Fwd: Print pool report #4: town hall wrap up and departure

Begin forwarded message:

From: Katie Leslie >
Date: August 3, 2016 at 5:00:19 PM EDT
To: "Gabriel, Brian A. EOP/ Who" >
Subject: Print pool report #4: town hall wrap up and departure

POTUS has wrapped up his appearance at the Presidential Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

It's 4:59 p.m. and the motorcade is departing the Omni Shoreham en route to the White House.

Round-up of the town hall, as your pooler had some time on her hands:

The event began at 3:22 p.m. to loud cheers and applause, though your pooler could not see (because of standing attendants) whether POTUS entered the room at that time. According to White House, roughly 1,300 people were gathered to hear him speak.

POTUS was introduced by Emmanuel Odama, a Young African Leaders Initiative fellow from Uganda. Many attendants stood on their chairs to see POTUS as he took the podium at 3:28 p.m.. The crowd first chanted “Yes he can!” and then sang the “Happy Birthday” song to the president, who turns 55 tomorrow.

POTUS, wearing a dark (possibly charcoal) suit, gave brief remarks before engaging in a Q&A with attendants.

POTUS joked that he didn’t know if Odama was chosen to introduce him because he’s a talented speaker or if because “they think we’re cousins,” referencing the similarity in their names.

The event was open press, but a few highlights. (Please check official transcript.)

POTUS spoke about encouraging more trade with Africa, and efforts to bring cleaner energy and more power to African homes and businesses.

“We’re doing this not just because I love the people of Africa, but also because the world will not be able to deal with climate change or terrorism or expanding women’s rights -- all the issues we face globally-- without a rising and dynamic and self-reliant Africa,” he said.

POTUS launched the Young African Leaders initiative six years ago.  More than 40,000 people applied for one of 1,000 Mandela fellowships.

POTUS noted the students are seeing the “fascinating rollercoaster” of “American democracy.” He said it’s a reminder that “democracy is hard everywhere.”

He told the crowd that Washington leaders on both sides of the aisle, however, agree on the importance of having a strong partnership with African nations.

Before asking the first question, a man told POTUS that “in this room, we’re all brothers and you are one of us.” POTUS retorted that, at this point, he’s “probably an uncle.”

People asked about sanctions in places like Sudan over their human rights violations and his greatest challenges and frustrations while in office. Others asked about how he balances public office and family life.

On sanctions in Sudan:

While America “has to have some humility” in acknowledging its own issues, POTUS said “whether it’s people in Cuba, or people in Sudan, or people in other parts of the world where there are challenges around human rights … ultimately it’s going to be up to the people themselves in those countries to determine their fate. But I do believe there are certain principles that apply everywhere.”

Government should follow the law. People should be able to gather/demonstrate. Women should be treated equally, etc.

POTUS told the attendants that if they come from a place where it’s customary to beat women, deny girls an education or perform genital mutilation, “you should change your traditions.”

The enthusiastic crowd applauded those lines. Of course, they generally applauded most everything.

On "balance" and whether a public official's private life should be subject to scrutiny:

"Maintaining balance, having a strong partnership with your wife or husband, raising children who are kind and useful and strong and generous and all the things that my wonderful daughters are, that really is its own reward. The truth is we’ve had some very great leaders who did not always have great personal lives. I’m not actually somebody who believes that, if you go into public office, that your personal lives --- I mean unless you’re committing crimes or things like that -- that that is necessarily the best measure. We’ve also had people who were wonderful fathers and great husbands who were bad leaders. The two things do not always align."

On the press holding him accountable:

“Right now I’m at the end of my presidency, so the press is feeling kind of sentimental and ‘oh he’s gotten old, we’ve beat him up, let’s focus on the new guys coming in.’"

POTUS said there are times he thought the press was "very unfair" but "there have also been times when the press investigated something and I thought, you know what, this is a problem.”

POTUS wrapped up Q&A at 4:45 p.m. after acknowledging that many of the fellows would face hardships in their home countries  upon their return. He pledged to continue working with the program after he leaves office.

POTUS shook hands on his way out. Press moved to the motorcade prior to his exit.

Katie Leslie
Washington Correspondent
The Dallas Morning News
office: (202) xxx-xxx-xxxx
mobile: (646) xxx-xxx-xxxx

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