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. Aspen Professor

    To Quote a fool ... "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" .... RL Wellman

    This right-wing extremist has a one track mind if he has one at all.
    It is sad to see a person so dedicated to tearing down what will become known as the man who erased our memory of the worst President and Vice-President this country has ever been saddled with. And, to think that I was once a registered Conservative and the Vice-Chair of my Party in my home town. The right-wing is doing their best to flush my former Party down the toilet of history. SAD!

    July 14, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  2. sam

    I am happy that CNN Covered Ghana and it's historical Castle. Americans and Black People need to know how it all started and understand that, afterall, there is Hope for the furture for Africa.
    Love you all and God Bless America

    July 14, 2009 at 7:42 am |
  3. Richard Nimms

    Anderson: Lets see if Obama and the liberals can point out a country ruled by blacks thats doing well! The communists pushed out white rule in africa; and now those countries are trajic. Announce to the American public what this black president is doing to drag down this country. You owe it to the public as an journalist of the truth. How can CNN not report on issues about ACORN, SEIU and the 32 czars appointed by Obama who have no oversite by the 3 branches of government. How can 95% of taxpayers pay no taxes and take from the 5% of rich whites, and sustain this country. Dude your gonna run out of rich white people, maybe we'll get lots of low cost illegal immigrants to pay up Eh!

    July 14, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  4. Maverick

    Ah yes, Anderson Cooper, the same guy who can'r think for himself, and hangs on every word that comes out of Obama's mouth. Hey Anderson how about asking some tough questions, like why hasn't the president kept his campaign promises.

    July 14, 2009 at 6:08 am |
  5. Kojo Omono Asamoah, Columbus OH

    I watched Your interview with the President last night and I could not be happier as Ghanaian. Thanks Anderson.

    July 14, 2009 at 5:04 am |
  6. ebenezer

    I am surprised that someone is talking about Darfuor and Congo Please tell me who will like to be fired upon, yes everybody wants to be in a place he or she will not be scared or insulted at. Yes his people are from Kenya but if the situation is nothing he can be proud of then he has to be where he can see the people are not so tensed. Why cannot someone talk of Nigeria when the world or people wakeup everyday to hear news about Ogonu or people attacking their own country and its recources. We as ghanaians should be proud that atlastwe have know how to compromise.

    July 14, 2009 at 4:55 am |
  7. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    Mr. Cooper, Thanks for all your hard work. One of the last real journalists! Please ignore the conspiracy theorist wackos posting here.

    July 14, 2009 at 4:03 am |


    July 14, 2009 at 3:17 am |
  9. Louisiana

    Enough on Obama! Everyone knows he is bi-racial and has his african roots.

    As unemployed americans that are now one step close to loosing everything, we need to hear what congress wants to do to improve this economy and create more jobs.
    Obama needs to return and focus on getting something done to improve
    the healthcare system.
    He needs to help the very people that elected him and stop going to
    make friends in other countries.
    Guess he did not want to be in Washington D.C. while the confirmation
    hearings were going on.
    Anderson, when will you travel to Cuba and report on how that
    country is fairing now that Fidel Castro is not in command?
    I understand that his younger brother Raul Castro is more of a tirant
    than Fidel Castro ever was!!!

    July 14, 2009 at 2:32 am |
  10. Leslie

    Dear Anderson,
    I have been a fan of yours since 9/11 as i consider that you are the only news reporter who actually reports the good as well as the bad. but all kudos aside, i would like to bring to your attention – History. Tonight you visited the slave chambers in West Africa. The Roman Empire enslaved millions and fed them to the lions. Even going back further, the Egyptians were no better! My Grandfather came to the US as a virtual slave. An Italo american who's only demand of the family was to never cross the American laws and never appear on the front cover of the Boston Globe. For if you did, you were cut out of the will. My grandfather slaved and learned two languages and was part of the history of America. Italo Americans were treated like dirt-p second class citizens in this country when they initially immigrated. Indeed the phrase WOP is from Ellis Island where they could care less who you were – you were "without official papers" hence WOP. So while i empahthize with African Americans, remember that they also built this country and should be proud part of it and proud of their efforts like all immigrants. They were brought here, perhaps against their will, but they have become a core of America. They are Americans. So let's let go of the past. Remember, if you were a Roman Slave, you were fed to the lions and there isn't much future in that time. We are in new times. We need to be in present time and tackle what obstacles face us now as a nation- united, white, black brown and yellow. That is what is means to be an American.. I voted for President Obama and i need to know that he will not hobby horse any one skin color and get on with it. I am counting on him.
    sincerely – leslie los angeles

    July 14, 2009 at 2:26 am |
  11. Evan, Scottsdale

    Thank you for bringing up the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy with President Obama and reminding him of the changes he promised. You are an amazing reporter, keep up the great work!

    July 14, 2009 at 2:19 am |
  12. Al,


    What an incredible experience! I'm sure you and Obama could just feel the weight of the oppression emanating from those castle walls! I am so thankful to have a president like this who shows so much compassion and caring. It's like he knows how much we have suffered and he is doing his best to make things right. Someday we will all be truly equal and Obama with his eloquent orations will show us the path. Greed, war, and unfairness will be a thing of the past. Obama will take care of us...we have paid the price long enough! With Climate Change, Health Care, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Economy, and Wall Street to so carelessly dumped into his lap, I'm so glad our President finds the time to spend on his two little ones and his beautiful wife.

    Great job in the interview and thank you for not making him answer dumb questions that would be a waste of his time. Lets keep the focus on the transgressions of the former administration where it belongs and let Obama focus on being our best ambassador to the world.

    I just wish Air Force One was somehow solar or windmill-powered so we could show the world our technological prowess and how we can wean ourselves off of those awful fossil fuels coming from foreign lands. I bet Obama is making sure someone is inventing it as we speak.

    Oh, and I love your muscles as well.

    July 14, 2009 at 2:06 am |
  13. muiruri john

    Anderson, the next time you get to interview the US president, tell him we do not appreciate people giving us lecture while they are at neighbor house.The best thing Obama would have done is to Kenya and tell us our woes right in our face.

    muiruri, kenya

    July 14, 2009 at 2:05 am |
  14. Gazam

    Anderson and Obama, two modern greats. The Coops is THE man!

    July 14, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  15. Edgar

    I had the chance of experiencing the Cape Coast Castle myself because i attended Adisadel College which is one of the best secondary/high schools in Ghana and its located in Cape Coast. It was life changing experience and i have learned alot and appreciated life much better.
    Ghana is a very beautiful and joyful country and i urge you all to pay a visit to Ghana.
    Being from Ghana, I know the problems that we face in our country and in Africa as a whole and I was very pleased with Obamas speech because he touched all the right points on the problems that we face there. Well Done OBAMA

    July 14, 2009 at 1:33 am |
  16. cecilia from canada

    you don't have to post my comment, that's just how I feel. I do like anerserson 360 program.

    July 14, 2009 at 1:00 am |
  17. cecilia from canada

    I agree with GREG totally, there are far more important things to deal with in the USA than the trip to Africa. Outside looking in, I have noticed that BO is an eloquent speaker and is certainly gifted, however, actual actions have been very few. All I heard and read was about how to dig up past wrongdoing of Bush adminstration and the CIA. What good does it do to the country? They were in a war and tried to prevent more terrorists attacking the USA. They were not in a party. If you don't agree, just don't do it in your adminstration. It does seems BO like to be in constant spotlight.

    July 14, 2009 at 12:52 am |
  18. debbie

    Hi Anderson,
    I am impressed that CNN had to wait until the first black president visit Africa for you to highlight that there is slavery happening in Hattie. I guess it had to take a black president being in power for six months for you all to notice. I have seen wycliff and many others talk about the situation and no one paid any attention. I guess you all are implying thats were the president should have visited and focus his attention. Maybe when he visit Hatti you all can highlight all the poor and suffering people in America.

    July 14, 2009 at 12:46 am |
  19. lpfoong

    Thanks! Great to hear of your experience with President Obama and also the other interesting people you talked to and places you went.
    Nice change...

    July 14, 2009 at 12:44 am |
  20. Roberta Gallant

    Anderson, President Barack Obama disappointed me
    because he broke so many of his campaign promises.
    President Obama promised that he will bail out poor
    Americans, not the rich ones. He should have not
    bailed out the rich people throughout America.
    The President is also taking everything away from
    the poor and giving it all to the rich. He favors the
    rich, not the poor. I dislike what he currently does
    in the Oval office at the White House.

    July 14, 2009 at 12:36 am |
  21. Don Brown

    Do you honestly expect me or anyone else with a brain to believe the praising posts made here are by actual non CNN supported citizens? Give me a break.

    Will CNN every get back to being a news agency or can we just expect more of the same? Loops of Anderson Cooper and Larry King. What happened to this agency?

    July 14, 2009 at 12:29 am |
  22. yoyolite

    fridiculous, Obama is not a descendent of slaves. please review your facts before spouting your nonsense. His father was from kenya, and his mother was white.

    July 14, 2009 at 12:28 am |
  23. Stephanie

    now this is newsworthy and well thought out. thanks cnn!

    July 14, 2009 at 12:26 am |
  24. Elizabeth

    Mr. Anderson Cooper,

    First of all I think you are great at your job; I love your show!. Second, it sounds like quite an amazing journey you endured in Africa. I can only imagine so many questions that you would've liked to ask President Obama. I am looking forward to watching your segment!

    July 14, 2009 at 12:21 am |
  25. Al Leong / Toronto


    great interview with obama. i think people need to reframe the speed of recovery and the approach to wealth/success. people can get wealthier by reducing costs, and expenditures, not just by increasing revenues and income.

    do you feel obama is or feels different to when you first interviewed him as president-elect, than now that he has been in those shoes for a little while. has he changed, and in what way?

    July 14, 2009 at 12:21 am |
  26. joyce nwabuko

    Great trip but a trip to Ghana is not a trip to Africa but a part of Africa. Better pictures of life in Ghana could have been shown to balance your report, not just those rural and undeveloped areas. Did you not see the beautiful buildings and infrastructure there and the good schools and average families who even live better than some in the U S A? Come on men, Be FAIR!

    July 14, 2009 at 12:13 am |
  27. BigDoug

    I can hardly wait to see this peice of history

    July 14, 2009 at 12:03 am |
  28. Gloria, Brooklyn, NY

    Hello Anderson,

    What a wonderful and delightful piece on the interview with President Obama as you all walked through the Cape Coast Castle.

    It have been years since I read "Roots". I don't remember reading about Cape Coast Castle. Now when I read "Roots" again, it will bring Cape Coast Castle to life.

    And I think your eye look just fine. "Them There Eyes!"

    July 14, 2009 at 12:03 am |
  29. Joojo

    To Katherine, whether you visit Africa or not will not kmake a difference in our live. I am an African, Ghanaian and a proud one. I think you must broaden your horizon.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  30. Francis

    Great interview..I think it will take people like you to 'open up Africa' Ghana has beautiful places people can stay..including five star hotels! Great food to eat. Interesting places to visit. World class intellectuals to hang out with. Showing the positive and nice side is as important if not more important than the negative side.
    It is time to help Ghana in that manner..it goes a long way to uplift a country.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:54 pm |
  31. RLWellman

    I am a patriot and I support President Obama just as much as you all supported President Bush.

    If President Obama doesn't have anything to hide, then why did he seal his past? Why has he spent $920,000.00 dollars of campaign funds to do so?

    You guys need to read what is being passed. You think just because it was wrote by a Democrat that is is okay. You believe the Government will take care of you. I don't think you really know how the Government is going to take care of all of us.

    Talk about hatred. This is still a free country. There is still freedom of speech. However, there is legislation being passed right now to take away the freedom part and you guys approve of it because it was wrote by Democrats.

    If anything is wrote by the Government, be it Democrat, Republican, or Independent, it needs read before it is signed.

    Remember, the Government is supposed to be our representatives, not our big brother. They do what they want, not what we want.

    You think I'm silly for what I believe. I think anyone who signs anything without reading it first, is STUPID.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  32. Laurie Spence Bannerman

    Re: Special on Haiti this evening: Anderson you must have Canada's Governor General – Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean on for an interview. She was born in Port au Prince, Haiti and would be most informative and she is a very charismatic and compelling speaker.

    (For 18 years, Michaëlle Jean enjoyed a brilliant career as a journalist and anchor of information programs. She joined Radio-Canada in 1988, working successively as a reporter and host on news and public affairs programs.)

    July 13, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  33. Dee Nelson

    Hi Anderson,
    I missed most of your report tonight, but I will be on time for it from now it....it is so interesting to hear about the Castle and Ghana, sad though it may be.....the slave trade seems like such a far away thing and oh so long ago, but reports shows that it still happens in our time.
    Please give that email address again as I would like to follow this story.Thx for the insights. Dee

    July 13, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  34. Helen Bennett Davis

    I lived in Ghana for two years 1963-65 as a Peace Corps teacher. Ghana is a beautiful place and the people are so friendly. Would like to see more Ghanaian people and culture rather than the usual political comments. Very pleased with President Obama and his family, in Ghana and back in the USA. Send Sanjay Gupta to Ghana and let him talk to Ghanaians about their daily lives. Some tribal drumming and dancing would be good also.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  35. Beth

    Hi Anderson,

    – Have just seen seen the first part of your nterview with Pres Obama ....enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing the rest of the interview.

    I haven't been to West Africa but like Gail, I have visited some of the buildings that housed slaves in East Africa , for example Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya.
    It was an unforgettable and chilling experience..

    July 13, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  36. Philip, VA.

    If i ever have the opportunity to ask the president(OBAMA) a question,it will be,what keeps you going in life.

    By the way how was the "KENKEY" you eat back in my country,Ghana.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  37. Marina Unger

    This was a very disappointing coverage especially since it was given such hype in advance. I was looking forward to this interview having visited the Slave Castles myself. I am white and found the experience very moving. What I expected was some significant comments on the history of the castle and slavery with good footage and context. Instead I got snipets of this and that. The interview itself was disjointed and superficial. Not good. I expected better.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:40 pm |
  38. Monique

    Hey AC,
    Glad you are back..i bet it was a long flight!
    Im a Kenyan Lady with a little bit concern/question..

    Why is it that when you guys,meaning Media go to Africa you only choose to show the bad(poor) side of Africa,you never ever show people the developed part of Africa,am not saying that you should not tell the world about people in slams,also tell them about the great sides of Africa.

    That was a great coverage though!

    July 13, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  39. kojo

    am from ghana, and i was happy cnn was covering the president's trip..because they always report the truth...for a town as important as cape coast i'm surprised everything and its infrastructure remain the same...this is a town well known for its histroy and some of the best high schools in africa are located there..but its sad things are still they same..this is a sad part of the country's histroy but we are grateful the stories are being told and our african-americans brothers and sisters will forgive our african ancestors who took part of the slave trade..my friends..we sometimes forget native africans are a strong part of the in-justice and we must forgive and make peace and help our brothers understand their background and not quite to judge them...as most africans are of african-americans in this country

    July 13, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  40. Joseph

    Anderson why do you keep on showing the fishing boat and market around the castle. Can't you show some of the interesting places in Accra or even there in Cape Coast. You surly know about how most Americans react to pictures like that. PLEASE AND PLEASE AGAIN IT WONT CAUSE YOU ANY HARM TO SHOW SOME INTERESTING PICTURES THAT WILL MAKE GHANA VERY ATTRACTIVE.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:32 pm |
  41. desmond adom boateng

    Good job done Anderson......... By far you are the best journalist ever lived. just watched the first quarter of your interview with pres. Obama's visit to Ghana and other world issues. can't wait for the second quarter tomorrow.
    i won't miss it for nothing Anderson.
    C' Ya
    Bronx, NY

    July 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  42. rosemary

    I wish you shown pictures of some of the nice places in Ghana and not just pictures which show people carrying items on their heads and look so distressed. Ghana has some really beautiful places and it would have been nice for others to see that side of the country

    July 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  43. Kweku, Centerton

    Why is it that anytime a coverage is done in Ghana you only show the very bad or negative images. You need to show the outside world the beautiful hotels you slept in or at least some of the nice structures Ghana have. This will at least entice foreigners to visit or plan to invest in Ghana and not only to decide to visit Ghana expecting bug bites. I say this because almost any news being telecasted in the US always have tall sky scrapers in the background to the extent that people who have never being to America percieve the US as not having any Ghettos. Please do well to portray some good images about Ghana or Africa just as you all do when showing holiday destinations in the Caribeans.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  44. philip

    I think the president(OBAMA) visit to my country (Ghana) should rekendle the spirit of our African leaders not to fight for power but fight poverty,diseases,farming and above all,corrucption.

    Mama Africa is not poor but some of its leaders have painted it so by their act of missmanagement.

    Mr President, "Akwaba" .Meaning,wellcome back

    July 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  45. Mehvish Khan

    Good Evening Mr. Cooper,

    I am amongst the people who watch your show with a lot of interest. Lately I have been watching CNN alot more because of Mr. Jacksons sudden death. The past few weeks I have absorved that our country is discrimenating differant race groups through news. I always thought we all stand united and look at each other as humans first, rather than African American or Mexican or who ever. Don't you think we are sending a wrong message unintenssionally.

    Thank you
    Mehvish Khan

    July 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm |

    Ghana...!, Ghana !!, Ghana... !!!, oh Ghana my motherland. !!
    The Leader of the Struggle for Black Freedom
    The Beacon of Light on the Hill to Guide the lost to their Destination.

    Although Great Sons and Daughters have come from your womb
    You suffered terrible growing pains after You outsmarted
    And outmanouvered your oppressors the British Imperialists away from your shores.

    But Systematically and masterfully got rid of the wayward
    children and the greedy thugs who dished out pain to others

    You got rid of those who masqueraded as Leaders
    And almost ruined you.

    And today you have proven that the Light on the Hill can never be
    Hidden and can Never be extinguished.
    Your resilience is as tough as mother Africa.

    Western ignoramuses and the uneducated in the World may snicker and make jokes at your expense
    But after shedding your destructive burdens of days gone by
    Forward you would march to achieve the unparalleled Glories of the Ghana, Mali and Songhai Empires of Centuries gone by.

    I Salute You! I Congratulate You! Forward Ever, Backward Never!

    July 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  47. Debbie - Arkansas

    Ya really couldn't detect the buggy bite! Cute as ever...and sharing "grey hair" jokes with the Prez...now who else could do that? You do share a certain comraderie! Good on ya.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  48. yasemine

    I am a big fan of yours Anderson and thanks for the wonderful coverage I was looking foward to seeing more coverage of beautiful Accra. Great

    July 13, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  49. Keith

    I have been to Cape Coast Castle numerous times. I have been a part of archaeological excavations in several spots in Ghana. Walking through Cape Coast Castle is truly a moving experience.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  50. R.W. Burkett

    I saw your interview w/President Obama while visiting Ghana, and you came across as being confrontational (e.g., isn't that contradictory concerning an earlier remark you made etc.), concerning one of our many domestic issues. You also did this with the Mayor of New Orleans, when you exclaimed, "we're going to be watching you etc."

    I'm not so certain that's your place, but instead report the news as it develops in lieu of manufactuering a news story.

    Should you disagree with someone you are interviewing, and you are in possession of the facts, then that's another matter altogether. I believe in that instance, you are obligated to arrive at the truth rather than inuendo or an untruth, which is a disservice to your viewers.

    July 13, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
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