Obama and Letterman talk Africa

Last night (Sept. 10) presidential candidate Barack Obama went on the Late Show and talked to David Letterman about a variety of issues, including . . . Africa, AIDS, and development!  Yeah!  This is a really interesting clip, and deals with some great issues.  Below you’ll find a transcript of the Africa-specific sections of the interview.


(Posted on the ONE Campaign blog.)

It’s interesting to hear Obama talking about taking an HIV test with his wife in Kenya, and what a powerful symbol that was to many people.  And I love some of the quotes in there, about the hope, vibrancy, and potential of Africa’s people, and the developing world in general. 

Transcript Highlights (courtesy of the ONE Campaign):

Letterman: “Do you ever think of going to Kenya as President of the United States?”

Obama: “You know I do think about that. I went there a couple years ago after I had been elected senator. And you know it was moving for me to see people’s response. Sometimes we forget how people overseas look at America. They place so much hope in the United States and that’s something I think we’ve forgotten because we always hear bad news about how people don’t like Americans anymore and that’s not true. They’re disappointed precisely because they’ve got high expectations. And obviously given that my father’s from Kenya there’s a special connection. So we were just seeing these enormous crowds everywhere. I went up to the village where my grandma lives and folks were lining the roads for miles.

And we took an AIDS test because the CDC, which is doing great work–this is something that George Bush has done well, is work on AIDS issues in Africa. He has made a serious commitment to it and I give him credit for it — but the CDC that’s working over there, they asked Michelle and I to take a test because they said that just the act of you as a married couple taking the test, potentially a million people will see it, and you could save thousands of lives just by people getting tested…”

Letterman: “…Rarely do you hear positive stories coming out of Africa, to the point where you can create the impression that the continent could be lost. And you mentioned George Bush actually providing medical care and food and funding and so forth. Is it a lost cause? Is that a false impression?”

Obama: “You know it is. We tend to focus on the negative. And when you go there, first of all what you realize is the people there are more energetic and optimistic than you would ever imagine. In fact there’s been some surveys done showing that Africans are surprisingly happy and positive about the future, and there are a lot of good things going on. You go to a place like Rwanda that suffered such brutality and now it is thriving, it is growing. President Bill Clinton has done some great work in working to help to foster economic development and other efforts in those areas, Bill Gates’ foundation has done some good work, so it makes a difference. But what is true is that we’ve got to have better governance in Africa.

Sometimes we spend so much time running down government that we forget what it means, how important is it to have a functioning government: One that can deliver services; One that if you want to get a telephone, you don’t have to pay a bribe; If you want to start a business, you don’t have to give a cut to somebody. All that makes an enormous difference and hopefully we can hold governments there more accountable so that their people actually have a chance.”

Letterman: “Is there a way for this country to do that without pushing people around and being resented?”

Obama: “I think if we can send a signal, and this is true whether it’s in Africa or the Middle East or anywhere in the world, if we say we want to be a partner with you, we respect you, but if you’re getting our help, then we’ve got certain expectations that we’re not just helping the wealthy, or the people who are going to send the money to Swiss bank accounts, we expect to actually see results on the ground. Just holding people accountable, but doing it in a respectful way, I think that could make a big difference.

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~ by h.e.g. on September 11, 2008.

One Response to “Obama and Letterman talk Africa”

  1. What an impressive leader we have in Barack Obama. Thanks for posting this!

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