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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. IAN ORWIN

    By feeling it necessary to bring up the Drudge report one can only assume once again Obama's cheering section in the media is distorting the truth.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Bernard

    Anderson- As a Ghanaian American living in Chicago- l will be watching your show to tonight to see how fair and accurate your report will be about Ghana. Let not forget- Not all countries within the African Continent has the same problems. l hope your show enligten and educate the general public about Ghana, and it unique and vibrant economy, and democracy. The first country europeans arrived , the first country to gain independence. Akwaaba- Anderson – Hope you enjoyed your stay

    July 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  3. Carol

    I was at that Castle last year, and as a white person traveling with very good friends who are from Ghana (they currently live in the U.S.), the oppressive and claustrophobic feeling I got when I walked through the windowless caves confirmed what every American, black, white, or purple or green should do – visit this place. You will never question the blessings you have in your freedom again. Although it is rooted in European "business", the slave trade was a way for villages to get rid of the "unwanted", "criminal", and/or "political enemies". The result was the onorous creation of man's inhumanity to man. But – It is not just an American issue – let's bring that out and discuss how slavery of any type needs to be eradicated. Put some stimulous money in that area; look at the current slave trade of children. That would truly be money well spent.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Ann- Marie

    RL Wellman, according to the US Constitution, a person cannot become President unless they were born in the US. Do you mean to say that President Obama somehow managed to have ALL OF US fooled? That he defied the Constitution with the blessing of the US Government? Maybe no more so than Bush did – after all, also according to the US Constitution, a person cannot become President if they have a criminal record, and Mr Bush has more than one cocaine convictions and DUIs on his record. What do you make of that?

    July 13, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Richard

    This is for Ellie–Hey AC–Would you ask Obama if you could see his birth certificate?

    July 13, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  6. Ann- Marie

    Hi Anderson,

    I just wanted to say thank you for bringing the President's visit to us. I think that it is very important that he went there, because just like he set an example for young Black men in America, he also set an example for young Black men in Africa. Yes, it is possible for a Black man to be President, and if Mr. Obama can do it, there is no reason why folks in America and/or Africa could not. This, to me, is the most important lesson to be learned out of this visit – besides, of course, the history and landscape of the beautiful country of Ghana. Again, thank you Anderson and keep up the good work – I learn more from your programs than all the other networks and newspapers combined. Thank you!

    July 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  7. Jill

    Hi Anderson,

    I am actually very interested to hear President Obama's impressions of his trip from the castle. We hear a lot about his policies, etc, on other programs, but I very much enjoy the unique, personal glimpses you give us about our leader. We learn a lot about people from their impressions and reflections in quiet moments, and this gives us great insight into how someone views the world.

    I personally think that this is a very unique aspect of your reporting. I usually go to bed early, but will actually stay up tonight just to watch this segment. Please continue to show us these rare glimpses of what people are really like, that's reporting at its best.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  8. michael lyman

    AC – This "Castle" in Ghana is the ultimate Irony, as is slavery. Since Obama was born in Kenya, I am sure he can relate to this. If Michelle Obama's relatives were not taken on slave ships to places like the US, she may be living in a tribe in Africa, or been killed in the endless fighting in several of these countries. Her relatives paid the price for her to enjoy the boundless benefits she gets by being a US citizen.
    Mike
    Hawaii
    P.S. Are you ever going to look into Obama's college records?

    July 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  9. len bullard

    I'm of the opinion that Obama set exactly the right tone by focusing on education, corruption and the need for peaceful transitions among stable administrations, a fundamental for true democracy.

    The past is tragic, lamentable and dark but not the cause of the woes of the African peoples. They must not be forgotten but they cannot be the cloth that obscures the opportunity now realized to make dramatic changes in their future by their own hands.

    Kudos to Obama, his staff and planners for this trip. Well done.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Shilpee Shrestha

    Dear Anderson,

    It is always really nice to read "your" blog! I have been following your messages on Twitter. Thank you! Hope you received my replies too 🙂
    And also hoping that your eye is back to normal.

    I am anxiously waiting for the interview episode. Sad that I will only get to watch today's episode tomorrow, since I watch the podcast.

    Thank you and your team for all the hard work that you do to keep us informed with what's happening around the World!

    Best,
    Shilpee
    Austin, TX

    July 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  11. Dr. Joseph Adegboyega

    Hi Anderson,
    I know that you are enjoying yourself in Ghana. Ghana is a safe country to visit.
    Tell President Obama that I don't fault him for not visiting Nigeria. I would not visit Nigeria myself if not for the people I left behind, when I moved my family out in 1988. Nigeria is not safe for the its people and it is worse for visitors.
    I was born in Nigeria, though I don't refer to myself as a Nigerian. This is because I hate the fact that Nigeria – a country rich in natural wealth – has been saddle with poor and corrupt governance since its independence. The corruption is keeping investiment and tourism away and this at the expense of its poor people.
    May one day God will clean Nigeria up.
    J. Adegboyega

    July 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  12. marci

    i think u r the coolest and i am sorry for the spider bite. i continue to pray for the president and his family and u and our nation and our world. thanks for the coverage!

    July 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  13. PW

    As always, I know you will do us proud Anderson. I'll be tuning in.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Mark Scott Carroll

    Dear Mr. Cooper,
    To and for all of your viewers and readers, I've been to Ghana. I also walked the grounds of both the Cape Coast and Elmina facilities. I call them "facilities" for the purpose of this blog entry because as a black man, I tried to look at and imagine the place where I actually was. And after walking down into the male slave holding cell nearly two-stories below ground, without light and only four cinder block sized windows through which food and water was thrown down to the men crammed in the standing-room only cell as they waited to be shipped to God only knew where, I find it impossible to fix my mouth to refer to these facilities as "castles". More to the point of the Guides who called them "dungeons" would I find more truthful and comprehensible. In fact the reason the word castle was used was to not offend the Anglo/European tourists who were considering visiting these destinations. The more things change the more things stay the same — The Marketing of Africa. Safe travels Mr. Cooper.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  15. Sally

    Anderson -

    I look forward to watching this program tonight. I am sure you did a wonderful job interviewing our president. I think you are the best journalist! I like your style, your humor and your intellegent comments on what happens everyday in US and all over world. Keep up the good work. I am a huge fan of you!

    July 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  16. Isabel • Brazil •

    Anderson, I am anxious to watch his interview. There are many doubts in our heads. President Obama has little more than 6 months of government, was not enough time yet, but with the economy weakened, there is so much expectation on his actions.

    Great picture of you walking with the president. Worthy of a frame, huh!

    Your eyes were perfect ... after all, the spider was not so bad like that! lol...

    See you ...

    July 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  17. fridiculous

    Well, if it wasnt for this Castle people like Obama and Oprah would just be poor villagers somewhere in Africa. How is that for irony........

    Come to think of it, if not for slavery blacks would likely not have the political power and wealth they enjoy in America.

    I suppose you have to take the good with the bad

    July 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Samantha, Boston MA

    I'm really looking forward to seeing this interview. It will be interesting to see how President Obama's children reacted to the journey and how he did as well. I'm glad that you were able to Blog about your trip and that you were able to inform others of what it was like to actually be in Ghana in general and during such an important trip. The pictures are really incredible as well and it seems like an interesting place to visit. I didn't have much of a desire to visit Africa at any point in my life, but now that I've heard about Ghana and seen what you have been through there it made me want to go there and experience these things for myself. Thank you for doing this special for CNN. I hope you were able to stay safe and bug free during the rest of your trip. 🙂

    July 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  19. jen

    Good work Anderson, just saw a snippet of the interview, Pres. Obama rocks, great president . Will sure be watching this evening! How I wish you could send me the A360 t-shirt huh?

    July 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Ann from OH

    This is definitely something one stays home to watch, even on a warm, balmy summer evening. I enjoy your blog & Twitter/Tweets, personalizing your experiences. Maybe I won't see Ghana, but I have been to the continent of Africa; however, your impressions, your interview of President Obama will make me feel as though I am there,too. Hope your eye is ok now.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  21. Kenny

    Thanks to AC 360. I can't wait to watch your program tonight. Your program keep me up to 11pm everynight. Good job AC

    July 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  22. jackson Beaman

    Coopers needs to interview people who are staring to death.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  23. Miss Liberty

    Muscles: On an interview last week about Sarah Palin you said, "I know nothing about sports." Au contraire, just look at that bulging bicep in your picture above! Know "nothing" about sports...it isn't possible with a physique like yours, Stud.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  24. Jarred

    Hey Anderson,
    I knew from back in your Channel One days that you would be a great reporter, you even were back then. I am happy to see that now you have your own show and are really big in the whole news industry. Keep up the great job, you are one of the best!!

    July 13, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  25. Jo Ann, North Royalton, Ohio

    Anderson,

    Your interviews with Obama have never been very "challenging" in the past. You always seem to let him control the interviews and go off on tangents of his choice, so I was surprised to hear you question Obama about the effectiveness of the stimulus package. A good question, but I wonder if you asked a good follow up and not just let him make excuses for his "miscalculation" of the unemployment rate and the effectiveness of the stimulus package. This is why I am suspicious of politicians who insist on giving absolute numbers.

    I would have liked to see Obama visit the war torn areas of Africa and not just a vacation spot for tourists.

    Based on what I have seen and read about this visit, it seemed more like a publicity tour for you and Obama than anything else, but I will hold my final judgment until after I watch the entire interview.

    Maybe you will surprise me.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  26. Ken Sawyer

    It would be a good story to check which tribes captured their own kind and brought them to trade for money and goods. You will find that racism existed then among the African tribes also or the slave trade could not have existed or flourished. It would have taken a brave soul to go into the middle of Africa and capture people without some sort of agreement with the ruling hiarchy. It would be surprising too also to learn which ethnic groups started the slave trade and from where. It probably was not the US first.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  27. SG

    I love how the campaigner in chief picks and chooses distorted information from his past to advance his image when needed yet refuses to acknowledge or provide facts about who he really is...I am interested to see the interview just to see which person tries to project the "cooler" image...

    July 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  28. KatchProFILMS

    re: "...an hour special: "President Obama's African Journey"; I hope you tune in." I will.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  29. Julie

    In one of President Obama's speeches, he made the comment that the continent of Africa needs to assume responsibility for the mess it's descended into. Obama talked about corruption in the government and a society that isn't standing up against evils that would never be tolerated in a society like ours: systematic rape of women to keep them in fear and the use of children as soldiers of war.

    I really don't care about a castle, a silly dance, or even your bug bite. The newspapers are talking about the real issues, why can't 360?

    July 13, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  30. Paula, Colorado

    Anderson,
    It's great to see your writing on the blog. I enjoyed your twitter entries over the weekend–and saw a few excerpts from the interview. The Cape Coast has a natural beauty surrounding it, in spite of its tragic history. Being there must leave some strong–and profound–impressions. I'm looking forward to your full interview–and your special later on.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  31. Heidi

    Very cool Anderson..looking forward to it! You are a great interviewer so I have high hopes for you with this one...don't ask anything silly. I know we all like to hear about the family. Don't pick on him about Congress or the nit-picky stuff either. Some real news would be nice!

    July 13, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  32. Gail Ellis Duncan

    Anderson, this reminds me of my two tours through the slave chambers in Zanzibar. Though my ancestors did not get transported from that region, i sat both times inside and cried like a baby with a very heavy heart. How I pray we all can be more positive and forgiving as well as look on the bright side. This is just the first step to bring people into the awareness of Africa and its people. A baby step, yes, but still a step. I feel it is the mother land and we can not continue to rape and ignore this great continent and its people. No matter where he goes in Africa or around the world for that matter, people will always find something to b*t%h about. Sad but true. Don't worry, Congo and Dafour will be addressed and many, including myself, are in constant prayer over this situation as well as others.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  33. Katherine

    Africa – a part of the world many of us wonder if we will ever visit.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  34. susan

    await interview, etc with baited breath.

    Would be interested on impressions of the kids – from run of the mill kids in relative affluence in well integrated neighborhood (Hyde Park) to relative lap of luxury, certainly managed lives (Secret Service), to the history represented by the Castle. (Hmmm. I guess AC's take might almost be comparable.)

    Interesting sociological, ethical quandary – when does altruism kick in versus the sense of needing to feather one's nest (nepotism, corruptions, etc.). How much of this is based upon upbringing – memes – versus sense of scarcity and oppression?

    July 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  35. Ellie, MD

    RL Wellman – WHAT in God's earth are you talking about? President Obama's trip to Ghana has NOTHING to do with his birth certificate. I can't for the life of me understand WHY YOU would even bring this foolishness up about the President wanting to HIDE or cover up his birth certificate. It's beyond LUNACY and IGNORANCE.

    Barrack Obama was voted 44th President of The United States. You need to get over whatever delusions you have.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  36. Lilibeth

    Thanks for blogging, Anderson. It’s fascinating to learn all the activities involved in a President’s visit and preparing for the interview. I think we take it for granted sometimes, but his visit is a big deal and takes a lot of planning. I can relate to your comment on having a restricted amount of time to interview. Twenty minutes seems like a lot, but it goes by fast. When I’m in a meeting with someone and I know my time is limited, I talk so fast and get breathless. Also, if you feel your question is not answered to your satisfaction, I imagine you have to strike a balance on when to push and when not to push and just let it go. I look forward to learning more about Ghana. I also hope you’ll be able to travel to other countries this year and provide us the awareness we need to understand their different cultures, politics, and history. I know it’s not news, but it’s education for your viewers and they are so hungry for this knowledge. And the more they learn, the more they’ll tune in. Thanks again for blogging. I can’t wait for the show.

    Lilibeth
    Edmonds, Washington

    July 13, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  37. guesswhats4dinner

    Great more ammo for the far right to focus on our President's haritage and try to use it against him. Their pulled something rediculous out of the piece and imply that he's only in this for African Americans. They will probably say,. of the dance, that it was his celebration dance. That he's king or somehthing. I just can't understand why this country wants to be pulled away from the center and as this president does more good, the far right is only getting more fuel to their hatred. Although I love what this President is doing, I fear that the far left will continue to be so angered by his non-missteps that they will do somethign dastic.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  38. Nereida Garcia

    Ay Anderson! I am reading your twitter comments about your swollen eye and sleeping with the lights on before your interview with President Obama. Had a good laugh here. Will I be able to watch that interview from Paris? Returning back to U.S. Thursday so I'm afraid I may miss it. Take care, hope the eye mends! 😉

    July 13, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  39. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    Anderson, it will be interesting to watch you talking to the president and interacting with him. Sounds like a good in-depth interview. Hope he'll start putting his many eloquent words into action. As a person of color, I also disagree with all the focus on ethnicity and past racial oppression. Race should be insignificant, and it will fade into the background if people stop focusing on it.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  40. olga in

    Anderson ,
    i wish Pres Obama will go in another counrty not in Ghana you know Africa is not only about slave or enslave how about people from darfour or Congo . for me the Pres is in vacation with family doing tourist some think Pres Clinton did when he was in Office ! so please don t fool african people in make them think he was there for some help or some moral speech ! Sorry Anderson but i appreciate you make the effort to do the report there you need vacation too !!!!

    July 13, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  41. Julie DeYoung

    Thanks for the written update and preview of your special; I will certainly tune in. I trust your perspective.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  42. GLORIA BLUEDELL

    Hi AC,

    I love the photo of the parade, unforgettable moment for you and Barack Obama in the Cape Coast Castle.........a tragic place

    July 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  43. William

    I missed it where can I see it online?

    July 13, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  44. Ama Ohenewa

    most definately will watch and see how much he learnt and enjoyed on his visit...

    July 13, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  45. Michelle D . Fonthill. Ont

    Hi Anderson

    I can't imagine the list of questions you had for the President and how to choose which are the most important ones .The economy i guess whould have been at the top of your list it's hard to fit that in there's never enough time and Obama wasn't there that long .I love that moment with Pres Obama and his kids dancing it's so see to see him playing around jusat being a dad .

    Thanks for blogging and i look forward to seeing your interview .

    Michelle D.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  46. Theresa, Des Moines, IA

    Anderson,
    Really looking forward to watching your interview with the President. I'm hoping, that as part of your broadcast, you will include some information about Ghana- history, culture, etc.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  47. Stacy

    Wow, tweeting AND blogging. We're going to get so spoiled!

    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.

    Well, it's Drudge..., not sure what you expected, but the debunking is much appreciated.

    It sounds like you covered some great topics and I look forward to the interview.

    PS: I read the tweet about your eye. Haven't other crew members previously had unpleasant encounters with creepy critters as well? I swear, CNN can't send you people anywhere. 😉

    July 13, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  48. Diane N.

    I cannot wait to see this interview. From the snippet it looks like an incredibly insightful interview. Sounds like you had and enlightening, inspiring and very positive trip. Spider bites and all. Very very much looking forward to the entire segment and all the news tonight. Glad you're back home safe and sound with some great material.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  49. RLWellman

    Like I asked before, is President Obama trying to cover up os destroy his original birth certificate? It's always a wonder when he has spent so much money covering up his past.

    July 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  50. Cindy

    Cooper,
    Great to see you blogging again! It's about time! LOL Just kidding! It seems that the pres doesn't leave much to chance during these visits huh? Luckily you got to see more than the rest with him. Looking forward to the interview.

    And hey..how's the eye doing? It didn't look that bad...seriously! I could barely tell you were bitten. Take care...

    C-Ya tonight!!

    Cindy..Ga.

    July 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
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