We get an inside view of the first lady's meetings with South African leaders.
By Eric Ditzian, with reporting by Lola Ogunnaike
Michelle Obama and Nelson Mandela
All this week, first lady Michelle Obama has been touring Africa with her mother and daughters as part of her ongoing work to engage and empower young people at home and abroad. Journalist Lola Ogunnaike has been covering the entire trip for BET as part of an upcoming special, "Impact on Africa: On a Mission With the First Lady." Ogunnaike called MTV News to share her insight and exclusive information about the experience. These are her words
First lady Michelle Obama met with Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela's wife, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation earlier this week. It's clear to me the two of them enjoy a genuine rapport. Graça really seems to have an affinity for our first lady. She walked her around the museum, and the two of them looked at everything from old diaries to old itineraries to books to letters that he'd written.
One of the facts that seemed to take Obama aback was that at one point while Mandela was incarcerated — because he was incarcerated for 27 years — he was allowed to write only one letter every six months. You could see her face recoil. Can you imagine being able to communicate with the outside world only once every six months? I think it was something she was amazed by and which moved her in a profound way.
The first lady's mother and two daughters were there, and she joked with her daughters that they were going to be quizzed later on everything they'd learned. That got a cute laugh from the crowd.
The first lady also met with Nelson Mandela. It was a private meeting, but when I spoke about it with her during our interview, she said it was like meeting with family. It was one of the most profound moments of the journey for her. It was clear to me that it was a moment she'll hold dearly in her heart forever.
When she spoke about meeting him, her eyes lit up. She never thought she'd have the chance to meet him, let alone to have the opportunity to have her family meet him. To be sitting there with someone who was so instrumental in changing the direction of the world — and that's not an overstatement — was both a full-circle moment and a call to action for her.
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