On September 6, 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama made history as the first U.S. president to visit Laos. He spoke in the capitol city Vientaine and traveled to Luang Prabang the following day.
Our volunteers at the JungleVine® center, located just 500 meters from the Luang Prabang International Airport, witnessed several United States Air Force C-17 equipment and personnel transport deliveries in preparation for Obama's visit.
We theorized whether Obama might address the unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped during the Vietnam War that contaminates the Laotian countryside and continues to injure and kill. We were right. On September 6, 2016, Obama acknowledged what had been called the 'Secret War' and committed to increase funding to clean up the deadly UXOs. Following the summit in the capitol city Vientaine, he traveled to Luang Prabang to hold a town hall meeting with the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).
During the YSEALI meeting, President Obama twice talked about how selling handicrafts can help indigenous people. Early in his speech at Souphanouvong University, he said, "My mother worked in Southeast Asia most of her life, working with women in villages to try to help them get more money through selling handicrafts and developing small businesses." Later, he talked about Mimi Sae-Ju, who "founded the Lisu Cultural Heritage Center in Chaing Mai (Thailand) to promote and preserve the indigenous history of her people. She sells handicrafts made by Lisu women, which helps them earn a living and makes sure that their culture lives on in future generations."
These comments strike a chord with us at the JungleVine® Foundation, as our missions are so similar, only serving a different indigenous group, the Khmu.
Sipping juice from a fresh coconut and enjoying his time in Luang Prabang.
President Obama steps off Air Force One in Luang Prabang.
President Obama waves to one of our Khmu volunteers as his car goes through the airport gate on the way to the Wat.
We've got exclusive video footage of the presidential motorcade going to and from Souphanouvong University. The Lao police and army were incredibly thorough in providing security during Obama's visit. They were also extremely kind and friendly whenever members of the public needed to be rerouted.
C-17s load up for the return trip to the U.S. following President Obama's historic visit.
*If our images are used, please give credit to JungleVine® Foundation.