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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

When we stepped off the plane in Tanzania today, we received a welcome that warmed our hearts and made us feel right at home. We were greeted by the President of Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete and his wife, Tanzania's First Lady, Mrs. Salma Kikwete. We then took part in an official arrival ceremony which included a military honor guard, the playing of the Tanzanian and American national anthems, and a magnificent dance and drumming performance with hundreds of dancers. And people lined the streets waving American and Tanzanian flags as we drove away.

Arrival ceremonies like this one are a vital part of diplomacy – they’re how countries and their leaders welcome each other and show their respect for each other. Here in the U.S., we have our own arrival ceremony for visiting leaders where we play their country’s national anthem as well as our own; we give them either a 21 or 19 gun salute (where members of our military fire guns into the air either 21 or 19 times as a show of respect); and both my husband and the foreign leader give brief speeches.

Later that evening, we host a special dinner where we honor our guests and do our best to make them feel at home here in the U.S. For example, we knew that President Calderon of Mexico was born in a region where the monarch butterflies migrate each spring. So when we held our Mexico State dinner, we had a butterfly theme for our decorations. 

First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete pause for a moment of silence

First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete pause for a moment of silence while visiting the U.S. Embassy Bombing Memorial at the National Museum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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