WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Will Obama kick the SOCCKET?
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — A spirited game of soccer can energize a crowd. Turns out it can also energize a light socket.
The SOCCKET ball, invented by two female Harvard graduates, is among the featured devices President Barack Obama will see on exhibit during a presentation at a Tanzanian power plant Tuesday.
U.S Trade Representative Michael Froman and deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes said they played around with the ball for Obama to get ready for the event.
“We tried it, we test drove it,” Froman said.
The ball has been mentioned by former President Bill Clinton as a device that could bring a bit of light to rural areas of undeveloped countries.
According to Uncharted Play, the gadget’s manufacturer, the soccer ball has a pendulum-like mechanism that creates kinetic energy during play and stores it. The firm says 30 minutes of play can power a simple LED lamp for three hours. The plan is to distribute the innovative balls to kids.
“Kids play soccer all day long. They take the ball home and you can plug a lamp into it, and they can read at night, or they can plug a cellphone charger into it,” Froman said.
No word yet whether Obama, who played some soccer as a child in Indonesia, will create his own energy.
An avid basketball fan, Obama can’t seem to take his mind off the game, even during meetings with heads of state from other countries.
So it was after his closed-door, one-on-one meeting with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. At a news conference immediately afterward, Obama said they “covered a lot of ground” but did not discuss a 7-foot-3 Tanzanian athlete who plays center for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the U.S. National Basketball Association.
“The president and I are both basketball fans,” Obama said. “We did not discuss Hasheem Thabeet, who plays in the NBA, but maybe next time we’ll have a chance to talk about that.”
In Senegal last week, Obama openly wished for his beloved Chicago Bulls to draft Senegalese native Gorgui Dieng, who played center for Louisville.
His wish was not fulfilled. Dieng was drafted by the Utah Jazz and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Obama tried to impress guests at a state dinner in his honor with his humor.
He noted that he arrived in Tanzania from South Africa, and that he was following the path of Robert F. Kennedy, who visited both countries in the same order nearly 50 years ago.
“It was a little different back then. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, rode in the back of an open truck,” Obama said. “The Secret Service has me and Michelle inside a fortified limousine. We call it ‘The Beast.’
He continued: “As Kennedy’s truck made its way through the crowds, he picked up two boys and let them ride alongside him. The Secret Service doesn’t let me do these things.”
And the kicker: “When Kennedy came, it was a public holiday here. I apologize to Tanzanians that you all had to work today.”
Michelle Obama paid her respects at a memorial for victims of a deadly bombing at the U.S. Embassy here nearly 15 years ago.
The U.S. first lady accepted flowers given to her by girls and placed them at the foot of the memorial, which is located at the National Museum.
The somber moment soon was supplanted by a lively performance by the Baba wa Watoto dance group, which performed for Mrs. Obama, her daughters Malia and Sasha and Tanzania’s first lady, Salma Kikwete, at the center that carries the group’s name. The center serves underprivileged boys and girls ages 5 to 18.
Mrs. Obama visited on Monday because she has a solo event Tuesday at the same time her husband was scheduled to visit the memorial.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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