Michelle Obama to Young African Women: Yes, We Can!

In this FLOTUS pool report from Africa: The first lady visits makes remarks at a church in Soweto, South Africa.

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Throughout first lady Michelle Obama's trip to Africa, The Root will be running selected press pool reports.


Johannesburg -- Speaking from a Soweto church thrust onto the front lines of the fight against apartheid, first lady Michelle Obama urged young South Africans to conquer hunger and AIDS and to end violence against women.

Addressing a crowded Regina Mundi Church, she singled out 76 young women from across Africa here for a U.S.-sponsored leadership forum. The Catholic church, still wearing battle scars from the 35-year-old Soweto uprising and ensuing protests, is named "Regina Mundi," which is Latin for "Queen of the World."

She was introduced by Graca Machel, wife of former president Nelson Mandela. Obama, here for a weeklong official visit, met the 92-year-old Mandela Tuesday. Referring to the U.S. first lady, Machel said from Regina Mundi: "We welcome you as a daughter of Africa--and we can call you the 'queen of our world.' "Obama told those gathered to work to eliminate poverty, inequality and injustice, ending the 34-minute address by reprising her husband's 2008 campaign slogan, four times exhorting them:

"Yes we can.
"Yes we can.
"Yes we can.
"Yes we can."

The Young African Women Leaders Forum, the first of its kind, is being sponsored by the White House, State Department and other U.S. entities. The 76 women taking part are from 24 countries and work in education, health, business and the media. A White House official put the crowd count in Regina Mundi at 2,000.

Here's an excerpt of first lady Michelle Obama's speech:

For Immediate Release           June 22, 2011
Regina Mundi Church
Soweto, South Africa
10:16 a.m. (Local)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. It is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today.I want to start by thanking Graca Machel for that just gracious, kind introduction. It is overwhelming. And I want to thank her for her lifetime of service as a champion for women and children. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for all of the kindness and generosity that you have shown my family for our visit here. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

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