Thursday afternoon – Arrival in Pittsburgh

Flying into Pittsburgh you can see its patchwork of 88 neighbourhoods spread out below. This former industrialised centre has transformed itself to a greener, cleaner, vibrant city known for its commerce, universities, culture and Superbowl champions football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I have an aunt who lives here and this was the first place I visited in the United States coming to visit my cousins when I was 18-years old. The famous Andrew Carnegie who came and made his fortune here over 100 years ago, came from Dunfermline, the town close to our home (and near to Gordon’s own constituency) in Scotland. So I do feel great affection for this city and am pleased to have the opportunity to come back.

Sarah Brown and Michelle Obama; Crown copyright

On landing we are whizzed to our hotel in a great convoy. It will be a feat of detailed organisation to get all the world leaders travelling smoothly over the next 48 hours.

We have time to stop and freshen up at our hotel and then Gordon and I are off to attend the opening reception hosted by President Obama and the First Lady. It is set in the tranquil oasis of the Phipps conservatory with interesting glass sculptures dotted amongst the greenery. It is good to meet the many friends I have made at past meetings and greet, for the first time, the new Prime Minister of Japan and his wife Miyuki Hatoyama.

We leave the leaders to their working dinner addressing the important global economic issues that were tackled together at the London G20 in April. The spouses attend Michelle Obama’s dinner held at the beautiful organic farm owned by Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the Senior Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Michelle Obama gives us all her customary warm welcome and I enjoy catching up with her on family news and share with her what I have been doing in New York. We have a delicious dinner of lamb or fish with fresh vegetables – many of which have been grown on the farm, which is very much in keeping with Michelle’s great drive to encourage everyone to think how they can eat fresher and better food.

It is a great pleasure to meet up again with the other spouses. I talk to Margarida Barroso, whose husband has just been re-elected as the President of the European Commission, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to learn more about her HIV/AIDS campaign, and meet the First Lady of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin who is a tireless champion for women’s and children’s rights.

After dinner we travel back to our hotels and I can finally catch up with Gordon after our respective busy days.


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