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First lady is 'queen' for a day on South Africa visit

June 22, 2011|By Katherine Skiba, Washington Bureau
(Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — Speaking at a Soweto church thrust onto the front lines of the fight against apartheid, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday 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 who were here for a U.S.-sponsored leadership forum. A White House official put the crowd count at 2,000.

The name of the Catholic church, which still wears scars from the 35-year-old Soweto uprising and ensuing protests, comes from Latin, for "Queen of the World."

Photos: Michelle Obama in Africa

Obama was introduced by Graca Machel, wife of former President Nelson Mandela. Obama, here for a weeklong official visit, met the 92-year-old Mandela on Tuesday

Referring to the U.S. first lady, Machel said: "We welcome you as a daughter of Africa -- and we can call you the 'queen of our world.'"

Obama called on those gathered to work to eliminate poverty, inequality and injustice, ending her 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, the 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.

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