July 13th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Interviewing President Obama in Ghana

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.ac.obama.ghana.jpg caption="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.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.acinghana2.jpg.jpg caption="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. Cathy

    Hi AC,

    Big fan! you have no idea how much i love your perspective, energy, wit, jokes and fun as you do your show.

    Interviewing President Obama could be a huge highlight of your career. Can't wait to see it. You'll do great. My parents watch you from overseas, we watch you with my husband here in CA and i know you are excited! So are we!

    July 13, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  2. Vicky, Ottawa

    Looking forward to seeing Anderson's interview and some more glimpses of Ghana. It looks like there was much excitement over the visit of the President and his family. With all of the advanced planning, staff who have to work out the details of the visit and security requirements, how large would the cost be to the people of Ghana, or would those costs be covered by the US government?

    July 13, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Jen, Albany NY

    Anderson, Can't wait to see your your report on your trip. The pictures are amazing to see. Hope your eye is feeling better 🙂 loved reading your tweets! funny! 🙂 Hope you get some rest, you have to be extremely jet lagged, being in LA last week, NYC, and now Africa. Sleep, my friend, sleep. 🙂

    July 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  4. tammy, houma

    sounds awesome. a very sad time in history when people owned people. we should never forget. and know the whole story. thanks for telling party of it.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  5. George

    Anderson,I believe every individual has the right to his or her opinion,however my heart is grieved when I read blogs written by people in the so-called developed world,raging and claiming that Obama just wanted a vacation with his family and decided to visit the Cape-Coast castle and others saying ,"they don't care about a castle or a silly dance".Rather brewing hatred in the hearts of Africans by making comments with such negative and strong racial sentiments.
    We must all realize that whatever has happened and will happen in Ghana or Africa will also shape the world.
    Until people across the world accept that we are all God's children and are equal, the world will never be a better place.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  6. William Smyth

    So glad you did this important story. So glad, too, the Obamas chose to visit this country, speak to the government leaders, and tour the castle. Our President always takes the high road, never the easy road. We all wish him much success.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  7. JC

    Anderson and Obama are two of my fave people. I remember Anderson the most from that one mine disaster where he was reporting everyone in the mine alive (due to what was reported from rescue workers in the mine) and then a woman came up and told him they just found out that information was wrong, right on the air, and people were going crazy about it.

    Obam's got a tough job, things are getting better in the economy though so chillax everyone until the 2 years are up and we've seen the end of it. Like he says, more can be done too if needed.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  8. Tom


    Thank you for featuring the Slave Castle on your recent trip to Ghana. We have walked through the castle while visiting our Peace Corpos Volunteer in Ghana. It is truly an amazing and emotional experience and I hope your viewers appreciated President Obama's visit there and your time with him.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  9. Sabine Soucek

    Dear Anderson,

    The visit of President Obama in Ghana and Cape Cost Castle, in my oppinion, was a very important and signivicant visit. I also think, it is still a historical visit, because it can not be done enough to give something back, something Western developed countries have been taking away from Africa, for more than hundreds of years, without reinvesting in this continent.

    Although, we still have a very serious and difficult economic situation in the world, I believe, that nations, such as USA and Europe will be able, to reinvest in Africas self-determined development, for example with training-programs for young people, biological farming, de-
    veloping green energy, and assistance in medical service.

    President Obama is giving so much hope to this world, to so many
    people – and I wish this President, that he will get all the necessary
    support from his administration, as well as from the American people,
    to continue sustainable in global, African and American economical,
    political, social and environmental issues.

    Thank you and your team very much for your report and your interview.

    With best regards,
    Sabine (Vienna)

    July 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  10. Leasia

    Hi AC, yes, this journey to Africa and for President Obama to be interview is a historic moment of our time. It gives hope for many things that are yet to come. It also vivdly reflect the past and make what is now the present. I am glad that I have a night off because I don't want to miss this interview for anything. Thanks for the good work you always do.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  11. Matthew Orionson

    Anderson does such a masterful job at the art of interview, he makes it look so casually easy just questioning the most powerful men in the world about decisive issues that face us all. Sorry to hear about the eye, maybe you could sport a pirate patch? hah, -MO

    July 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  12. IndyVoter

    @RLWellman...please Sir, step away from the crackpipe. Really? Are you seriously suggesting that President Obama is not an American citizen? Don't you think that if that were true, that it would have been proven to be the case by the appropriate authorities by now? If we can target and take out terrorists in the middle of a mountain range, snipe pirates with pin-point precision, use nano-technologies to perform medical procedures and create human sperm from cell stems, I am sure that we can determine if someone is a US citizen or not (especially someone so high profile as the President)....This is not healthy. Conspiracy theories and hate-filled thoughts can ruin your life, and others. You are occupying space in your brain that could be taken up by something credible and educational. In the words of a great philosopher.....Yoda,"anger, hate, aggression...the dark side are they....consume you it will" ... Do yourself and those around you a favor, let it go.

    Looking forward to your piece Anderson!

    July 13, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  13. Treena

    For having been in office this short time, AND handed immediately a number of 'hot pokers' to juggle, I feel that President Obama is doing an amazing job!

    July 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  14. SandraWI

    Very Cool Anderson. Love you President Obama

    July 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  15. sammy

    Cooper you are such a huge asset to CNN, you tell it like it is instead of sugar coating everything!!

    Hope we all learn something from this interview!!

    July 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  16. Char

    RL Wellman- you seem to be an authority on the birth of the President, so please prove to us about the original birth certificate, and please let us know about the amount of money he spent trying to cover up his past. Apparently you have more information on these topics than anyone else, probably more than the President himself. Now I guess you think that most of us are not smart enough to figure out your tired old rhetoric. Now prove it or get off the pot! (being nice)!

    July 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  17. IAA

    Great job Anderson. Keep doing the good job of informing us.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  18. Seth

    Obama's visit was very impressive. He made a great choice when he picked Ghana over Kenya and all other African countries. For instance, a visit to Kenya would have been a PR disaster for his administration. Ghana is a great country for US relations. It is the center of the world and The US has the biggest Enbassy in Africa located in Ghana.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  19. Karen

    Hey Anderson,

    You wrote! – Yes! I love your writing!

    I agree – organization is remarkable!

    All those tabloids – standing in line at the grocery store – I'm thinking – none of this is true. Don't believe everything you read.

    The pictures look like your very happy there. My favorite is the one where your looking at the sign.

    Sounds like great topics to see/hear about.

    Thank you.

    Karen 🙂

    July 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  20. warren fisher

    anderson, i love your work and interviews. president obama on fathers day, talked with the african american men regarding supporting thier children. it was a good speech. but, this whole thing about targeting black men (fathers) and labeling them as dead beats and etc has some real serious flaws.

    what about the many black women that for whatever reason are under developed emotionally, creates a horrible situation for the fathers of their children, make it difficult for the father to have access to their children, are vindictive and use the system aas a way of punishing the child's father for a relationship that didn't work out? why doesn't obama have michelle to talk to those women just as he talked with the african american men? simply because it is fashionable to label and suggest that black men dn't take care of their kids and women are good even if they're on welfare, cheat on their children's fathers and run them away, get every gov program benefit and assistence while the man gets blamed and castigated for not having enough to contribute.

    i lost my job last year do to cutbacks. i'm having a hard time getting employment. does that make me a dead beat dad? or, a bad father? am i a bad father because the gov says so? or because the mother is angry at me for personal reasons?

    michelle needs to talk with black women and help them see that making it hard for the fathers is making it hard for the children ....

    thank you.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  21. Lucy Mensah

    Hi Anderson!

    I am so glad you had the opportunity to interview Obama at one of the most historic sites in Ghana. Both of my parents are from Ghana, and I have visited El Mina Castle numerous times. It is a beautiful place with an ugly past.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  22. Celeste

    My favourite anchorman with my favourite President – must see tv 🙂 By the way, I love your commentary Anderson – you need to resume blogging more often.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  23. Fay - California

    Anderson, it's great to see you blogging again and that you've had another opportunity to interview President Obama on the major issues that he's currently facing in the US in addition to his impressions of Africa – it sounds like this will be a wide-ranging interview in spite of the time limitations. I've always enjoyed when you've reported from Africa over the years and hope you will continue to focus on what's taking place there.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  24. GLory

    Anderson Is such an artist in what he does..I became a fan during the Katrina crisis and I have never been so intrigued by a reporter...Reporting at its best with heart and soul and great compassion in his eyes. everything he reports is well done and drags you in... I love this man...:) Not in a obsessed phsyco kind of way but in a "I love the way he does it innocent kind of way. 🙂

    July 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  25. Denise

    Wow RL Well man – You just are a hater. That saddens me that people have such paranoia about our great leader. Try to be a patriot and support your brilliant President.

    All the ugliness and negativity does no one any good. Our Country needs positive energy and a spirit of kindness and volunteering. Perhaps your heart and mind can become open to the possibility that the world will be a better place if we learn to live together and be kind to our neighbors (and leaders).


    July 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  26. Amy

    As a wife of someone from Ghana who daily has to explain to people that my husband did not grow up with elephants and tigers in his back yard; it made me shake my head why there are so many pics, and video in some of the poorer villages and not a beautiful prosperous city like Accra. This was your chance Anderson to break the stereo type of world vision commercial everyone things Africa is!

    July 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  27. Veronica McNamara

    The castle is a very important part of the history of the slave trade. I learned only recently (I live in California) that my home city of Liverpool, England has the only slavery museum in the world.

    Veronica McNamara

    July 13, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  28. paulernestshow

    I thought the president's visit is necessary and the questions asked about US policy on Africa. I have just returned from Africa and the insensitivity of its leaders is nothng but a crime. The level of hardship, death and disorder is unimaginable. The leaders conceal these things with physical infrastructures while govt funds are shipped openly to foreign lands, into personal accounts. The US policy ought to be one that holds these nations leaders very much accountable. People are just slowly withering away, so unfortunate, painful indeed.
    The greatest gift the US and the west can give these countries is good government. Just assist them to elect and not to select their leaders. Corruption has dominated every aspect of life or activities, including elections. Their salvation will come from the U S finding genuine men and women here and sponsoring them to step into power in Africa.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  29. Ryan J in Iowa

    How can BO afford to travel with the massive deficit he has rung up.
    It's just typical black people spending money they do not have.
    A better interview would be with his granny in the Kenya, you know, the story about BO being born in Kenya. Honeymoon is over you silly stiff libs.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  30. Lee Beavers

    Great reporting Anderson. You are so fantastic. I am a faithful viewer of AC 360. Keep on keepin on Anderson!

    July 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  31. K

    I have to ask what connection Obama has with the slavery/slave trade??? Did the white or black side of his family own slaves? Is he trying to associate himself with a past that wasn't his?

    July 13, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  32. MB

    This article was nothing but a commercial for his program. That’s the last time I’ll spend the time reading his article. Big waste of my time.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  33. Jen R

    Julie – AC is just providing some context around the interview in his blog post. He mentioned real, serious issues he and Pres Obama discussed in the interview which will be shown on 360. If you examine the newspapers you will find they have various sections and not all of those section are about hard news.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  34. Kwesi

    Anderson Cooper is by far one of the best journalists in the World. Can't wait to watch the Interview tonight.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  35. J

    I'm sorry, but the headline for this - "Anderson Cooper interviews Obama in castle" is just silly.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  36. Jennifer - Michigan

    Great pics! Looks like your eye is much better now. Hope that you feel your interview was/is successful. No doubt, it'll be interesting and informative as usual. Take care, thanks for all your hard work.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  37. Paula

    I am looking forward in hearing all about his trip to Ghana, I would love to go and visit myself. I think your reporting is great, and if I ever had a story to tell-I would ask for you:-)

    July 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  38. teacheng

    I like Anderson Cooper, but 360 definitely needs some more 'journalism' going for it. And I say this loving Obama and everything he says and stands for.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  39. Diana

    I love Anderson Cooper, he is such a gentleman and donot put people down like other station. That's why I love CNN

    July 13, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  40. EMMA

    Anderson: It doesn't matter whom you report on your commentary is always the BOMB!!!! We love Anderson Cooper in my household.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  41. Michelle

    I hope Anderson will actually ask him tough questions.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  42. Ron Kaplan


    I have enjoyed your interviews and hard-hitting reports on very difficult issues over the years. Our country is going deeply into debt, unemployment is nearing 10%, and the "ambitious" agenda involving health care reform and global warming abatement will place severe limits on how the country can protect itself from current and emerging threats. I hope your mallet does not turn into sponge rubber when covering this administration

    July 13, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  43. nana

    so excited that you are doing something on Ghana. as a ghanaian living in the U.S I am soooo proud and I have ad so many friends and family calling, texting and facebooking about the special today and tomorrow. keep up the good work and we will keep watching you

    July 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  44. Pilar Carreon

    I would like to see your interview w/ the President . You are making history w/ President being there in Ghana.Tell us about your experience.


    July 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  45. Julia Rose

    Anderson Cooper, I am a huge fan. You inspire me.

    I will say, I wish you would specify and call your project "President Obama's Ghananian Journey" if it's just in the one country. I believe "African Journey" contributes to the idea that Africa is a country.


    July 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  46. Jacqueline

    It will be nice to hear an interview with the president that isn't just a press conference. I have to say that I rather miss the days of the election when we could turn on CNN and hear so many of his wonderfully eloquent speaches. The man has a true gift and I'm sure this will be a wonderfull interview.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  47. heff

    i have watched your broadcasts and i think your the only person who can answer my Question, i am a perminent resident, i have served in the military, and i was an auxiliary police officer with the nypd. but even still, the fact that i swore on a red carpet and infront the US flad to protect and defend this country, put my life on the line, for this great land and the rights of its citizen. How come Mr. Anderson i have been turned away on alot of occasions from becoming a police officer, or any law enforcement official, that's why i left the auxiliary police. I can die for this country but when and if i return i cant become a law official? I think that is so wrong. (uncle sam) "hey you can join our military and die for our rights, but yours is not important, you can not become a police officer to police OUR citizens" i was told this by a lieutenent from the NYPD.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  48. michael lyman

    AC – I wish you would ask Obama why he is on the wrong side on the Hondouras issue. The Supreme Court of Hondouras didn't initiate a Coup, they prevented a Coup. Why doesn't CNN and other liberal outlets get it?

    July 13, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  49. Donna

    The signicance of the first African-American President touring the site where so many africans were forced to begin a journey many did not survive to a land that would enslave them for hundreds of years, is incredible. This speaks to the endurance of a people and its will to not only survive but to overcome, despite overwhelming odd.

    Thank God!

    July 13, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  50. Abeiku, Los Angeles

    As a Ghanaian American, I was very happy to know about Obama's visit to Ghana. His speech to the Ghanaian parliament was right on the money, and he seemed to have done his homework about corruption on the continent and other issues very well. Hopefully African leaders took note: "Africa does not need strong men, but strong institutions".

    His choice of Ghana over the rest of sub-Saharan countries, including his father's (Kenya), hopefully sent a strong message to the other countries" leaders. However, I think he should have interacted more with the populace and indigenes more, just like CLinton did in 1998. Obama is probably safer in Ghana than within the US. Ghanaians are peace-loving people and will do everything to protect him.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
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