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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Young AIDS Victim Leaves Legacy of Care; 9/11 Hero Killed in Iraq; Edwards Says Farewell as Senator

Aired December 1, 2004 - 20:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight. Thanks.
For a long time, Patti Davis was the rebel of the Reagan family, miles apart from her father and mother politically, making speeches at peace rallies, even posing for "Playboy," an angry daughter whose father, Ronald Reagan, just happened to be president. But time and her father's struggle with Alzheimer's softened her heart. She reconciled with her family and delivered a moving address at her father's burial service last June.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER OF RONALD REAGAN: I don't know why Alzheimer's was allowed to steal so much of my father -- sorry -- before releasing him into the arms of death. But I know that, at his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days, and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Patti Davis has written a book about her father's 9 1/2 year battle with Alzheimer's. It is called "The Long Goodbye."

And she joins us now from Los Angeles.

Good to see you. Welcome to our show.

DAVIS: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: So, Patti, what do you think this holiday season is going to be like for your family to get through, not having your father around for the first time?

DAVIS: It's a little -- it's difficult.

The holidays widen any kind of absence like this and make it seem bigger. But, you know, my father loved Christmas. I have sort of been finding myself remembering when I was a child and he would haul out the Christmas lights and string them up outside the house and when the tree was delivered. So I think all of that comes back to you when you lose someone and when you do go through the first holiday season without them. It is the -- the sadness is increased, but I think the sweetness of the memories is also increased.

ZAHN: You write quite poignantly about your mother in this book and how she's confronting her loneliness.

And in one passage you say: "The moment I will remember forever is my mother sitting on a bar chair in my kitchen saying, I don't know how to be alone. I've never been alone. She was fighting back tears, looking into a future that chills her with fear."

How is your mother doing?

DAVIS: She's doing well, considering. She is a little less alone all the time now because she has a dog who is glued to her heels. So that's helping a lot. That companionship is helping a lot. You know, and she does -- she has family and she has friends.

ZAHN: One of the most amazing things to me about this book is how personal it is, and you talk in a very open way about the journey you've taken over the years, particularly when it comes to reconciling with both of your parents. What has that journey been like for you?

DAVIS: My generation really hung on to -- we hung on to our adolescence for a very long time. I mean, I've -- you know, we kept exploring and reexploring our inner child and all of that.

I've said many times that my inner child, by the time I retired her, was so old. So we had -- and I write about this. We had a bit of a longer journey to come back to our parents.

ZAHN: In the book, you're quite candid and remorseful about some of the embarrassment you might have caused both your mother and father, particularly when they were in Washington. What do you have the most powerful regrets about?

DAVIS: My most powerful regrets are the way in which I expressed my political disagreements with my father. My father was not someone who would ask any of his children to not express their opinions and not feel passionate about their opinions, but the way in which I did it, as stridently as I did it, appearing at demonstrations for world peace, but really all I was communicating was that I was at war with my parents.

So it was the way in which I chose to do it that caused pain.

ZAHN: Were you able to communicate with your father these kinds of thoughts that you talk about in this book? I know that you reconciled with him before the nation learned of his battle with Alzheimer's.

DAVIS: I did.

And I think there was much more to say after that. And so there are two answers to your question. As the disease progressed, no, I couldn't have those kind of conversations with him. The other answer is that his soul didn't have Alzheimer's, and so there was very clear, clean, deep conversation, deep exchanges with my father, even deep into the illness. And most people who have had a loved one with Alzheimer's know this and have felt that that has occurred.

ZAHN: And how did you confront the whole idea that your father couldn't recognize you at one point?

DAVIS: Whether or not he recognized me consciously with his conscious mind, it wasn't that disturbing to me. At one point when I was leaving, when I was leaving the room, and I said, bye, dad, I love you, and it was very clear to me he didn't at that moment know that I was his daughter, but his response was, oh, thank you. And I thought that was so beautiful.

ZAHN: Well, a nice gesture of gratitude there.

Patti Davis, please stay with us. We have a lot more to talk about with you, including the controversy that has put you at odds not only with the Bush administration, but that has also pitted some members of your family against each other.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're back now with Patti Davis, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan's daughter.

Good to have you back.

DAVIS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Patti, I wanted to move on to the controversy of stem cell research.

You, your mother, Ronald Reagan Jr. are strong proponents of the research. Your brother Michael doesn't think it's going to take us to an Alzheimer's cure. You fervently believe it will, don't you?

DAVIS: Yes, I believe it will.

I think that Alzheimer's is going to be a more complicated cure than juvenile diabetes, than Parkinson's, because Alzheimer's is a more complicated disease, but all the more reason to start doing research and federally fund that research, which, of course, is not going to happen under this administration. But no one can say that it's not going to be a cure for anything until we really pursue that research.

ZAHN: What is the cold, hard political reality of you taking on and some members of your family taking on the Bush administration on this really hot-button issue?

DAVIS: I don't think it should be. Obviously, it is a hot- button issue. I don't believe that it should be, and there's a part of me that is continually astounded that it is.

We are talking about clusters of cells in petri dishes. And we are talking about clusters of cells that could potentially save lives, and, if not used for stem cell research, are going to be destroyed. These are the excess that have resulted from in vitro fertilization. What I don't understand is, if people opposing stem cell research are so morally opposed to it, then why aren't they morally opposed to in vitro fertilization, which is how these cells end up there anyway? And they will be destroyed.

ZAHN: But help us understand what it is like for your family to get engaged in an issue like this, your mother, of course, being a loyal Republican forever, involved in a minor way in this campaign. It can't be easy for your family.

DAVIS: I think that that's a question that would be better posed to my mother, because she's a Republican. So she has the conflict.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: I'm not, so I don't.

I don't feel a conflict. But, you know, if you ever talk to her, I think you should ask her that.

ZAHN: We'd love to talk to her. Can you get her on the phone right now?

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I've been trying for months to talk with her.

How do you think your father would view this political fight?

DAVIS: I think that my father is enormously proud of my mother for taking a stand. I believe he would be in favor of stem cell research. I don't think that he would want a potential cure for so many diseases to literally be destroyed.

You know, that's my belief. I know it's my mother's belief as well. Unfortunately, my father was too ill to understand stem cell research when we all started talking about it, when it became sort of part of our vocabulary.

ZAHN: Do you think your father would be disappointed in the discourse today, politically?

DAVIS: I think he'd be horrified, frankly. I really do.

ZAHN: What would bug him the most?

DAVIS: The meanness. He was not a mean person, and he didn't believe in mean campaigning. And I just -- I think he would be horrified.

ZAHN: And do you think that he would probably feel that this is why it's very tough to get really qualified people interested in the political game today?

DAVIS: I'm sure he would feel that way.

Look, I'm sure that there are probably a couple of people somewhere out in the country who would be amazing presidents, but who look at what campaigning has become and what the political process has become and go -- and they say, well, why would I want to go there?

ZAHN: I wanted to close off tonight by talking about your father's funeral. I happened to witness quite a bit of it from covering it live here at CNN.

And I was so struck by how it seemed to pull the country together. You talk to people who waited hours and hours to view your father's body and they talked about this enormous need they had to be a part of that national conversation. When you look back on that week of mourning and the week of celebrating your father's legacy, what is it that stands out the most?

DAVIS: The entire week stands out to me. And I know I speak for my whole family with that.

And I wrote about it at the end of "The Long Goodbye," how moving it was for us and the fact that it really kind of -- it held us above the waterline. People said to me afterwards, it must have been so hard to grieve in public. It wasn't hard. What was hard was when that week ended and we had to wake up every morning and really inhabit our grief and really go through the days and nights that were to follow, getting used to my father not being here.

But that week was -- it was just a towering experience for all of us and so deeply moving.

ZAHN: All presidents, to a certain extent, get involved with the planning of their own funerals. Your father did it during his own presidency. And there were some details that were very important to him. How do you think he might have looked at that whole week of mourning?

DAVIS: Oh, I think he was around. I think he was looking in and smiling and winking.

And we talked about it a lot in the car as we were driving up to the library and driving different places, wherever we were, the number of people that were out and people who, as you said, had stood out for so long just to watch the motorcade go by. And I could see what my father's expression would be, just, you know, how humbled he would be and how deeply moved he would be.

And I think there would be a part of him that would sort of not understand why people would take so much time and be so moved. I don't know that he ever really was completely conscience of how much he moved people.

ZAHN: Well, I was very touched by the book. And I know you've got a lot more writing in you. We look forward to more of what you write and hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday together.

DAVIS: Thank you. You, too.

ZAHN: Thank you, Patti.

And there's a lot more ahead tonight, including the inspiring story of the power of a single child.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, one little boy who challenged a powerful government, changed his country forever and inspired millions. Prepare to be moved by the story of Nkosi Johnson.

And a minister at a crossroads, supported by her congregation, put on trial by her church for declaring that she's gay.

And our question of the day: Is it appropriate for a religious leader to be openly gay? Have your say at CNN.com/Paula. The results and much more to come on PAULA ZAHN NOW.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Once again, a major American Christian denomination is grappling with the issue of openly gay clergy. You might remember that last year when a gay man became the bishop of New Hampshire, it caused a rift within the Episcopal Church, and it's a wound that remains to this day unhealed.

Well, now the United Methodist Church has opened an internal trial that could lead to the dismissal of a lesbian minister.

Tom Foreman explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through the rain and bluster at a Methodist Church retreat, Reverend Beth Stroud and her partner, Chris Paige, came to defend their faith in God and each other.

REV. ELIZABETH STROUD, METHODIST MINISTER: I reached a place in my life where I could not grow any more as a Christian unless I told the truth about my sexual orientation.

FOREMAN: Less than a year ago at her church in Philadelphia, Reverend Stroud told her congregation she is a lesbian. She and her partner were joined in a covenant marriage four years ago and have been living together ever since.

STROUD: I knew that it was risky, but I believe that that's what Christians do. We take risks and we stand up for what we believe is right.

FOREMAN: But in a special court rarely publicly convened by the Methodist Church to deal with issues like this, the prosecutor, another minister, said Reverend Stroud is clearly wrong. Facing a jury of Methodist clergymen and women, he said church law forbids not only homosexual relations, but also any sexual affair outside of marriage. ROBERT SHOEMAKER, ATTORNEY, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: It's always been our position here that we should operate under the law as it exists and not operate under what certain people want the law to be.

FOREMAN: Church officials point out that heterosexual ministers are often dismissed for sexual misconduct. And this, they argue, is really no different.

Still, Reverend Stroud was praised time and again as a fine minister, and even the bishop who was the first witness against her says he spent more than a year trying to help her find a compromise.

BISHOP PETER WEAVER, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Between the integrity of a very fine pastor and her commitment to be honest and truthful and maintain that integrity on the one hand, and the integrity of the United Methodist community of faith.

FOREMAN: Reverend Stroud, who is strongly supported by her congregation, admitted everything. But, she says, the church needs to bend its law.

(on camera): Would you feel as strong about supporting a heterosexual man who was unmarried who was living with a woman who was a minister?

STROUD: I think that's a different issue.

FOREMAN: Why is that different?

STROUD: Because Chris and I are in a covenant, partnered relationship. If we had the legal right to be married, we would be.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Many here on both sides of this case clearly do not want this young woman driven out of their church. But her place in that church is now something the jury will decide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was Tom Foreman reporting for us.

And Reverend Stroud's story brought plenty of reaction from talk radio's Michael Smerconish.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE MICHAEL SMERCONISH SHOW")

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: She knew the rules. It was not a career path that suited her on that basis. If the church changes the rules, then it would be terrific. But this is not a career path she should have selected because as her sermon from last spring pointed out: While I was a student at Bryn Mawr College, I came to understand that I was a lesbian.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, whether it's appropriate for clergy leader to be openly gay is our question of the night. Click on to CNN.com/Paula. Let us know what you think.

Well, there is another controversy tonight involving gays and religion. According to the United Church of Christ, CBS and NBC are refusing to run a 30-second ad that promotes the church's openness toward all people, regardless of age, race, or sexual orientation. Now, according to the church, the TV networks say it's just too controversial to air. It briefly shows a same-sex couple trying to enter a church. Judge for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Step aside, please. No way. Not you. I don't think so. No.

NARRATOR: The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Joining me now from Broadview Heights, Ohio, is the Reverend John Thomas. He's the general manager and president of the United Church of Christ.

Good of you to join us, sir. Welcome.

REV. JOHN THOMAS, PRESIDENT, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Thank you for having me on.

ZAHN: Well, our pleasure.

Why do you think CBS and NBC turned down this ad?

THOMAS: It really startled us. We thought we were doing an ad that was offering a graceful word of welcome and hospitality to all people, and that hardly seems controversial. But, apparently, they looked at it through a very narrow lens and decided we were advocating for a particular social and cultural agenda.

ZAHN: Well, when you watch the ad, aren't you implying that there are churches out there that are not accepting people because they're either in wheelchairs or they might be in a same-sex union or they might have dark skin?

THOMAS: We tested these ads last spring, and we did focus groups of people who are outside the church, not part of any church, and what they told us was story after story after story of being wounded, excluded. There are people who have been excluded from all of our churches, and we're simply trying to offer a reminder and a strong message both to ourselves, but also to the community and to those outside the church to those who are struggling to offer an extravagant welcome.

ZAHN: To add some clarity to this, we should make it clear that a bunch of different broadcast organizations are airing this particular ad. It was just CBS, to our knowledge. And NBC has turned it down. Do you think this is censorship on their part? THOMAS: I think the airwaves are open to all people and that all religious perspectives need to be aired. And when some seem to be viewed or deemed controversial, I think that's dangerous territory for us to be getting into. I think there's a freedom of religious expression that ought to be honored in all of our media.

ZAHN: But CBS makes the argument in a statement that it did accept one of your ads. I'm going to read a small part of that here tonight: "We have a longstanding policy of not accepting advocacy advertising. We did accept one of the ads that was offered by the United Church of Christ, but not the other."

Don't they have a point there?

THOMAS: They have a point, except they're the ones determining what's advocacy. And we're clearly not advocating any particular agenda in these ads, other than the agenda of welcome and hospitality. And I'm not sure we want to have media determining what's advocacy and what's acceptable.

ZAHN: But shouldn't that be left up to a broadcast group to make that decision based on whatever their judgment is?

THOMAS: But we as the people have given broadcasters the stewardship of the airwaves. And that's a stewardship that they need to take very careful and honor with deep respect. And I think they need to be open to all points of views and all perspectives and allow all of us to have an opportunity to present a message of welcome and grace.

ZAHN: Reverend John Thomas, thank you for joining us tonight.

THOMAS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate your time.

When we come back, an unforgettable story about one little boy and how he became a hero to millions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Now the compelling story of a brave, 12-year-old boy who challenged a powerful government and changed his country forever. His formula for happiness has inspired millions and given one world weary reporter a new reason to hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NKOSI JOHNSON, HIV POSITIVE: My story. I'm 11-years-old, and I have HIV positive.

He is Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy who was born HIV positive while his mother was dying of AIDS. He was fatherless and poor in a country that punishes those who have the disease.

Yet somehow he came to fill his days with kindness, curiosity, laughter and love. Gale Johnson, a South African businesswoman, adopted Nkosi. As a child, she was herself adopted by an English couple and so shared an emotional bond with her new son. He became part of the family.

GALE JOHNSON, MOTHER: I took him home he grew -- he adjusted so beautifully.

ZAHN: Despite his illness, Nkosi's energy motivated Gale. He fueled her passion to fight the disease that was tearing South Africa apart. They became a team with a mission.

Now some numbers. Last year in Africa, 2.2 million people died from AIDS. An estimated 3 million cases were reported.

Those numbers are staggering. How could anyone get beyond them to tell this story? One reporter found a way.

JIM WOOTEN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There is madness and horror beyond telling, beyond belief.

ZAHN: ABC News senior correspondent Jim Wooten, who has spent a lifetime reporting on Africa's wars and famines. But this story was different. It became personal. Jim became friends with Nkosi Johnson. The little boy would not live to tell his story. Jim Wooten would tell it for him.

WOOTEN: It's not always a pleasant story. It doesn't have a very promising beginning, and it doesn't have a happy ending, but I hope in the middle it has some sense of the indomitable human spirit of this kid and of his foster mother.

This little boy, Nkosi Johnson, was so irresistible, so compelling, that I didn't even have a decision to make. Almost from the very first moment I saw him and heard him speaking, I just was -- I belonged to him. You know, he had captured me completely.

ZAHN (on camera): What was it about Nkosi Johnson that drew you in.

WOOTEN: I think a part of it was chemistry. But I think it was -- the most remarkable thing about him was not that he lived to be 12 1/2 years old, which was longer than anyone, any child infected with AIDS in the womb has ever lived in Southern Africa. What was even more amazing about him was that despite the fact he knew he had AIDS, and he knew it was a terminal disease, and he knew he would never grow up to be a young man, and that he would never marry, he would never go to college, he would never have children -- despite the fact he knew all of that, he became a boy of such remarkable good cheer that it was contagious. There was a joyfulness and a joyousness about him. To be around him was to laugh. He loved laughter.

N. JOHNSON: Myself, I feel normal. I don't even think about me, myself. I don't think I've got HIV. I feel like a normal boy. I think it's about time people start realizing that we all, infected people are the same. We are human beings.

ZAHN (voice-over): Nkosi wanted to go to school, like normal children his age.

N. JOHNSON: My mother went to the school and had to fill in a form. And it said, does your child suffer from anything? And she said, yes, AIDS. Then they were terrified, and they didn't know what to do.

G. JOHNSON: One mother was going to wrap her child up in plastic. Brilliant concept, because you could wrap him like a condom or something. But that's how frightened people are.

WOOTEN: He was denied admission to the local public school. And I have to say, I don't think that that school, the principal and the teachers, or the Johannesburg School Board, or even the South African Parliament, I don't think they had any idea what they were getting into when they crossed swords with Gale Johnson, because when that kid said to her, I want to go to school, she said, you will go to school.

N. JOHNSON: I think there's nothing to be scared about it.

ZAHN: A few more numbers. In 6 African countries, including South Africa, at least 1 in 5 adults is HIV-positive.

WOOTEN: When you say 40 million people all over the world now have AIDS or have the HIV virus, 40 million people, you say, I don't think people relate to that number. I don't think people can grasp that 40 million people have one disease that's going to eventually kill them, no matter what is done.

But let me tell you one number that struck me. In 1990 the average life expectancy in this little country called Botswana, which is a neighbor of South Africa, was over 60 -- I think it was 62 point something or other in 1990. By 2002, the average life expectancy for a child born in Botswana was not 62 point something or other, it was under 40. That's the impact of AIDS on Africa.

It is literally, quite literally, killing the continent. And what I tried to do was to get away from all those numbers and to put a face on it. And in this case, the face was this 10,000 megawatt smile of this little guy and his sing song squeaky soprano voice saying all the things that should have been said in South Africa by the president, who was unwilling to say them.

ZAHN: That president is Thabo Mbeki, known for his indifference to the disease. Young Nkosi wanted to change that.

Fearlessly, he took in the stage at the International AIDS Conference in the year 2000. And took on President Mbeki.

WOOTEN: There were about 15,000 or 20,000 people there in a live audience, and several million on a satellite television hook up. And Thabo Mbeki was the first keynote speaker. The second keynote speaker was Nkosi Johnson.

N. JOHNSON: We are normal. We are human beings. We can walk. We can talk. We have needs just like everyone else. We are all the same. WOOTEN: Nkosi came on to the stage and bathed in the spotlight wearing a little jacket that had been particularly tailored to him because one of the effects of pediatric AIDS on children is they're stunted. They don't grow. He was 11 years old, and he probably weighed about 60 pounds.

And he stood up, and he said, I wish the government of this country would allow AZT, and Nevirapine into this country, so I wouldn't lose all my little friends. And it would have been dramatic had Mbeki been there, but as soon as Mbeki had finished his speech, he left.

And it's quite amazing that this little 11-year-old, 60-pound boy had become a thorn in his side. He had become the emblem of all the AIDS activists in South Africa who absolutely abhorred Mbeki. And Mbeki knew that this little boy was their emblem, their totem. And he was not about to sit there and take that and so he left.

And very uncharacteristically after that speech, in which he did very well, in which he said, we are all the same. He said, that really made me angry.

ZAHN (on camera): How angry did you get when you watched him fight the good fight?

WOOTEN: My anger was directed really at that time toward the president of South Africa. President Mbeki said at one time, I've never met anyone with AIDS. And he was president of the country in which there are more people HIV positive or living with AIDS than on any other country on the face of the Earth.

ZAHN: How do you explain that disconnect?

WOOTEN: I don't know. I've never been able to explain it. Some people who know him and have talked to him about it have said that the western appraisal of AIDS as a killer disease that was threatening all of South Africa and Southern Africa was an insult to Mbeki's masculinity or something.

ZAHN: I guess what amazes me is how wise this little kid was. He said, do all you can with what you have in the time you have and in the place you are.

WOOTEN: I learned a lot from Nkosi. That is one of the things I learned from him. That little mantra has become my mantra.

I was an old guy when I met him. I thought I knew a lot about the world and about living in the world. But having heard him say that many times, do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are, I thought, "Wow. Not bad, pal. Not bad."

ZAHN (VOICE-OVER): Nkosi became famous. Nelson Mandela was his pal, calling him a brave young man. But Nkosi knew his condition was getting worse.

NKOSI JOHNSON, AIDS ACTIVIST: I actually feel this is my last chance to live. But I actually know it's not.

WOOTEN: Your last chance?

JOHNSON: Yes. This is my last day, my last year.

WOOTEN: You think so really?

JOHNSON: Yes, that's what I think.

WOOTEN: Does that frighten you?

JOHNSON: Yes, a lot.

ZAHN: Inevitably, Nkosi lost his battle with the disease he fought for just over 12 years. His mother had hoped she would have a little more time with him.

GAIL JOHNSON, NKOSI'S MOTHER: And I would love him to talk to me just one more time because I know there is unfinished business for my little guy.

ZAHN: Gail Johnson continues their fight to rid the country of the disease. She funds a shelter for a dozen mothers with AIDS and their children.

WOOTEN: There are thousands of women in South Africa and all across southern Africa who are homeless because they're not only doomed by the disease, but they're damned by their culture and their community and their country as -- as the new lepers of the new millennium.

ZAHN: There is still no cure, but there's always hope. Nkosi Johnson taught all of us a valuable lesson. In his words, "Do all you can with what you have in the time you have, in the place you are."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Such enormous wisdom. And 18 simple words from a remarkable 12-year-old boy. Important words for all of us to remember on World AIDS Day.

I'd like to thank ABC's Jim Wooten for his remarkable story. Most of the proceeds from his book, "We Are All the Same: A Story of a Boy's Courage and a Mother's Love," will go to Nkosi's foundation in Johannesburg.

Also like to thank ABC News "Nightline" for allowing us to use their pictures.

And heads up for a special program tonight on World AIDS Day, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "RU+ (ARE YOU POSITIVE?)" Some surprising facts and some amazing personal stories in the battle against AIDS. "RU+ (ARE YOU POSITIVE?)" tonight at 11 Eastern right after "NEWSNIGHT."

There are fallen heroes like Nkosi Johnson in the battle against AIDS, and in the war on terror, the honor roll of heroes rose even longer. A New York City firehouse in mourning for a patriot whose convictions took him from Ground Zero to Baghdad. I'll have his story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: New York City firefighters have a saying: "All gave some; some gave all." It's a reminder of the heroism displayed in the line of duty on September 11.

One brave firefighter who responded that terrible day gave his all this week, thousands of miles from Ground Zero, still a firefighter, but also an Army National Guardsman killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Just a few months ago, it would have been Christian Engeldrum jumping onto Ladder 61 in the rain, racing out to the latest fire in the Bronx.

But the 39-year-old firefighter, nicknamed "Drum," died in Iraq on Monday. He was a National Guard reservist serving in Falluja, where his Humvee rolled over a roadside bomb.

PAUL ALLEN, LADDER 61, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: He thought it cowardly if he would stay here and let the rest of his unit go. If his unit was going, just like at a fire, if we were going, he was going. He wasn't -- he wasn't going to play it safe.

ZAHN: His death brought a special sadness: the first New York firefighter to die in Iraq; the latest chapter in a story that began on 9/11, the terrible day that claimed 343 New York firefighters.

LT. MICHAEL OWNEY, LADDER 61, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: I believe Chris is the 344th fireman to die as a terrorist act. There's no doubt in my mind that the people over there are terrorists. And he's active duty fire department. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about that. The country called. He -- he went.

ZAHN: Christian Engeldrum was there at Ground Zero on September 11, the firefighter on the lower right captured in a news photograph, raising a torn flag. Those who knew him remember a warrior.

ALLEN: He had the life that men want to live. They want to live on the edge and the adrenaline.

ZAHN: He was an active member of the U.S. Army from 1986 to 1991. He won a medal for his role in Desert Storm, a funny happy guy, his colleagues said. The battalion's favorite cook, who married his high school sweetheart and was the father of two teen-aged boys.

OWNEY: We lost a great American. This guy wasn't a couch potato patriot. They guy lived it. He walked the walk and he talked the talk.

ZAHN: A good one who's remembered. The tiny toy soldiers on the fire helmets his battalion always wears, in the black bunting draped at his firehouse, in the candles and the free flowing tears, he's remembered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A hero for all of us to pay tribute to. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: John Edwards has been out of the public eye ever since the day after the election. Now he is spending some of his last days as a U.S. senator on a farewell tour of his home state in North Carolina.

So what does his future hold, political or otherwise?

Here's Judy Woodruff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is, when I cross that line into North Carolina, my blood pressure drops automatically.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": John Edwards, former presidential candidate, former running mate, soon to be former senator. He came back home this week to say thank you, but not good- bye.

EDWARDS: Not only is this fight not over, I'm not through fighting.

WOODRUFF: Which begs a lot of questions, at least for us reporters. The senator's supporters, who gathered in Greensboro yesterday, seemed to know what he's getting at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the question is will you be on the ticket in 2008?

WOODRUFF: He didn't answer.

EDWARDS: Bless your heart. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: It's almost as if Edwards' disciples are in a holding pattern. Talk in Greensboro yesterday afternoon and Raleigh last night was not of what could have been, but of what still will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, our future sovereign (ph) and my good friend, John R. Edwards.

WOODRUFF: Edwards basks in the praise but won't take the bait, won't talk about his political future beyond saying that he's weighing options: speaking engagements, foundation work.

EDWARDS: And I also want to say just a word about Elizabeth.

WOODRUFF: The senator's first priority is tending to his wife, recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

EDWARDS: She's been strong, as all of you would expect, and she says to me over and over, "Yes, this is tough. But there are millions of women across this country who are just like me."

WOODRUFF: The family will be moving back to a new North Carolina home in the spring, and from there, John Edwards will rededicate himself to that fight he keeps talking about.

EDWARDS: There is a common set of values around which we can unite this country, and I'm also here to tell you there's a common set of values around which we are going to unite this country.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry, the Boston Brahman, wasn't able to do that. Now Edwards, while heaping accolades on his one-time ticket mate, is drawing subtle distinctions.

EDWARDS: Everywhere you go, they'd have all this great fancy food. And of course, what I always wanted was pinto beans and cornbread.

WOODRUFF: When he talks about what America needs...

EDWARDS: The values you grown -- you learn growing up on a farm or in a small town in North Carolina...

WOODRUFF: ... he seems to be talking about himself. His advice to the Democrats?

EDWARDS: Reach out to all those red parts of America to make sure that people know that we believe in faith. We believe in family. We believe in hard work and responsibility.

WOODRUFF: And who better to do that than a battle-tested son of the south? No hard promises yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep fighting, senator. We're behind you.

EDWARDS: Oh, don't worry.

WOODRUFF: But stay tuned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That's what they always say. That was Judy Woodruff reporting, whose "INSIDE POLITICS" is not to be confused with the kind you have get on late night TV.

Here are a few examples.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Down in Washington, Christmas down there is pretty exciting because it's our nation's capital and they have the White House. They have it all decorated and stuff. And they have -- finally they have the big White House Christmas tree. And it's beautiful, quite a sight. Big huge 20-foot free. They have 200 glass bulbs on the tree, 75 tinsel garlands, 50 letters of resignation. Wonderful, wonderful tree. Very nice.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Well, let's see what's going on at the White House, or as President Bush calls it, home alone.

Well, another cabinet member resigned today. Tom Ridge, director of homeland security, he resigned today. When they asked him how he was feeling, he said, he was a little red faced, then a little blue, but he's going to upgrade to yellow later in the day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And the results from our question of the day right after this. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Now it's time to see how you all responded to our question of the day. We asked the question, "Is it appropriate for a religious leader -- religious leader, that is, to be openly gay?"

Sixty-two percent of you said yes; 38 percent said no. Not a scientific poll, just a sampling of an opinion from our web site. Thanks for logging on.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Tomorrow night another view on voter values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It's strange to me how people who -- who have lost their jobs and don't have health care, have adequate housing, can vote for the rich people to get the tax cut.

ZAHN: Why do they do that, Jesse?

JACKSON: It seems that their cultural identity issue trumps their economic needs. That is somewhat irrational, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Reverend Jesse Jackson is my guest. He will also sound off on the Kerry campaign and say that Mr. Kerry made a tactical decision in not spending time in the south.

We'll also be talking to the first President Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. That's all tomorrow night.

Thanks again for dropping by tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a great night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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