Barack Obama rounded out his trip abroad with a stop in Accra, Ghana over the weekend. There, he spoke to the nation's parliament and paid a visit to a maternal health clinic in Accra, before finishing up with a moving visit to Ghana's Cape Coast Castle—the point of no return for thousands upon thousands of black Africans sold into slavery in the diaspora.
Obama addressed the Ghanaian assembly as a cosmopolitan international leader with "the blood of Africa in me." He encouraged good governance as the building block of international development, that which will invite trade rather than the vicious cycle of aid and waste that characterizes many partnerships between Africa and the West:
In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success—strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives.
Watch part of Obama's speech:
Though this was Obama's fourth trip to the African continent, it was his first as president, and first to the west coast where most black Americans find their ancestry. And so the trip held a special resonance for Malia, Sasha and Michelle Obama—the members of the Obama family whose ancestors were actually slaves. At the Cape Coast Castle where the Middle Passage began, Obama was cognizant of that history:
…[A]s Americans, and as African Americans, obviously there's a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness; on the other hand, it is here where the journey of much of the African American experience began. And symbolically, to be able to come back with my family, with Michelle and our children, and see the portal through which the diaspora began, but also to be able to come back here in celebration with the people of Ghana of the extraordinary progress that we've made because of the courage of so many, black and white, to abolish slavery and ultimately win civil rights for all people, I think is a source of hope. It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it's also possible to overcome.
Just before boarding his plane back to the United States, Obama added that he would "never forget" the sight of his daughters passing through the infamous "door of no return" at the Cape Coast Castle—and then walking back in.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.