TODAY   |  June 21, 2011

Michelle Obama meets Nelson Mandela

On her trip to South Africa, first lady Michelle Obama meets former South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as working on education and HIV/AIDS awareness. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports. 

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>>> to south africa now where michelle obama is kicking off her first major solo overseas trip as first lady. she's brought along her daughters and her mother. nbc's kristen welker is in johannesburg with the latest on this. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning to you, matt. the first lady's visit is the big news here in south africa . this paper really says it all. michelle touches down. you see her here with daughters malia and sasha . a lot of people here telling me they could not be more excited. michelle obama arrivednight. the president wasn't with her but she certainly wasn't alone. daughters malia and sasha , her niece, nephew, and mother also on this subsahara trip. they got a very warm welcome. malia and sasha were given african blankets to guard them from south africa 's winter chill . the first daughters have been abroad before. earlier this year they accompanied the president to brazil. they met the queen at buckingham palace . but this might be their greatest one parade on the world stage.

>> they are celebrities. it should be very nice to see the first children of america coming to south africa and actually interacting. the continent has never had that chance.

>> reporter: the red carpet will also be rolled out for mary ann robinson, the first grandmother, who lives at the house and helps take care of her granddaughters. but most of the attention will be for ms. obama , first african-american first lady visiting her ancestral continent.

>> to us it's very, very, very exciting.

>> i think it's motivate for young black women.

>> reporter: during her week long trip, mrs. obama will promote youth leadership , education, and hiv/aids aware awareness and she will pay tribute to south africa 's most iconic fig we're a tour of the nelson mandela foundation and robert island , infamous jail where nelson was in prison for his punishment for fighting for apartheid.

>> it's meaningful for africans and for south africans who have gone through this long racial struggle.

>> reporter: this is mrs. obama 's second official solo trip abroad. last year she visited mexico and earthquake ravaged haiti. but she also raised eyebrows for a lavish private summer vacation with her daughter sasha to spain amidst negative economic news. this week will likely draw a different kind of attention.

>> the crowds listening to her speeches are only going to be focused on her. and so it is really her chance to have a global platform.

>> reporter: a journey for the obama ladies that will resonate on two continents half a world apart. now, the first lady just wrapped up a meeting with her counterpart here in south africa . she'll dedicate most of the rest of the day to honoring nelson mandela 's legacy and this country's struggle against apartheid. at this time she's not scheduled to meet with nelson mandela . he's 92 years old and quite frail.

>> kristen welker in south africa this morning.

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