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There were audible gasps as Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at the White House on the first day of his week long tour to the US. His visit had been a closely-guarded secret and around 170 guests were visibly shocked as the handsome royal walked into the room. "Well, surprise," beamed Michelle Obama.
After arriving in the State Dining Room of the White House, Harry set about helping children and grandchildren of military personnel make cards and gifts for Mother's Day, which falls on Sunday in the States.
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The charming Prince joked around with the children, pulling faces and posing for pictures on their mobile phones, and clearly won over Michelle's own mother Marian Robinson and Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill.
"It is an honour to welcome Prince Harry to the White House today," the First Lady said. "As many of you may know, Prince Harry is a captain in the Army Air Corps in the British armed forces." The reference to his military role received a particularly loud cheer from the guests.
"We are absolutely thrilled he could be with us today. He just arrived in DC. He only has a limited time here. But when he heard about this tea and all of you, he wanted to be here to personally thank you for all your service."
Harry's status as Britain's most eligible bachelor was never more apparent than during the first stop on his tour. Before his visit to the White House, he met with Senator John McCain at Capitol Hill, where he was welcomed by a noisy crowd of 500 girls outside the US Senate, and a host of smiling female staffers once he got inside.
"If all the women on Capitol Hill were dust bunnies, #princeharry would be a Dyson Vacuum," staffer Chris Mickey tweeted. "Every woman is gone. Every. Single. One."
They hung over balconies, gathered in groups and even hid round corners to catch a glimpse of the Prince as he took a tour of an exhibition by anti-landmine charity HALO with the former presidential candidate.
Senator McCain said of the meeting: "He was kind of embarrassed (by the screaming), I think a normal reaction.
"I'm sure its not the first time that he has had that experience, but in all the years I've been coming here, I've never seen such an unbalanced gender group."
Intern Happy Carlock, 20, from Texas said, "You could hear hearts breaking all over the room when he left. He is so cute!"
Harry's visit to the HALO exhibition was all the more poignant given that it was a favourite cause of his late mother, Princess Diana. And as a soldier who has served in Afghanistan, he understands better than most the devastation they can cause.
Guy Willoughby, director of the HALO trust, said, "Princess Diana came to see or work in Angola in 1997, and there were more trips planned at the time she died.
"She did a great job in raising awareness, and I'm sure the Prince is going to do exactly the same."
A speech by Prince Harry in aid of The Halo Trust
Ladies and Gentlemen.
First of all, I would like to thank Sir Peter and Lady Westmacott for their great generosity in hosting us this evening at this wonderful Lutyens Residence. It is a great privilege for me to address you tonight.
The HALO Trust - 25 years old this year - and other humanitarian mine action organisations make an exceptional contribution to the stabilization of post-conflict regions. For people who live in countries blighted by land mines and the other residue of war, there can be no return to normality.
When the daily walk to the water point, the tilling of fields, the herding of livestock, or the playing of children can result - at any moment - in death or life-changing injury, how can life ever be normal? Refugees, who have sought shelter from war, cannot return home. Long after the guns have fallen silent, this menace remains, unseen, undetected. The chance for a life of peace – surely the natural and rightful expectation of every human being – is no more than a dream so long as these dreadful weapons remain where they were laid or discarded.
At any one time, HALO has seven thousand de-miners in the field, striving to protect people, and banish the fear that pervades the lives of millions around the world. In Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Kosovo, in Somalia, Georgia and Armenia, the threat of landmines could be eradicated in the next five years, if funding can be sustained. If it were stepped up, in the next ten years, countries like Cambodia, Angola, Colombia, Afghanistan, Burma and even Zimbabwe might have their landmine crises eliminated for good.
So, this is not all a tale of woe. Great strides are being made by HALO and others. It comes at a price though - and not just for the poor, benighted people who have to live in mined areas. Over the past 25 years, 23 members of HALO have given their lives in the service of others. Almost one for every year of the charity's existence. I am sure that you will agree their sacrifice ranks alongside the very highest callings of selfless duty.
Tonight I would also like to pay tribute to the United States of America. The US Government is by far the largest donor to humanitarian mine action worldwide. This started in earnest in the 1990’s and was reinforced by President Clinton’s ten year initiative. American governmental support has been enormously generous and very well sustained.
The charitable instinct of the people of this great country also ensures that HALO and others are supported by private donation on a grand scale. Some of HALO's most significant private donors are here tonight. On behalf of the HALO Trust, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for this extraordinary charity, and this vital cause. I have seen first hand what a difference your generosity has on the lives of so many. I cannot let this moment pass without mentioning Guy Willoughby, HALO's inspirational leader. Colin Mitchell founded the charity a quarter of a century ago with Guy. In the early days, it was Guy and a couple of others on their hands and knees doing the clearing, with his amazing wife, Fiona, clutching the medical pack in the Land Rover.
Guy has brought HALO from being this small but effective operation, which changed hundreds of lives for the better, to where it is now: one of Britain's largest overseas charities, in terms of the number of its operators. Mitchell and Willoughby are Britons of that fabled cast: the adventurer driven to help others. Guy, tonight, we salute you and Colin on HALO's 25th Anniversary. Let's not have a 50th, though!
This evening gives me great personal pleasure too. My mother, who believed passionately in this cause, would be proud of my association with HALO. In her special way, she adopted it as her own. She would join me – along with all of you, I’m sure – in praising HALO for the amazing work that it has done over the past quarter century, and in hoping that one day soon its humanitarian work will be done. You can't say that about many charities, so what a privilege it is for all of us to be a part of this.
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