The Belfast girl who upstaged the Obamas

Published Wednesday, 18 December 2013
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The girl who shared the spotlight with the Obamas during the US Presidential visit to Belfast in June has shared memories of that exciting day with UTV.

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Barack Obama arrived in the city ahead of the start of the G8 Summit in Enniskillen, with a huge security entourage in tow.

But Belfast Methodist pupil Hannah Nelson was one of the lucky few who got up close and personal with the leader and his wife as she was chosen to give a speech in front her fellow pupils, politicians and others gathered at the Waterfront Hall.

The seventeen-year-old told UTV's Alison Fleming that she had entered a competition run by the US consul, and didn't realise she would eventually read it out on stage.

The young people in this room want and deserve to live in peace. Northern Ireland is my home - the reality is it has a future.

Hannah speaking in the Waterfront Hall

"I just felt that if I could write something and if people could hear it then hopefully young people would listen to my message, and take the words into action and go out into the world and try to make it a better place for all of us to live in," she explained.

"It wasn't until a couple of days after that I heard I would be introducing Michelle Obama as well, that was very exciting and something that I never thought that I'd get to do."

After introducing the First Lady, she was greeted by Michelle who embraced her in a hug before thanking her for her "bold and wonderful" words.

During her speech, she said: "As a 16-year-old I don't want to live in the past, I want to live for the future.

"I want to live in a country where it is not my religion that is important but my value as a person which is significant."

They were glad that somebody, a young person was able to present their views and it wasn't just politicians saying what they think.

Hannah Nelson

The grammar student said the day is "a bit of a blur for her" but she acknowledged what an opportunity it was.

"It is just amazing for me as a young person to spread my message and the feedback I've received has all been positive, from young people, older people - everybody believes in what I've said.

Despite her foray into politics, she said she has no long-term aspirations to make it her career.

Hannah added: "It was just me trying to get my message across, I think people should be treated equally, no matter who you are, no matter where you're from."

Even though her memories are a little hazy - she was given some special presents to help her remember that day - some badges from the secret service and a signed picture of her backstage with Michelle and Barack Obama.

© UTV News
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6 Comments
sammy boreland in derby england wrote (118 days ago):
Hannah your country should proud of you the speech was as good as any politicians if you keep it up you could be the next iron lady the way you set out your speech and then delivered it in front of the g8 leaders and the president of america and the 1st lady nervers of steel if u keep it up you sure have a good outlook for the future carved out for yourselyou have the backing of thousands of people your family should be proud of you if you were my daughter l would be walking on the clouds keep up the good work and you'll go far in life no matter what you do sammy
Claire in Enniskillen wrote (119 days ago):
Fantastic speech. Hannah speaks for the Majority of Northern Ireland. Well done.
jimmymac in canada wrote (119 days ago):
Hear, hear,@ David in Lisburn,Hannah's parents must be immensely proud of their inspiring and gifted Daughter
Former MCB Student in Belfast wrote (119 days ago):
Methody is a melting pot of many aspects of what is positive about Northern Ireland. It helped make me the person I am today and I am proud to know many other former pupils who have achieved exceptional greatness in various fields. MCB is what is good about Northern Ireland and it was fitted that such as positive reference was used when choosing who to introduce the Obama's.
Terry Stewart in Belfast wrote (119 days ago):
My wife and I thought that Hannah was a very composed and articulate young woman. Her parents must be bursting with pride. One sour note - who was the gentleman who spoke about the effect on her school? why has UTV stopped putting up interviewees names on screen?
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