable children. I was in — Ethiopia with Save The Children where this 13-year-old girl that had been through our program stood up and started talking about what was needed in the community, and then the local minister from that region told her she was crazy and she just stood right back up and just went — and I — you go, girl. And that really does make a difference in the future.

MRS. BUSH: Well, it is important to reach parents as well. So the parents know that they need to make sure their children are educated — in whatever way they can.

We know from research that mothers who can bring in a little bit of money, they’re more likely to spend their money on their fees for their children’s education and on their uniforms and others things they need to go to school. So all of it really works together — the economic empowerment as well as just the understanding of how important education is.

MRS. OBAMA: And I just want to take a moment to recognize Mama Kikwete’s work educating female orphans here, the school she has started. (Applause.) I got an opportunity to sit with some of the children and watch a cultural program. But there are so many young girls that don’t have families, they don’t have role models. And as Mama Kikwete understands, they need a safe place to land, a place where they can get food and shelter and love and direction.

So I applaud Mama Kikwete and all the first ladies who are providing that kind of safe harbor for our young girls. So, congratulations. (Applause.)

MS. ROBERTS: Well, you talk about the role models, and you talked about yourselves as role models, but, Mrs. Bush, you said at one point, I think that our first ladies are a lot more complicated than they get treated in the media. I suspect every first lady here would agree with that. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that it’s always those sort of –

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think — in the United States, it has a lot to do with the way you look. That’s a lot of the discussion about women. That’s a problem everywhere in the United States — for girls as well. The way you look — girls worry about all sorts of problems that they shouldn’t have to worry about. They should be worried about what they’re doing and how they’re being educated instead of whether they look pretty or they look sexy. (Applause.)

But that’s the way we treat women, sadly. And it’s obviously when you read in the press — I mean, it’s like talking about the bangs, or somebody writing about them, really — worse — the press writing about them.

MS. ROBERTS: Do you think you get put in a box?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, a little bit.

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. I constantly get asked, especially in the first term, are you more like Laura Bush, or are you more like Hillary Clinton? And I’m like, is that it? That’s all I — (laughter) –

MRS. BUSH: Exactly the problem — everyone said — reporters — are you Hillary Clinton or Barbara Bush? And I always just said, well, I think I’ll be Laura Bush; I do Laura Bush pretty well, having grown up as her. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: But this is also why it’s important for us to make sure that more women use their voices and their power. Because we know, as women, that we’re not that complicated, but we are complex. We are deep, diverse, enlightened people in the universe. And the world will be better off when our voices are at the table.

We just bring a different perspective. We are mothers. We are nurturers. We have to juggle a lot. I love my husband, but sometimes when he has, like, five things to do at one time, it’s funny to watch it. (Laughter.) You don’t know where you jacket is right now — (laughter) — can’t find that shoe, Mr. President. (Laughter.) It’s a little –

MRS. BUSH: I always think — but they’re good at focus.

MRS. OBAMA: Very focused. Focus. (Laughter.) But I think that that’s the — and we as women cannot underestimate the value of what we bring, and I think that’s what young girls are taught — that their voices aren’t important; be small, be quiet.

MRS. BUSH: The way we look is more important –

MRS. OBAMA: The way they look is more important –

MRS. BUSH: — than what they learn and say.

MRS. OBAMA: And we are missing 50 percent of the intellect that could go — and needs to go to — that’s true. But I want to keep it fair. I don’t want the men to feel too –

MS. ROBERTS: Left out.

MRS. OBAMA: — lesser.

MS. ROBERTS: You know, you talked — just briefly mentioned the campaign trail. And of course, both of you spent a great deal of time on the campaign trail, and wives — and it has been wives so far — are sort of in the role of validators, character witnesses for their husbands on the trail. But then you get to the White House and you have another role, which seemed to me to be incredibly difficult, which is that sometimes you have to be the only truth teller.

Now, this is true of all spouses to some degree, but when I have to tell my husband the truth, there’s not his political future or the peace of the world riding on it.

MRS. OBAMA: It’s just “that tie looks bad.” (Laughter.)

MS. ROBERTS: So how do you deal with sometimes being the only person who can tell your husband the truth?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I have that famous story — I think I told it to the first ladies last year in New York — about how Barbara Bush, my mother-in-law, said, don’t criticize George’s speeches — (laughter) — because she criticized her George’s speech and he came home for weeks afterwards with letters saying it was the best speech he’d ever given. (Laughter.)

So I took her advice — this was years ago when George was running for Congress — and we were driving into our driveway after a campaign event in another town. We were just driving up, and he said, how was my speech? And I said, well, it wasn’t really very good, and he drove into the garage wall. (Laughter and applause.)

But I think you have to be really careful, actually — (laughter) — with — tells him the truth. Actually, the President –
(Audio interruption.)

END 10:24 A.M. SAT
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