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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. Augustine Badu

    Can't wait to watc this interview.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:24 pm |
  2. linda

    oops, mean't to say Julie instead of Donna that's what I get for pointing out names...looking forward to watching AC 360 – Thank You

    July 13, 2009 at 8:24 pm |
  3. Susan

    Anderson, I am a Canadian who has recently returned to Canada , after several years in Portugal.

    I didn't know you well on CNN in Europe, but now that I am back in North America, I would just like to thank you for your fantastic skills in finding the truth under the politics.....
    and for all the time you take away from any sort of personal life to follow the important stories, that interest us all......
    we are all overwhelmed by Obama:

    Canadians, Europeans, Africans......

    Just a note to you to say Thank you, keep on keeping on ......

    July 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm |
  4. vanessa

    Thank you for highlighting the good that has come out of Africa. While the horrible autocities that have taken place in Africa should not be overlooked, its important for the world to see how far Africa has come.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  5. Irvinder Babra

    Hi Anderson, first of all, how do you keep fit to travel all over the world?
    And, covering President Obama is a journalist' s delight and you are a lucky one to be with the first American President whose ancestors came from Africa, the cradle of mankind. Now, there is an Obama in every country and community, who can also bring an extraordinary change we can believe in. I am sure you must have seen that in Ghana! Obama is one of the best things happened to humanity. Obama had talked about Black Planet before his inauguration, remember that? Did you talk to him about it, as opposed to Green Planet ? I would love to have some details there. Accra seems to have grown beyond Capitol Hill, as I find Capitol Hill grown beyond Taj Mahal these days. Waiting to watch your report in Canada. Bye.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:14 pm |
  6. linda

    to those of you with so much hatred in your hearts, R L Wellman, ..., people including our children seem to learn better from good examples. Hopefully your actions speak better than your words. I am a caucasian American that couldn't be prouder to be an American and have President Obama represent the United States. Thank goodness history does teach some of us to learn from our mistakes. there will always be history, being human we will always make mistakes, and being "all God's" children maybe love one another. So far I think Obama has been has done alot of wonderful things as president, example for the United States of America & the little dance in Ghana, Donna,...maybe as the father of his children & husband of Michelle made them laugh a little... Listen, Love, Laugh, Live

    July 13, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  7. losi toilolo talamaivao

    Hi Anderson,

    Your one of the lucky people that gets to meet and question President Obama. I'm looking forward to your piece tonight and the followups.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  8. Deborah

    Hey, he's not a king with a castle. He is "elected." This is very disturbing.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Cindy

    Can we expect the whole hour of 360 to be on this interview alone!? I hope not!! If so that will be one boring show...sorry! But I just have to be honest.

    Cindy..Ga.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  10. Sapan

    Hey Anderson, i donn think anything will be new in this interview with prez, as before it will be ur old style of sucking up to Obama and throwing softball questions !!

    July 13, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  11. David Sereda

    The president is making good excuses – but he does not really know what is going on. The Federal Reserve shareholders have bankrupted the world with debt that is not real. There is no debt in goods, services and labor. There is only a debt in the computers at the banks. Because we believe they are real, the debt is real and will kill us all. It is called greed. Just a few families control the debt. We don't owe this money to computers, we owe it to real people. The money we owe China is due to the same thing: greed wants more profit for a few individual bankers. These bankers need to be put on trial.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  12. Maamsi -Phoenix

    Anderson,
    I cannot wait to see this on Tv tonite. I am huge fan of yours and I cannot wait to see my Country, Ghana postively potrayed on National Tv. Go Ghana! Go Obama!

    July 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  13. CyninA2

    Ahh Fridiculous, I love it when the ignorance of American history reveals itself and I get to debate this....

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

    If it weren't for the enslavement and exploitation of African people, many Americans may not have reached such a place of power and wealth in the first place. We whites constructed a privileged culture at the expense of others. And by the continued lack of historical knowledge, many keep assuming that it is their right to keep such a "higher" and false held privilege. Viva the progress to American equality and multiculturalism!

    July 13, 2009 at 7:39 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    I was interested in what Obama said in the clip with this post – that the stimulus package was a 2 year deal. I don't think I had heard that stated that clearly before; Obama also hinted that if in 2 years there was still something needed....and he sort of trailed off it seemed. I'd like to know what sorts of options they are looking at for getting our economy back on track and those jobs to materialize that we need so much.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your segments from Africa. I'm sure they will be informative and that the level of your questioning is just right. After all, you cannot give a President a harsh third degree nor does this one deserve That slave castle reminded me of Alex Haley's book – Roots. I wonder what is the percentage of African Americans who had an ancestor go through those gates.

    Looking forward to tonight's show.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  15. Pip Jackson

    With all the lies and half truths, how can anyone believe the administration and their media minions? Bush was bad enough, just look at what we have now. . . from the frying pan into the fire.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  16. Megan Dresslar - Shoreline, WA

    Hellooo Anderson!!
    I am glad see you on your blog tonight! It is touched my heart when I read your message for me, I am really enjoy read yours, I love this! I like you already interview our president Obama in Ghana, it is so amazing to see you asked for question our pres. Obama. Thanks for give me update on Twitter/Facebook each day! I hope you will come home safety to NYC!! Good job to keep up your reporting from Ghana! Be safe and please come home. 🙂

    July 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  17. Pamina in New Rochelle

    Hi Anderson,
    Looking forward to the interview tonight. It is great to see our President visiting so many places this early in his term. It certainly gives the impression that he is interested in refocusing the lens through which our country is viewed by the world. Did he talk about that at all in your discussion?

    July 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  18. Robert

    Is there some reason that President Obama does not grant such one on one access to more objective journalists?

    July 13, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  19. Robert

    An Anderson Cooper exclusive with Obama is little different than a Robert Gibbs interview with the president.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  20. Dave

    I wonder to what degree the story of that castle was shared with the president. I was studying African music and dance with a master drummer from Ghana when I visited this same castle.

    I was traveling with blacks and whites from the United States. We learned that usually it was not the Europeans who captured the slaves. More often slaves were sold to the Europeans after they were captured by warring tribes. This was surprising to many of us. It was very very difficult for the African Americans in our group. They had never for a moment considered that their own ancestors had a part in this horrible atrocity.

    This post is not intended to minimize in any way the brutality the Europeans imparted on the people of Africa, merely to point out the many layers and complexities of this stain on our history.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  21. William Agyei-Mensah. vauxhall , NJ

    Good to know about your trip to Accra-Ghana.
    I will be watching your program tonight to see the president"s dancing skills . Guess you enjoyed the trip.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  22. connie o.

    I wonder why CNN didn't consider interviewing Preesident Obama while he was in Russia or Italy? Why focus only on his trip to Africa? Just to highlight that he is biracial?

    Much was accomplished in Russia: an agreement to cut nuclear arms by one third; an agreement with Russia which allows us to use thier fly zone to get supplies/equipment to our troops in Afghanistan, and a growing committment from Russia for future support in Afghanistan!

    Where was THIS coverage? This is why I do not watch CNN or any of the cable "news" networks. I hope the OFA site will have a video of your interview because that is the only way I will watch it, much to my regret.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  23. Minnesotan

    Thanks, conservative buffoons, for trying to bring up the birth certificate issue once again. If there were any credibility to this issue, it was resolved months ago. But keep trying! Maybe you could investigate Sarah Palin's fraudulent expense accounts, Ensign or Sanford's adultery, maybe check on Larry Craig's latest bathroom encounters, or even check on how Randy 'Duke' Cunningham likes the food in prison....

    July 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  24. Amanuel G

    Anderson,
    Great work with the interview.I can't wait to see it.
    I am an immigrant from africa who lives in california.I am so proud looking at Obama going back to Africa & thinking about my children born here and one day they may become another Obama.God bless America.
    Great Job CNN and Anderson on Postive and fair reporting on Africa

    July 13, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  25. Sidiki Trawally

    Hey Anderson

    How was your stay in Ghana? Did you eat some of the local food like the yams, ebba, etc? I hope you did. Let me know how they taste. Good job on the interview and the coverage of the President's visit. I am certain that your documentary will give a lot of Americans an insight into the African rich culture, the aspiration of us Africans as well. We are hospitable, loving people... Please let the world know also that Ghana has set the tone for true democracy in Africa. Take care and keep up the good work.

    Sidiki
    Philadelphia

    July 13, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  26. Carolyn F Bailey

    I am appalled that there are references to this trip to Ghana as President Obama's first trip to Africa. Yes, he is and will be the 'first' African American ' president to do anything. So what is it with this trip? When he went to Cairo, Egypt earlier this year, where was that if not Africa?? Is there a new continent that I don't know about???? Maybe I am missing something. More important, since my visit to Ghana, I do not refer to Cape Coast as a castle but clearly instead a dungeon for those who had to pass through to never return to their homeland.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  27. John Francis

    Hi Anderson,
    I see you had good time in Ghana and I can't wait to see the interview with the President.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  28. Sandra

    Anderson,

    Thank you for sharing your brain, mouth and gift for story telling with the world. I am grateful to CNN for allowing you to go after stories we want to hear in a truthful, kind way.

    -Sandra
    San Francisco Bay Area Mom, looking for a truthful world for her two teenagers.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  29. happy fourth

    great work AC..hope you had a good time in Africa...

    July 13, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  30. Patricia Nevins

    Anderson:

    Love you, love your work! Disappointed that you're calling your special with Obama "The First African American to Visit Africa." Hello! Every time President Obama does anything it's the first black (fill in the blank.) I think this title sets equality back 10 years. I'm sure you can think of dozens of more uplifting titles for this important interview. No need to point out the color of the President any more where ever he chooses to travel.

    Good luck and I will watch the show tonight anyway!

    Sincerely,

    Patricia (Nevins)

    July 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  31. Doug

    All I ask is be an inquisitive Journalist. Ask tough questions instead of softballs. The Press to date should be honored with the golden softball award for their treatment of President Obama. You are good, at times, but your polital views come out often. Try and hide them and be unbiased in your reporting. You can Do it?

    July 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  32. BozoBama

    If Barack The Incompetent really had been born in Hawaii, wouldn't he gladly release his birth certificate? Of course he would.

    But since he's a pathological liar, just like Bill Clinton, he only talks the game. Obama promised "transparency" and now hides behind secrecy.

    His college transcripts are sealed. His birth certificate is sealed. If this is the best he has on the internet, it is clearly a forgery, without even a doctor's name and signature. But Useful Idiots don't care as they take us further down the path of destruction.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  33. eleanor coombs, ga.

    Anderson, you should get the Nobel Peace prize for Journalism. In that short video, you have a way of getting the questions answered. I especially enjoyed your account what was going on while you await the arrival of our President Barack Obama.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  34. Taunya

    As always, Thanks Anderson for sharing your stories and these amazing pictures. Can't wait to see your interviews.....
    Welcome Home!

    Taunya – Hershey, PA

    July 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  35. Matilda Johnson

    Anderson,
    Thank you so much for doing this interview. As an Afro American, I sincerly appreeciate it.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  36. evans asamoah - accra -ghana.

    hi anderson,
    great piece of journalistic work. im wondering when u had the opportunity to do this interview coz it seems the president had a really tight schedule in ghana from the look of events especially @ the castle in cape-coast. i watch the live footage from ghanas broadcast networks but did not see u anywhere near the president though.
    again how has this experience @ the cape coast castle shape your perception of this tragic event in human history especially the african american experience and more especially considering your own tragic past and the events that took place to shape who you are presently.
    what is your verdict coz i really value your opinions
    looking forward to a response tonight @ 10pm eastern which will be 2am ghana time but will keep wake to watch nevertheless.
    great job anderson.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  37. gwen K.

    Mr. Cooper

    I am very concern about you and the New Media Press, Punits ,Citizens etc continue to disrepect and discriminate by referring to Our President and Frist Lady as "Obama"

    A racial practice in this Nation is to referr to African American by the name only " Obama, Barrack,Michelle " All prior coverage and Headlines as well address/referr to our Presidents and Frist Ladies as: President Regan, President Bush, The President, Mr Regan, Frist Lady Nancy Regan , Mrs Regan, Mrs Laura Bush, The President and Mrs. Regan. NOT ' OBAMA, President Obama and his wife,"

    So why do you , all CNN coverage and all other in the Media and Press referr after your intro line disrepect and discriminate by referring or coveraging our elected President and Frist lady by saying " Obama" So the coverage of his trip to Africia the Slave Holding Castle show the All of you still devalue and disrepect and discriminate against African Americans with you tone and coverage.

    So Mr. Cooper can you make a difference with the your company and you. Intresting the New York Times, the World Press doesn't seem to have this problem. Further we you all starting saying "Obama " some than persons on your show or station starting referring to our President as "Obama".
    You can make a differance and take the led.
    Thanks
    Gwen

    July 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  38. Howard

    @ RLWellman ... Don't you think that, by this time, the Repubs would've nailed the President on his birth certificate if there really was anything to that looney story? They haven't, because there isn't. It's just that simple. Now, it's time for you to drop that nonsense before someone gets the urge to send the men in the white coats after you.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  39. Milton Smith

    AC 360 is a really good news guy he must be in the field because I haven't seen him on the tube.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  40. Michele, Douglaston NY

    You do have a heartbeat of Africa. It was great when you come back to Africa again and again. If you go back eventually, it might change to improve enormous for both political and society issues. I have never been in South Africa except my first trip in North Africa recently.
    I also have twittered you for medical tip…use an ice pack for your eye. The truth is I rarely twittering anyone, but I am not very good at it.
    I look forward to seeing your interview with Obama especially the history of Cape Coast of Castle.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  41. Afriyie Dankwa

    Looking forward with keen anticipation to watching this interview. As a proud Ghanaian American I really appreciated the focus the Ghana got on CNN Saturday and to cap it off with an AC360 special is simply phenomenal.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  42. Richard Bozek

    Why do they continue try to launch space craft from Florida?

    Why not California, where weather is clear?

    July 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  43. GREG

    I feel so misinformed, I don't find the Presidents trip to Africa interesting in anyway.I live in an area where people walk the streets smoking crack cocaine, shooting at killing each other . I see young soldiers getting killed in a new push in Afghanistan at an alarming rate. I watch our medical efforts being sucked up by millions of non documented individuals and by people who have never contributed a single dollar towards taxes. I watch a place that was at onetime safe to live in , but now I fear most areas in our country. I just cannot get into the fact that a visit to any other country is important.

    Please save our wonderful country. How much does it cost the U.S. taxpayers to have our president visit Africa?

    July 13, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  44. BettyAnn,Nacogdoches,TX

    Great interview! Thanks AC

    July 13, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  45. Kingsley O

    Why does American News Media say "Africa" when reporting about any country in Africa. Yet, they are always country specific when reporting about countries in the rest of the world?
    President Obama recently visited Ghana, the news headlines is "Obama in Africa". But, when president Obama was in Russia an Italy respectively, you don't hear "Obama in Europe".
    Every American media is guilty of this "mis-education' of its audience.
    And we wonder why the average American is geographically illiterate.
    Another insulting practice by American media is "sub-texting interview of Africans, when many of these individual speak proper English. Except for Benjamin Nentanyau and few Israelis, most Israelis speak English with some funny accent. But, no one dare sub-text interview with Israelis speaking with accent.
    Egypt is an African country, the media often refer to it as the Middle-East, including a few other countries in Northern Africa.
    This bias towards Africans countries needs to stop.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  46. D R Armstrong

    Anderson, you know how far the news has come into the Twitter Age. I hope others will follow you and report the news, not use the news hour to report and promote their clandestine opinions in the hope of swaying our perception of things. We are much more educated and in touch with the realities. I really enjoy your time on the air.................keep the news "alive" Anderson !

    July 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  47. Venus Bivins

    Hi Anderson, I'm so happy to know that you're in Ghana with Obama. I was the only African American on my Habitat for Humanity team when I traveled to Ghana for my 40th birthday at the end of 2007, when Ghanians were already chanting Obama's name to us back then. During our trip, I successfully convinced the team to take a detour to the Cape Coast to visit the slave castles versus staying overnight in a Kente cloth weaving village. I explained to them: this is OUR history, the foundation of American history. We rode for seven hours in a bus along a slave trade route that Africans once traveled by foot, chained to their fellow captives on their way to slave castles run by the Dutch, Portuguese and British along the Cape Coast. We learned how hundreds of thousands of Africans, succumbing to illness, fatigue and murder, died along the 100-mile walk on dirt paths to the Cape. When we finally arrived at Elmina castle, teammates kept asking me "are you ok?" during the tour. I guess, expecting me to break down in tears, or something. Behind the pains my own childhood and the knowledge of my slave history, I was at peace as I stood in the slave castle. The tour was a testament to the strength of my character as an African American. There was no room for anger and no need to break down in tears. On a lighter note, make sure you get pictures of the students at the University of Cape Coast, the women who walk with children strapped to their backs and pounds of items stacked on their heads, and the biblically relevant yet amuzing storefront signs along the road. The relentless spirit in this West African country, celebrating 50+ years of freedom from the British, was contagious in the developing country. “We’d rather try to succeed on our own and fail than remain under the oppressors rule,” was the common sentiment in Ghana. I love that country. Hope to go back soon.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  48. Akua Abrefi Brenya.

    Ghana should appreciate the fact that president Obama was in the country.It doesn't matter wheather he was on holidays or not.Am a ghanaian and l feel so proud that president Obama visited my countr.l appreciate the fact that he even choose ghana.Hi Anderson am your greatest fan

    July 13, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  49. Sandra Robertson, GA

    Hi Anderson. I am looking forward to watching your full interview with President Obama tonight, as well as your special presentation, "President Obama's African Journey," later on this week. I would love to get a little listen to the Ghanaian Bar-ack song; your description of it made me thnk of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
    I don't know "99 Luftballoons."

    Sure sorry about the insect bite to the eyelid. Spiders like to get inside of shoes too, so you should always look inside before you put them on.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  50. Keaton, Birmingham AL

    I envy you, Anderson, for all travel opportunities and very special things you get to do, though I'm sure there's much hard work involved, too. Thanks for taking us along! I always feel that you're doing it for us and not for your own aggrandizement.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
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