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Shakira gets the Oval Office treatment

Lebanese-Colombian singer and activist Shakira got the red-carpet treatment in Washington today, meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House and then joining World Bank President Robert Zoellick to announce a new $300 million initiative for early childhood development. “It was such a privilege to sit down with the president ...

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573094_100222_shakira2802.jpg
February 22, 2010 - Washington, D. C. World Bank Headquarters - The World Bank, ALAS Foundation, and the Earth Institute joined together to launch The Early Childhood Initiative: An Investment for Life, with Shakira, Artist and Founder, ALAS Foundation, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

Lebanese-Colombian singer and activist Shakira got the red-carpet treatment in Washington today, meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House and then joining World Bank President Robert Zoellick to announce a new $300 million initiative for early childhood development.

"It was such a privilege to sit down with the president in the Oval Office to discuss our shared commitment to education and early childhood development. We agreed that investing in our children is the smartest strategy governments can use to boost economic growth, fight poverty, and promote global security and peace," said Shakira.

By contrast, the Dalai Lama didn't score an Oval Office meeting when he visited the White House last Thursday, meeting with Obama in the Map Room instead.

Lebanese-Colombian singer and activist Shakira got the red-carpet treatment in Washington today, meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House and then joining World Bank President Robert Zoellick to announce a new $300 million initiative for early childhood development.

“It was such a privilege to sit down with the president in the Oval Office to discuss our shared commitment to education and early childhood development. We agreed that investing in our children is the smartest strategy governments can use to boost economic growth, fight poverty, and promote global security and peace,” said Shakira.

By contrast, the Dalai Lama didn’t score an Oval Office meeting when he visited the White House last Thursday, meeting with Obama in the Map Room instead.

“I briefed the president on the progress made this year through ALAS with the heads of state of Latin American governments, and explained that we have made early childhood development a central topic of discussion during the next Ibero-American Summit to take place in Argentina later this year,” Shakira added.

ALAS is a group Shakira founded comprised of Latin American artists and business leaders advocating for comprehensive ECD programs.

This was the second encounter for Shakira and President Obama, who first met at his inaugural ceremonies last January. 

And Shakira isn’t confining her advocacy to education; she also wants Obama to push forward on immigration reform. White House officials told Shakira that they hope to reach an agreement this year with the Republican Party to legalize undocumented immigrants, her representative said.

At the World Bank, Shakira and Zoellick unveiled the new initiative to a group of over 100 ambassadors, officials, and international organization leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean. The partnership involves ALAS, the World Bank, and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which is headed by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

“We look forward to working closely with ALAS and the Earth Institute in the months and years to come as we move this important agenda forward,” said Zoellick. “ALAS — Shakira in particular — have made an enormous contribution toward placing young children at the heart of the public policy discourse in Latin America.”

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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