First lady Michelle Obama landed in Africa today with her daughters and her mother for an overseas trip promoting education for girls, starting with a country still recovering from the recent Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead.
The Obamas were welcomed in Liberia’s capital with a red carpet and traditional dancers wearing the red, white and blue colors of both the American and Liberian flags.
After meeting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Obamas traveled a heavily potholed road to the town of Kakata, where they visited a Peace Corps-sponsored leadership camp for girls.
“I am just so thrilled to be here with you,” the first lady told the crowd.
She is traveling with daughters Malia, 18, who recently graduated high school, and Sasha, 15.
Education for girls is the central theme of the first lady’s trip, which also includes stops in Morocco and Spain.
Liberia was battered by civil wars between 1989 and 2003. Then Ebola swept the country in 2014, killing more than 4,800 people. Teachers died and schools were closed for months.
The country was founded as part of an effort to resettle freed American slaves and has deep ties to the United States.
The country’s oldest vocational high school, located in Kakata, is named for the African-American civil rights activist Booker T Washington.
The school suspended mid-term exams scheduled to start today “to allow the students to give Mrs. Obama a rousing welcome to appreciate what the United States has done for us,” principal Harris Tarnue said.
“She will be a real inspiration to the young girls around here,” he said.
Obama’s previous visits to Africa as first lady have included Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal and Tanzania.