President Barack Obama’s Historic Visit to Ethiopia
by Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974–76)
There was great excitement in the air for us in the U.S. with ties to Ethiopia and for our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in witnessing President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia in late June. This was the first time that a sitting President visited Ethiopia and it was met with great fanfare. The purpose of the two-country visit to Kenya and Ethiopia was to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit and to meet with leaders from government, business and citizen groups. The President met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, held a meeting on South Sudan and counter terrorism issues with representatives of Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union, and Uganda; attended a State Dinner with Prime Minister Hailemariam; and spoke at the African Union.
During his visit, he toured Faffa Foods in Addis Ababa; partook buna in a traditional coffee ceremony; was treated to traditional dancing; and met “Lucy,” the 3.2 million year old hominid, locally known as “Dinknesh.” Ambassador Patricia Haslach “got down” dancing to traditional music at the State Dinner.
For anyone who has lived or visited Ethiopia in the past six to eight years, the presence of Barack Obama is difficult to miss. Children sport Obama t-shirts and Obama internet cafes, bars, and business centers can be found in every kebelle, village, and town.
One thing that was noticeably missing during this visit was the presence of Peace Corps Volunteers, Ethiopia having one of the largest, if not the largest program in the world. Yes, Peace Corps did get a “shout-out” in the toast remarks by both Prime Minister Hailemariam and President Obama, but it did not get a seat at the table, not want for trying.
Forrest Copeland, the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for Communications and Outreach, has written a blog about his and other Volunteer’s experiences surrounding the visit of President Obama to Ethiopia. Forrest is a third-year Volunteer assigned to the Peace Corps office in Addis Ababa, with a previous stint in Abi Adi, Tigray from 2012 to 2014. To keep the integrity of the blog and his photos, we refer you to “My Story about NOT Meeting Obama” Read on and enjoy!
Thanks to Forrest Copeland for his firsthand account of this historic event.