Before trip to Mexico, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden visit Haiti

First lady Michelle Obama is embarking on her first solo trip abroad. She follows in the footsteps of first ladies who have used international trips to promote their agenda priorities.
By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MEXICO CITY -- On Tuesday morning, first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Haiti on an unannounced humanitarian mission.

Accompanied by Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, Obama is making a one-day stop in Port-au-Prince en route to Mexico City, where she is scheduled to launch an international campaign encouraging young people to become actively involved in their communities.

The visit to Haiti, whose capital was virtually destroyed by a 7.0 earthquake in January, will give the first lady an opportunity to extend a caring hand to the Haitian people and to draw attention to their dire circumstances.

Obama and Biden toured Port-au-Prince by helicopter, getting a bird's-eye view of the battered landscape where more than a million people are homeless. The American visitors arrived in Haiti at a time when aid workers and local officials are particularly concerned about how so many displaced residents will survive as the rainy season begins and hurricanes become more likely.

"It's powerful," Obama said after her firsthand look at the destruction. "The devastation is definitely powerful."

This trip, which included a meeting with Haitian President René Préval and his wife Elisabeth Delatour Préval, emphasizes "the enduring U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild," according to a White House statement. The two high-profile emissaries also will "thank the women and men across the whole of the U.S. government for their extraordinary efforts in Haiti during the past three months. They will also reach out to the U.N. and international relief communities in recognition of the truly global effort underway to help Haiti."

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