Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
ACCRA, Ghana — In a robust speech at the Kotoka International Airport shortly before departing Ghana after a whirlwind 22-hour visit, President Obama described how his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president had real poignance for him.
“As somebody whose father comes from Africa, obviously this visit has been particularly meaningful for me,” President Obama said.
A source close to the president tells ABC News that the trip was particularly meaningful for the president for two personal reasons. First, “it meant a lot to him” to visit the Cape Coast Castle, a former slave port, with his daughters “and to teach them about what happened there.”
Second, the president believes that because of his unique status as the first African-American U.S. president, he has a “more powerful voice,” the source said, when pushing African nations to get their own houses in order by embracing democratic, good governance and anti-corruption reforms.
Shortly after visiting the Cape Coast castle the president told the local crowd — comprised of thousands of Ghanaians and Peace Corps workers gathered at the airport — that the images of his visit were lasting.
“I’ll never forget the image of my two young daughters, the descendants of Africans and African Americans walking through those Doors of No Return and then walking back through those Doors of Return,” the president said. “It was a remarkable reminder that while the future is unknown, the winds always blow in the direction of human progress.”
Standing with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, in closing remarks which at times felt more like a campaign speech, President Obama reaffirmed to the Ghanaians gathered the “proud” relationship between the United States and their country.
“At each point of our visit here I was reminded of the enduring bond between our nations," he said. Men and woman taken from this nation help to build my own. Today many of our leading citizens trace their roots to these shores.”
The president said their partnership is not just based on shared ideals, but also in “ideals forged in struggles for independence that made our countries who they are. We believe that democracy is not simply a gift from previous generations but a responsibility for each generation to preserve and to pass on. We believe that no one, whether through the influence of poverty, politics, the power of money or the fear of force is above the law.”
But Mr. Obama, as he had in remarks during the day, delivered his tough-love message: that the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans, and specifically called on the young people of the continent to build up their countries.
“In places like Ghana you make up more than half of the population and here is what you must know: The world is what you make of it," he said. "You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people.”
The Obamas, after their three-country, seven-day trip abroad, are now on Air Force One flying back to Washington, D.C.
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller