Michelle Obama Owns London

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The Black Star News’s HENRY GOMBYA Reflects On Obama’s U.K. Visit, April 3----President Barack Obama and his charming wife Michelle have left London and already both are greatly missed by Londoners.

The feeling of their departure is similar to that of a long lost relative who suddenly pays you a visit and after two days of dining and entertaining him, says he is leaving to visit yet another relative.

The Obamas have left an indelible mark on the British public. It is not easy to remember a time in the last 23 years of my living in Britain when similar foreign dignitaries have affected the mood of the British people.

Today most British radio stations played over and over again comments made by Mrs. Obama when she visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington North on Wednesday.  I have been a reporter for 30 years and I have reported on tear-jerking scenes in war-torn East Africa and on many occasions I have remained dry-eyed.  But when Michelle told the school kids her story, of how she and her brother were brought up in near poverty in Chicago, I found my eyes watering with emotion.

My emotions were not helped when the U.S. First Lady herself choked on emotions when she told the school girls: “I was not raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of.  Nothing in my life ever would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady. Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.”

When Michelle Obama made these comments, my eyes welled up again. The comments brought back memories of my own childhood growing up in a village in Uganda, walking barefoot to a school almost 10 miles away and hitting my toes on rocks on the roads that left my feet bleeding and assured me that on return home, I would get caned by my father for not adhering to his sermons on how to avoid them.

The school visit seemed to have overwhelmed the First Lady.  She choked up with emotion again as she told the school of how she met Obama and how at first she couldn’t be sure whether he was cute or not.

At the end of her speech, she suddenly approached the class and tried her best to embrace them while the Secret Service frantically tried to remove the poor girls’ hands around the waist of Mrs. Obama. Sixteen-year old Sabrina Choudry, one of the girls who mobbed the First Lady at the school, said later of Michelle’s visit: “It was amazing. She is amazing. Her speech was spectacular. There are so many girls in our school who need that kind of motivation. It moved us to tears. When she came in it was like the room lifted. She said to us 'I do hugs' and just hugged us.  It was amazing."

The school’s head teacher, Jo Dibb, told Michelle Obama: "We are very proud that, of the 2,500 schools in London, you have chosen to visit ours.”  Ms. Dibb herself became a celebrity Thursday when radio stations and newspaper sought her out to tell the world what she thought of the person who is likely to soon become, if not already, an incarnation of the late First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John F. Kennedy.

In yet another scene that created history, Michelle Obama became the first person ever to make the British monarch lose her diplomatic guard. Sighs of utter disbelief were audibly heard coming from the staff of Buckingham Palace when her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II broke protocol and put her arm lovingly around Michelle’s waist.
Still in utter disbelief, the US First Lady returned the compliment.  In all my years of living in England, I have never seen a woman try and put her arm around the Queen.  I cannot even recollect ever seeing a photograph of the Queen putting an arm around her children or grand children.  Men have tried it and earned the wrath of the British people but not women. 

An Australian Prime Minister tried it and was nicknamed “the Lizard of Oz.” Of the incident, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, one favored by the Queen’s husband Prince Philip said the Queen “wanted the Obamas, two emotionally explicit people, to feel among friends. She bent the rules. She got it right. We knew she would.”
Coverage of Mrs.  Obama in the British press during the last three days has been compared to the way the late Princess Diana was given wide publicity during her marriage to the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. Fashion editors applauded her clothing choices; she must have made Sarah Brown, the British Prime Minister’s wife, wince with shame and self-pity at the way the press criticized her dress sense throughout the G20 summit.

Since Lady Diana’s tragic accidental death in France almost 12 years ago, the British press has sought hard to get someone to replace her.  Every one of Diana’s footsteps around the world was followed by what is now known as the paparazzi. During the whole of the G20 summit, only one other woman, the summit host’s wife Sarah, has been photographed more than once. No one really knows what all the other wives were up to.

As PM Brown said, the election of Barack Obama has no doubt resurrected the United States from the despised era of ex-President George W. Bush.  People now seem happy to be associated with the United States.  Europe was this week happily eating from the hand of President Obama and seemed to be enjoying herself.
Icy conditions that prevailed, especially between the United Stated and China and Russia seem to have quickly melted during the summit.  Obama and Russian President Medvedev have already agreed to meet soon to reach an agreement on the curtailing of their weapons of mass destruction while a visit to China by Obama was also agreed to at the G20 summit.

A walk-out threatened by French President Nicholas Sarkozy if the summit went against his beliefs did not materialize.

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