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July 13th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Interviewing President Obama in Ghana

Anderson Cooper and President Obama walking around Cape Coast Castle.
Anderson Cooper and President Obama walking around Cape Coast Castle.

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

Interviewing the President is always a difficult prospect. There are so many questions you want to ask, but you only have a limited amount of time.

We had been told we might get about 15 to 20 minutes sitting down with the President and then perhaps 10 minutes walking around Cape Coast Castle – a whitewashed fort through which enslaved Africans were sent to the New World.

We arrived in Ghana last week, one day before the President arrived with his family. We spent the day shooting a story about African Americans who visit Ghana to retrace their roots, and we also spent an hour or so walking through the Castle with members of the President's advance team.

It is a remarkable thing to see how much effort and organization goes into the President's movements. The Castle and the nearby hotel were full of secret service, embassy personnel, White House advance personnel, military backup and I'm sure more from other agencies as well.

Everything is timed to the minute: When the President will arrive, where he will go, etc. I read something on Drudgereport that said the crowds were not enthusiastic for the President's trip. I'm not sure where that impression came from.

Everywhere I went people were quizzing me about where to go to see Obama. I didn't tell anyone about his visit to the Castle, because I didn't know if that information had been released yet. On Ghanaian radio I heard all sorts of theories about what the President would be doing in the country, and where he might go.

Anderson Cooper joins a parade to celebrate the appointment of a new Chief on the Cape Coast of Ghana.
Anderson Cooper joins a parade to celebrate the appointment of a new Chief on the Cape Coast of Ghana.

By the time he arrived at the Castle a huge crowd had gathered and was listening to music. When the President emerged from his limo, and waved to the crowd, everyone was screaming and waving back.

I was a little bit inside the Castle with my cameraman Neil Hallsworth. After waving, the President came back around the car, and did a little dance for the amusement of his kids and Mrs. Obama. It was a very lighthearted, private moment that few people saw.

We'll show it to you on 360°, as well as the interview tonight and tomorrow. We talked about the economy, Iran, Afghanistan, Don't Ask Don't Tell, as well as U.S. policy with regard to Africa.

We also talked a lot about his impressions walking through the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle, where so many enslaved Africans died, and so many more survived only to be loaded onto slave ships. He was there with his kids, and we talked about the impact of the visit on them, and how the history of the slave trade still resonates today in America.

We are also putting together an hour special: 'President Obama's African Journey, that will air later this week. I hope you tune in.

soundoff (264 Responses)
  1. Walleye

    Enough about this birth certificate already. If RL Wellman had a brain he would know that the laws of the land do not permit anyone to hold the office of president unless they are American citizens. The Supreme Court, the Senate etc etc would not allow that unless of course the laws are changed. That being said, I suggest RL Wellman crawls into a hole so we never hear from him or from others that perpetuate this fantasy story.

    July 14, 2009 at 10:06 am |
  2. Bonnie

    Anderson – the only places you saw in Ghana were the poor places? I will probably take pictures of the poor place in Ameirca and make a documentary on it too.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:59 am |
  3. juddie, newyork

    why are people even talking about michael jackson?! this article has nothing to do with him but i highly doubt if hes the father
    i think its just a rumor or something so chill peeps

    July 14, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  4. Fuad Khan

    Just curious do you plan to do a segment on Marwa Sherbini?
    the lady that got murdered in cold blood in Germany in front of a court by the defendant for wearing a head scarf.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  5. anna bear

    wow i heard the same thing but i thought it was stupid
    you idiot i dont think hes those kids father but he could be no one knows yet
    he needs to take a dna test and stuff before we can accuse him of anything like that!
    i love you anderson and i think you would make a great father!

    July 14, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  6. debbie, Accra

    Alpha Charlie 360 I cannot blv u were in and out of my own accra without me knowing. ac360 airs 2am my time and i am mostly late for work in the a.m! gosh, u shd have announced your arrival! I would have shown u a little something something. There is loads to see so do come back! I love your show. And i will make sure the spiders dont get to you. Keep up the good work! Don't u just love ghana????
    God's own country!

    July 14, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  7. Phil B

    I look forward to the interview. Anderson I couldn't help to notice that about 80% of the comments are from females. What's it like to be a rock star journalist ?

    July 14, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  8. Zack

    Judith,

    I understand your anger from some of these post but there's no need for reverse racism. Parts of this country WERE constructed under the blood, sweat, and tears of Africans. That being said; plenty of Irish, Chinese, German, Italian, English, French, and many other walks of life played pretty big roles as well.

    July 14, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  9. Rita Genovese

    Dear Mr. Anderson

    This morning, as every morning, I watch CNN. There was a report on slavery worldwide.

    Haiti – the commentator placed a 5 gallon containter full of water on his head and carried it up the hill – he wanted to see what this experience felt like. This activity is expected of children and to be done up to 5 times a day. The reporter added that a child was not hugged until she was 14 years old. How is this possible?

    Whenever I see such reports, I become enraged. A member of an eight children family, with limited resources, with years of pychotherapy and "positive thinking" did not erase or dilute the feeling of worthlessness, never having enough, never being goog enough, struggling all the time. Yes, you go through life, but settle for crumbs.

    If individuals who cannot afford having children can be educated in birth control, perhaps, maybe perhaps, we would not have so many chldren throught the world suffering.

    How can I help?

    Rita Genovese
    610-449-7853

    July 14, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  10. Scott

    Where else would you interview King Obama but in a castle?

    July 14, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  11. amina

    To Michelle Lymen. What a silly idea that the 25-40 millions Africans who were tortured ,kidnapped, raped and murdered for centuries paid the price for Black Americans to live as we do today.
    Why should we be grateful when whites did not have to pay such a price. We Black American live as we do today because we fout the racism, lynchings, being burned alive in public, civil rights etc for hundreds of years!!!
    There are many middle class and properous Africans living in Africa.
    The media only shows one side. It is like people in foreign countries learning about whte Americans by watching Jerry Springer (which is aired internationally).

    July 14, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  12. amina

    Racism agains Blacks began with European domination and slavery. If there were no economic benidfit for slavery ( tobacco, cotton and sugar cane plantations) there would not have been slavery and ther would be no need for the stereotypes, psuedo-science alleging Black inferiority and pacification(destroying their land ,culture and self-concept) of people of color .
    In some parts of Africa during colonial rule African with lighter -skin were preferred by whites and in some cases were given bleaching cremes to lighten their skin in order to obtain employment. As a result, in Africa and many former colonies like India and Asia peope are still spending millions to bleach their skin since lighter skin is associated with higher status/value. The effect of racism/colonialism has damaged the self-esteem of many people of color. Imperialism sought not only to contro the material wealth but the mind as well.

    July 14, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  13. anne

    Hi Anderson:
    welcome back!
    It looks like you had an amazing trip. The photos are incredible.
    I enjoyed the first part of your interview with the President last night, and am looking forward to more tonight.
    I hope your eye is better now as well. Take care.

    July 14, 2009 at 8:16 am |
  14. Troy Singleton

    Anderson,

    I remember you on Channel One back in the day and knew you would be great. Everytime I see a interview with you it shows how professional you are. Keep up the good reports...

    July 14, 2009 at 8:12 am |
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