- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Michelle Obama is on her first official, solo foreign trip as first lady, launching what aides call an international agenda invoking her considerable star power to engage the world’s youth.

Mrs. Obama flew into Mexico late Tuesday after stopping in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to view the ruins three months after a massive earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless in the Caribbean nation.

Her visit to the Mexican capital Wednesday and Thursday is also part goodwill tour to highlight relations between the United States and its southern border ally. The first order of business Wednesday is a trip to Los Pinos, the residence of President Felipe Calderon, to meet privately with his wife, Margarita Zavala. The mission to Mexico book-ends Mrs. Obama’s leading cause at home, a campaign against child obesity.

In another sign of the important friendship between the two countries, the White House recently announced that the second state dinner of President Obama’s administration will be in honor of Mexico, on May 19.

After the closed-door sit-down with Ms. Zavala and a joint tour of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mrs. Obama was to spend the rest of her public time with children. She planned to visit Escuela Siete de Enero, a public elementary school; give a speech at Universidad Iberoamericana to area high school and college students; and lead a round-table discussion with youth leaders at La Hacienda de Los Morales.

Her international agenda appears similar to what she’s been doing domestically.

Since becoming first lady in January 2009, Mrs. Obama has made it her practice to involve students in almost every undertaking at the White House. Students helped plant her vegetable garden, professional musicians have been brought in to give students lessons, and she and members of her staff mentor young women.

The first U.S. first lady of color, Mrs. Obama often says magic played no part in her getting to the White House. She now hopes to travel the world delivering “you-can-do-it”-style pep talks to help inspire a new generation of young people to become leaders and problem-solvers in their communities.

The meeting between Mrs. Obama and Ms. Zavala will not be their first. The first ladies met on the sidelines of international summits their husbands attended last year. They also met quietly at the White House in February when Ms. Zavala came to Washington to attend a conference on reducing the demand for drugs — a problem so serious in cities and towns along the U.S.-Mexico border that nearly 23,000 people were killed in the violence between warring drug cartels in the past three years, according to a report by the Mexican government.

The drug issue is likely to come up in their talks, as it often does whenever U.S. and Mexican officials meet.

Like Mrs. Obama, Ms. Zavala also is interested in childhood obesity and the plight of Mexican children in U.S. custody, especially those who were detained after they crossed the border to try to find their parents.

Associated Press writer Martha Mendoza contributed to this report.

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