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Presidential Palace

[Sunday afternoon] Ninety minutes of walking later, we ride by motorcade (and a lot slower, thankfully) to Iavoloha, where we are eager to visit the Presidential Palace – Madagascar’s version of the U.S. White House. It too, is white, built by Madagascar’s previous president in the 1970s, thanks to North Korean funding. It is spectacular, with the large rooms and tall ceilings you’d expect to see in the headquarters for a head of state. We gather first in a quaint white chapel with stained glass and hard-carved rosewood pews inside, a structure our host had built recently. Ravalomanana greets us on the steps of the palace, and escorts us from room to room, including his office, on a tour for about 75 people that one member of his staff calls “unprecedented.” Ravalomanana invites us to eat afterward in an adjacent special events center during a buffet lunch of the finest food Antananarivo has to offer. The students sing again, and short speeches are made by Drs. Money and Ravalomanana, government officials and the father of one of the students. There is a remarkably candid message from Ravalomanana reassuring students of his plans for them to be provided a role in his government in the regions where they live. “I think we have taught you that with privilege there always comes responsibility,” said Money in his remarks. “I have every confidence you will fill these responsibilities very well.”