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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. Jaison Thomas

    Yo AC!
    Just saw you on tv. I"m trying to find out what bug bit you that caused your eyes to swell shut before your interview with the President. Besides that, I think you have an awesome job AC. How was your experience being in Africa?

    JT

    July 13, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  2. gene

    Anderson,

    A good story on Obamas trip to Ghana,but a failure of you not to mention what countries and groups were and are still responsible for black enslavement. Most history books clearly indicate that the Arabs in africa were and still practice enslaving Black africans. The arabs in sudan today are part of that practice as were the the arabs that captured blacks for centuries including those that sent blacks to the americas.
    That is the story American blacks need to hear and understand. It was the white Europeans and American slaveholders that bought and shipped the slaves the arabs captured and provided them.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  3. Niyi

    It will be enlightening for most Americans who haven't been to Africa for journalists not to focus only on the common people, but use that oportunity to showcase middle class folks who also live decently.
    I hope it's not intentional.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  4. FON

    Hi Anderson,
    Thanks for doing a great job constantly and consistently.
    On President Obama's birth cirtificate I think the man published it some time ago and it clearly stated that he was born in Hawai to his parents. To me that was clearly legitmate enough. So what's the problem ?
    Please lets allow the man to continue to do the great job he and his team are doing. It will be too much to expect him to undo what was done in more than 8 years in just over 6 months of being in office. Common! the man has not even spent 7 months in office. Please!!

    Anderson! you and the President are doing a good job respectively. Pls continue. Could you post the entire interview online so that people who couldnt watch on TV can see it here.
    Well done broda!

    July 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  5. mimi

    Thanks for the pictures from Cape Coast. The castle housed the post office when I was growing up near it. There is so much history around the coast of Ghana and I always wondered why no one took good care of these places. I'm glad to see all the attention the place is getting now. It was interesting to hear Donna Brazile's remark about the smell in the dungeons. It's worse in Elmina castle. I'm glad they went to Cape Coast instead because I think it would have been more difficult, especially for the girls at Elmina.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  6. Abena

    My expectation of this interview was to talk more about the african states and not the issues in the stated....for now since the president lives there and he can answer all these questions when he comes back to the white house...... i think your main focus shoul d have been on issues pertaining to africa and kind of support which the president has already sent a strong message to them and how this can be implemented........i know africa is for africans but since we're aware that africa helped to make USA and some of the developing countries what they are the support and more support and more pictures and the activities, for example the drumming, the dancing, and the great hospitality apart from you getting bitten on the eye please do show the details of the main speech in accra and other important things.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  7. Kwasi Marlborough

    It reminds me of when Clinton visited. I am hapy you are showing the world of the other side of slave trade. It would have been great if you can post some pic of some of the urban areas as well for the worl to know that there is a part of Ghana that is developed as well

    July 13, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  8. Francis A

    Hello Anderson,
    Proud of your coverage of Ghana and the interview with the president. With regards to your question about whether or not the US should talk about the issue of slavery, I think the president was quite diplomatic in his approach. However, I think this is an important historical issue that cannot be played down in any socio-economic-politico discussions in the US, particularly if we want to understand the role of black people in this country. The United States should educate the youth about such crimes against humanity of which the United States has been part thereof. This will help the next generation of Americans to approach world issues from different perspective. If the US is able to lead the fight for Jews why can't the US lead the fight for Africans. If all educated Americans learn about the Holocaust, why not all educated Americans learn about the continent of Africa who blood helped shaped this great nation. Why is the Africa situation seen different from other world developments? I am not surprise that at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC, the Africa museum is just an exhibit of artifacts. Is it any wonder when many Americans even the so-called educated with college degree think Africa is a country....Did I say that? Well, former President Bush referred to the continent as the nation/country of Africa. I hope the education goes down in the curriculum.

    Thank you

    July 13, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  9. John C. Davidek

    Congratulations, Anderson! Outstanding interview that meant very much to me. I'll be studying at Kokrobitey Institute starting July 29, thanks to grant from Gilder Lehrman Foundation. There'll be ten American teachers, ten Brit's, and ten Ghanaian educators. CNN is paving our way whereby we will also tour the same slave fortress. You've made it all even more meaningful for all of us!

    July 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm |
  10. Rueben

    See,

    The best person to interview @ Cape coast is Michele Obama. The feeling of a "cut of" or "unaware part of you" you come in terms with in Cape coast is not the same for someone with direct African relatives like Barack Obama as compared to Michelle Obama.

    I come from Ghana and my wife is from St Louis, MO. I was at the Castle so many times and i watch my wife's reaction and lifestyle after i took her there.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  11. Cathy

    I have visited Ghana and been to Elmina Castle. Both proved to be a life-changing experience for me. Walking through the "castle" was most sobering. Seeing it on TV does not give one the full sense of the abomination done to human beings.
    Ghana is a beautiful country with the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met. They have respect for self, family, neighbor, and nature. They do not waste, and they appreciate all that they have. I saw an abundance of talent and humbleness. We could learn so much from Ghana.
    Tonight's interview was a teaser. I'm looking forward to the hour-long show. Thanks for bringing Ghana to our homes.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  12. adoma

    @Fridiculous. President Obama's father was not a descendant of African slaves. He came to the U.S on his own terms and then again , not every African is some poor person stuck in a miserable village. You need to educate yourself some more !

    July 13, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  13. Pantoe Campbell, Jr.

    Hey Anderson, Bravo!
    I thought your interview with the president in Ghana was very fascinating and emotional! I spent Ten years living in Ghana as a Liberian refugee, and my families are still living there as refugees. Everybody has been caught in the unbelievable excitement of having the first African-American president landing on this West African coast from where human beings were caught, flogged, chained and shipped to the Americas to labor on plantations!
    Well done, Anderson Cooper!

    July 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  14. Ohene

    LOL...Once again, the 'bottom line' prevails.

    It never ceases to amaze me when western camera crews go to 'Africa' how they land at the airports, drive through cities, past the business districts, plush hotels, middle class neighborhoods, golf courses, impressive sports area's etc...and somehow don't turn on their camera's until they get to the slums....lol.

    Ahh, but who can blame them–nobody wants to see everyday, ordinary 'buppies' having drinks at a plush bar after work, or their drivers picking up their kids from school in a Range Rover and back to a 5 bedroom 2 car garage home, or college kids partying after exams or twenty somethings taking salsa classes on Tuesday and Fridays. Naw, thats not good TV...no tear jerking there.

    Who can blame them right. BTW, I happen to be second generation ghanaian...have been back thrice, so have my siblings and cousins born in the US and countless 'auntie' and 'uncles'. I have NEVER known anyone to have been bitten by an 'eye swelling' spider. What are the chances.....lol...I swear...you gotta love it.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  15. Sharon

    This brings back so many memories of my visits to both castles in Elmina and Cape Coast. The visits evoked raw emotion particularly at the realization that I stand on the shoulders of ancestors who endured so much... They walked through the "Door of No Return"....I was fortunate enough to walk back through that door.

    Thanks Anderson for showing this to the world. My hope is that Africans of the Diaspora honor the ancestors and live their best lives...they suffered, they died, to make life better for us. May we never, ever forget.

    I pour libation to the ancestors

    July 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  16. Melvin

    Hey Anderson Great Piece
    I'm a Black man in American that has been going to Ghana since 1993. Trying to get funding for projects to help develop Ghana is very difficult. Yet so much money is allocated for projects in Ghana and other African Countries. I would Like to know from President Obama, how can minority firms in America get funding for projects in Africa.
    Funding usually goes to white companies and organizations.

    I very happy President Obama and his family traveled to Ghana.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  17. Sharon

    Anderson. a question for you?. What was your experience and reaction when you entered the castle and was told of what the slaves have been through in that dudgeon before they were shipped off to some unknown country to experience some more atrocities by the hands of some cruel human beings.
    As for me,,just looking at that castle makes me sad .

    July 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  18. Evelyn De Vane, Ph.D

    Monday, July 13, 2009@10:36pmEDT

    Dear Anderson Cooper,

    Tonight's aired interview with President Obama was most interesting. I ask that you and other CNN anchor/reporters, reporting on the President's visit to Ghana, give the correct name for the Castle, located at Cape Coast, The correct name is ELMINA CASTLE. I have visited this castle on several occasions....each time experiencing deep emotion. I hold the distinct honor of being the first African-American to earn the Ph.D degree in African Studies from the University of Ghana, at LEGON. I am so glad that you had the opportunity to visit Ghana, and Elmina Castle.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  19. Irvinder Babra

    Good walk with the President Obama in Accra. And your interview was a simple, mediocre one, nothing spectacular. Still good enough to highlight Ghana in Africa. I would done a better job!

    July 13, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  20. Stephen, Maine

    Anderson,
    I hope this visit will Africa(Ghana) a better image in the world. I was happy to see Obama in Ghana. He has shown to the globe how far GHANA has gone in Democratic governace. God BLESS US and GHANA.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:38 pm |
  21. Lenn/Sedona, AZ

    07/13/09
    7:30PM PST

    Anderson, I love your show. You go to interesting places. Thank you
    for your special with the President. Why were you wearing a suit at
    the Castle. The President looked more comfortable than you did, but
    you looked nice. Thanks again!

    July 13, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  22. Therese

    I can't find the site for Anderson's tweets from Ghana. If something going to be mentioned on air then please make it transparent or provide a search possibility. There is no such search available that I could find either. Thanks

    July 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  23. steve

    Anderson,
    Your portrayal of Ghanaian in the Images you selectively showed continued the very stereotype the western media had used for too long to show Africa as a dark continent.
    You are wrong. What happened to the corporate world in Ghana with all the best of life .what about the picture of students in higher institution.
    what about the lush and wealthy neighborhood .
    Where is the picture of the industrial complexes, first class banking system some of them owned and managed by Nigerian consortium.
    Until this pattern changes, we would always see this type of coverage for what it is. Western media long history of intellectual dishonesty on everything Africa.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  24. Madeline Sanders

    Anderson: I'm ecstatic about President Obama taking the trip to Ghana. Although focusing on the fact that the country has a democratic government, it was important for the US in particular & the world in general to be reminded of the most horrible crimes perpetrated against a race of people (i.e. Africans) - Today, too many African Americans still suffer from the vestiges of slavery - I'm thinking of reconnecting w/an African & African-American group that focused on the African Holocaust - we can certainly take a page from our Jewish brothers & sisters - knowing our history - the slave experience - and all of its brutality is critical to our healing as a race - then and only then will we be able to advance our masses economically and educationally - shoving slavery in America can no longer be acceptable - I look forward to watching your story - you're a terrific reporter - very thorough and insightful and you provide balance

    July 13, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  25. Abena Bondah

    I'm a Ghanaian too and very proud of the President for this visit. Akua Abrefi Brenya, Ghanaians are really appreciative and very honored to have received President Obama and his family. This visit will never be forgotten. A real great honor to our country.

    Anderson, I'm a huge fan and very happy that you got to experience Ghana at least for a moment. Sorry about the insect bite...:)! You look better so I know it's not hurting as much.

    Keep up the good work.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  26. Imani B

    Kudos to CNN for absolutely outstanding coverage of Obama's Africa trip. NO OTHER NETWORK carried the trip from the time he landed in Ghana to the moment he left. Thank you from an African American who was born on the continent. I now live in the US but return to Ghana every chance I get. Anderson has shared with the world what many of us have know for years: Africa is TRULY going to change the world!

    July 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  27. maskirt

    I am watching the interview and the walk, its a nice experience and good for him to be able to see first hand what transpired then.
    Guess through that they will be able to appreciate their heritage and give back to Africa a hand to get where the west is at.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  28. Bridget

    Wow Anderson,

    I am surprised those were the only images you saw in Ghana. I am waiting for the day that western media will show the nice part of Africa instead of the bad. I know there are so many beautiful and wonderful places in Africa specifically Ghana that could have been displayed.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  29. audrey papke

    When you spoke of corruption in Ghana, and mentioned Kenya, I recalled writing the paper the year Kenya would recieve DFI – to bolster the economy . . . And I worried about corruption. Nepotism. Etc. Private funds come with no strings attached – no promise to form a basic and sound social system. Other monies may include mandates to ensure a working social system supplying food to all – is generally corrupted as well.

    Speaking to the problem is one's only hope for a more sound and civil society. Exploitation may make the world go round, as the money mover societies thrive the longest, however, with constraints and limits to greed.

    Slave dealing still exists. I am beyond tired of having people around that can't be trusted around children, for instance. Education and legal and social help helps greatly.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  30. Dr. Joseph Adegboyega

    Dr. Joseph Adegboyega.
    This is not a fresh comment but a request for correction. Please help to correct some "typos" in my comments by replacing it with the following :
    "Hi Mr. Anderson Cooper,
    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 saddled with poor and corrupt governance since its independence. The corruption is keeping investments and tourism away and this at the expense of its poor people.
    Maybe one day God will clean Nigeria of its corrupt government."

    July 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  31. Ekow Koomson

    tough love .. sums up the trip... After reading 'Dead Aid" by Dambisa Moyo and having listened to Obama's speech, i am more than convinved that the solution to Africa's Woes lie in the hands of Africans.. i want more of Moyo and less of Bono.... DEnough of Hollywood stars having empty sympathy on Africans..

    July 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  32. Qayyim Asad-Selassie

    Anderson, I appreciate the work that you do and the various issues that you cover. However, the title of your coverage of President Obama in Africa is misleading. This actually is not his first trip to the continent. His trip to the Ancient landmarks in Egypt & his speech in Cairo would be classified as his first. This place is in Northern Africa, although some do not recognize that fact. The title of your piece promulgates the misconception that Africa and Egypt are two different places. This gaff perpetuates the ideology of seperating the Motherland from the rich heritage and historical importance of the place known as Egypt. In turn this diminishes the relevancy of his election as the so-to-speak 1st African President in America.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  33. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Fradiculous called it right. I doubt many of the descendants of those enslaved (by other blacks actually) would like to trade places with descendants of those who didn't get brought here.

    July 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  34. Sumera - Maryland

    Well done Anderson!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:59 pm |
  35. Cessy, Chicago

    What an experience, Anderson!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  36. Judith

    Akua Abrefi Brenya....I'm not sure where you got your information that Ghanaians don't appreciate the fact that President Obama chose Ghana. I'm Ghanaian, and everything I read, and everyone I spoke to back home indicated that they were very proud and excited about the Presidents choice and (upcoming) visit. It was all they talked about.

    Whatever the Presidents purpose was for going to Ghana, you can't go to a country without seeing some sights. I'm glad he picked Elmina Castle to visit. Of course I can only hope that he'll go back someday and see more of our great country.

    Anderson, I love your show and I'm looking forward to watching it tonight. It's almost time...must go now. Ciao!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  37. Tom Power

    Well its a gritty irony that everyone talks about racism and such and we see the first black president returning to Africa visiting its dark past. Mr. Obama is a standout and a very human being.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:52 pm |
  38. Erin

    Looking forward to your special. What an amazing historic trip!

    AND very nice looking arm!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:47 pm |
  39. Brandon D.

    Anderson,

    I can't even begin to fathom the plethora of comments that you recieve from posting these blogs! Incredible indeed. Your one of the most prominent figures in news, and im always delighted to gain insight on the various stories you cover. Keep inspiring!

    Brandon.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  40. RoseParvin

    This was such a beautiful interview! Anderson pouring out his need for justice at the president and he calming him down and balancing the situation by his voice and demeaner! Magnificant and authentic!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  41. Judith

    "fridiculous"...spoken like the true IGNORANT FOOL that you are!

    President Obama was NOT born in Kenya...his father was. His ancestors were not slaves, so to suggest that if it wasn't for the Castle he "would just be poor villager somewhere in Africa" is just plain stupid.

    Also in your own words, "Come to think of it, if not for slavery blacks would likely not have the political power and wealth they enjoy in America" and the United States would not have come this far seeing that it was built by the blood and sweat of blacks – slaves!

    Go back to school and get an education!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  42. Lampe

    For every one blog here against Obama, there is 4 or 5 against anyone Republican (Palin.) And you all have the nerve to call Republicans Haters. Maybe just maybe, it would be nice if you all were the ones to lead by example. You can not accuse someone of being a Hater, when you have just as much if not more Hate in your hearts. Obama said he wanted to bring everyone one together,if you believe in his message so much, then try to follow his message, and stop the nasty remarks about Palin, and The Republicans.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  43. Scott

    Coop: NICE TRICEP!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:21 pm |
  44. Rikki, Fargo, ND

    Hey Anderson, I'm very much looking forward to your interview the next couple days as well as the hour special on Obama's visit to Africa! 🙂 Oh and your eye doesn't look that bad!

    July 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm |
  45. Dennis Koltz, Macapá, Amapá, Brazil

    I enjoy your show! I'm looking forward to your interview with President Obama. I know you will asks the tough questions. Keep up the good work. I have a friend who is from Ghana. Please show the world these people, their wonderful culture and beautiful country.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  46. nadhar

    hi anderson !
    i wish you could go go to see people in srilankan concentration camps. there are 20000 and more people died and its continuing

    July 13, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  47. skcm curry

    I write to acknowledge your use of the term "enslaved" Africans. As a person of color I much point out to all when the correct term is used. It was very sad that Obama stated the story of African Americans started with the "castle". Africans came before Columbus to the land where native folks had been before he got lost!

    With over 63 persons with PHD's in African -American Studies (proud to say folks who are not African-Americans also found these story powerful enough to pay for post grad. degrees) it seems to me that they would hire someone at the white house to help the president as an advisor. It is clear to be that he did not take much Black History in school.

    He lost Puerto Rico where Jesse James did well! Head's up!

    July 13, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  48. Abla Tsolu

    I hope Ghanaian politicians will be transparent and accountable when making policies that affect the people. Previous leaders have often lavished themselves with resources that belong to the people with little regard to the needs of the country. I am very confident that the new government in Ghana will follow in Obama's footsteps to better protect, provide and fulfill the rights of its people.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  49. Good News Central

    A passport and travel abroad should be mandatory for all Americans. Truly an ignorant lot we have here. Genuinely frustrated and dispirited.

    Please don't damn your children, the next generation, the future of a once respectable country to your lack of education, vision and tolerance.

    -Jim Grinner

    July 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  50. Niko

    Those are some burly triceps Cooper's got goin on!

    July 13, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
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