Elections in Egypt / Networking in North Africa / Letters to the White House

The U.S. expresses disappointment with Egyptian parliamentary elections. In North Africa, business leaders are networking with young entrepreneurs. View a photo gallery of posters created by young people from around the world in honor of World AIDS Day. And finally, learn about a book of letters sent by kids to the White House.

U.S. Expresses Concern over  Egyptian Election
The Obama administration expresses disappointment over the conduct of Egypt’s November 28 legislative election, citing reports of irregularities, intimidation, civil rights restrictions, and a lack of international monitors. The Obama administration wants to continue to work with Egyptian authorities and civil society groups to help their country “achieve its political, social, and economic aspirations consistent with international standards,” says National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.

Talking Business in North Africa
Business leaders and young entrepreneurs from the U.S. and North Africa will develop strategies to promote job creation at the first U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference in Algiers, December 1–2. Hosted by the U.S. State Department and the U.S.-Algeria Business Council, the event will create a platform to discuss business ventures in North Africa and encourage support from both the government and private sector.

Photo Gallery: “Celebrate Life” on World AIDS Day
In honor of World AIDS Day on December 1, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief invited young people from around the world to create posters reflecting the theme “Celebrate life.” In this photo gallery, see some of their submissions.

Letters to the White House
“I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo)” is a new book featuring dozens of letters that children all across the country wrote to the first family. At right, Michelle Obama and the family dog, Bo.

New Book Features Kids’ Letters to Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo

“You’re a much better dancer than your husband.”

That’s what one 10-year old wrote to first lady Michelle Obama in her letter that appears in the new book, “I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo).”

Compiled by a writing and tutoring organization in the U.S., the book features dozens of letters that children all across the country wrote to the first family. Some of the letters ask Mrs. Obama for help, others offer policy suggestions, and one even asks Sasha Obama, “Is Malia annoying?”

One young writer told Mrs. Obama, “I know that you want kids to exercise every day for an hour, but I exercise two hours and 30 minutes every day.” That revelation is sure to make the first lady, who travels the country telling kids about the benefits of exercise, very happy.

If you wrote a letter to Michelle, Malia, Sasha or Bo, what would it say?

Dog days of summer

It’s that time of year in Washington—Congress is on recess, the Obamas are on vacation and Bo is on board for some relaxing summer afternoons before the days cool down and the action heats up this fall.

As the Obamas enjoy a visit to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts this week, join me in taking a second’s pause to treat yourself to something sweet (perhaps the traditional Obama ice cream cone) and enjoy a good book (the president chose one of my favorites, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for his daughters to read this trip).

I find summer days the best time to refocus, reenergize and reflect. What do you think should be Obama’s top priorities this fall? What are yours?

Michelle and Sasha tour Spain in style

Shouts of “Obama” and “guapa,” or beautiful, welcomed Michelle Obama and Sasha Obama, 9, to Marbella, a resort city in southern Spain, Wednesday.

The mother and daughter are enjoying a four-day private stay with family friends at the luxurious five-star Hotel Villa Padierna on the Costa del Sol, where elegant villas blending ancient and modern Spanish style boast mountain views and rates range from $499 to $2,028 a night. On vacations such as these, the Obamas pay for personal expenses while government funds cover the costs of Secret Service agents and the round trip on Air Force Two.

According to news reports, Michelle and Sasha’s vacation includes a meeting with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, a visit to the historic cathedral in Granada, a flamenco show and a traditional family trip to a local ice cream parlor.

With Michelle and Sasha en España and Malia away at summer camp, family dog Bo was the only one in town to help President Obama celebrate his birthday Wednesday. Watch a video of Bo boarding Air Force One to join the president on his trip to Chicago—so cute!

Wish Obama a happy birthday!

President Obama will celebrate his 49th birthday this Wednesday, Aug. 4, and Michelle Obama is inviting the world to sign the president’s card.

The Democratic Party distributed the first lady’s message last week as a way to encourage more people to sign up to their mailing list.

It’s also a fun way for the family to wish Obama a happy birthday, Michelle Obama wrote in the email.

“This has been a big—and hectic—year for him. After signing the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform into law—and completing his first year as president—I think it’s safe to say we will remember it for a long time.

“And I know full well how much he credits this movement, and the work of supporters like you, for the change that we’ve accomplished.

“So I’m putting together a birthday card that I would like you to sign. Together with supporters—and me, Malia, Sasha, and Bo—we’ll wish him a happy birthday and let him know that we’re ready to take on the year ahead alongside him.”

What is your birthday message to Obama?

The Obamas vacation in Maine

Instead of a walk around the White House lawn, the Obamas’ dog Bo got a special treat this weekend—a family trip to Mount Desert Island, Maine. President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha and dog Bo spent the weekend exploring the island. They hiked Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, took a boat tour of Frenchman Bay, visited Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and stopped for ice cream in Bar Harbor (where the president ordered a coconut ice cream cone). My favorite images from their trip posted below!

The Obamas visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

The Obamas visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

The Obamas visit Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

The Obamas visit Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

President Obama eats a coconut ice cream cone in Bar Harbor.

President Obama eats a coconut ice cream cone in Bar Harbor.

Living at the White House lots of fun, first lady says

Michelle Obama at White House

In honor of Take Your Child to Work Day April 22, Michelle Obama greeted children of employees of the White House. The day is an annual event encouraging parents to take their children to work with them, exposing them to career opportunities.

The first lady, accompanied by the Obamas’ dog, Bo, answered questions from the children, who seemed quite curious about life in the White House. She told them about her favorite room (the oval-shaped blue room,) how being first lady has changed her (she’s still the same person,) and the downsides to her position (she misses being able to move around without security.)

The White House is a fun place to live, Michelle Obama said. “Some of the most fun parts about living in the White House is getting to share the house with so many people. I mean, we have thousands of people who come here every month just to visit, and it’s really fun to meet a lot of people and to make sure that they feel like this house is special for them, and to share it with everybody else.”

You can read Michelle Obama’s remarks on the White House Web site.

Bo Obama Celebrates One Year in the White House


The White House’s famous first dog, Bo, celebrated one year of posh living at the presidential family’s home.

At his acceptance speech after winning the elections, President Obama announced to the nation – and his daughters Malia and Sasha – that they have “earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”

After a hotly contested and heavily watched puppy-selection process, the first family chose a Portuguese Water Dog, which was given to them by fellow dog-enthusiast the late Senator Ted Kennedy. He was named after Michelle Obama’s father.

Bo was born Oct. 9, 2008, but arrived at the White House in April 14, 2009. In the United States, dogs are kept as pets and family companions and are often given common names.

Check out more photos of Bo on the White House Web site.

Obama daughters won’t give away secret of dad’s Christmas gift

Obama family at children's hospital

The Obama children, and dog Bo, joined Michelle Obama at a children’s hospital in Washington, D.C., December 22. The girls answered children’s questions about what Christmas in the White House is like as Bo barked at Santa.

One of the children asked what the family got the president for Christmas. The first lady instructed her daughters not to give away the secret, and they didn’t. “It’s something good, though,” Malia said. “I hope he’ll like it.”

You can see video of the event on the Chicago Sun Times’ Web site.