Imagining How The Idea Of Michelle Obama Visiting South Africa First Came About

June 23, 2011

Dan Majestic writes from Washington: I would have really liked to be present at that meeting in the White House when President Barack Obama and his aides decided that it would be a great idea to send the First Lady to South Africa, with her two daughters and her mother, to do a bit of electioneering on behalf of her husband and come up with some seriously inspiring statements and photo ops.

Right, Mr President,’ I can just imagine one of the aides saying one morning to his boss, ‘we thought about it and decided that it would be great for the First Lady to spend some quality time in South Africa, meeting President Nelson Mandela and mixing with the locals.’

And the President probably looked a bit taken aback at first, asking what the point of it was.

‘We could do no wrong here, Mr President,’ another aide probably said, joining in the conversation. ‘The First Lady will meet President Mandela and in terms of photo opportunities it’ll be priceless.’

‘But he’s turning 92 this month,’ the President probably said, ‘and I hear he’s not as sharp as he was before.’

‘No worries, Mr President,’ another aide musty have chipped in. ‘It’s a photo opportunity we’re after. They may just as well sit in silence. In fact, they’ll probably sit in silence and the great man may not even know who it is that he is meeting. But just think of the publicity and the impact on the African-American vote over here.’

And obviously there was nothing that Mr Obama could say against that, now could he?

‘And then,’ another aide probably joined in, ‘we’ll have the First Lady addressing women from all over Africa, preferably in a church, preferably in some place like Soweto, with a strong connection to the anti-apartheid struggle, telling them something inspiring about the plight of the sisterhood. Like, for example, that they can sort out Aids and hold their politicians to account and make the world a better place for all the sisters.’

‘Yes’, another aide must have joined in, ‘and we can have the First Lady reminding them over there about your great election slogan, Mr President: Yes we can. She will really get the crowds going, repeating it several times in a row.’

And I bet President Obama probably said something like: ‘Do you think it’s a great idea to remind everyone about it? Maybe we should change it this time to something like: Yes, we can. But not now.’

And all the aides must have started talking all at once, saying that the slogan still sounds great and that it will go down a treat in Africa, especially if it comes from the First Lady.

‘Yes, yes,’ the President probably agreed. ‘I can just see her doing that. She’s my secret weapon, you know. She will probably run for office when my second term comes to an end.’

And the aides must have all smiled and nodded and said that it would be a great thing for the First Lady to become president and for Mr Obama to become First Gentlemen.

‘But coming back to that visit,’ another aide must have said. ‘We’ll have the First Lady visiting Robben Island, the place where Mr Mandela spent part of his term in prison. And that would knock them all dead.’

And the President obviously agreed to all that. Considering that on the home front there was nothing much to be cheerful about. And that is why the First Lady is now visiting South Africa.

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