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CNN NEWSROOM

5 Killed, 3 Missing in Ambush on U.S. Patrol in Iraq; Wildfires Burn Across Country; Oprah Gets Doctorate from Howard

Aired May 12, 2007 - 11:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news is unfolding live on this Saturday, May 12th. Hi, everyone. I'm Betty Nguyen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Busy morning, as always.

Wildfires burning across America at this hour. We're going to go coast to coast, I believe it is where it is a little toast to toast in some places. We'll have the very latest. Also coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do I have? What do I have (INAUDIBLE)? Nothing! You stand there, you can't say nothing! You can't (INAUDIBLE) because you're so (INAUDIBLE)!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: A mother's outrage explodes in the courtroom after the man who murdered her son is set free. So how could this happen? We're going to explain.

HOLMES: Also live this hour, Oprah Winfrey, the daytime diva offered her advice to the class of 2007. We are watching the commencement ceremony there live at Howard University in Washington, D.C. And we will bring you her remarks live here in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: First, though, an all-out search under way right now in Iraq for three members of a U.S.-led military force who are missing after an attack on their patrol. Five other members of that same patrol were killed in the attack near Mahmoudiya, which is an insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad.

CNN's Hugh Riminton is in the Iraqi capital. He joins us now. We have been getting little bits of information in throughout the morning. What do you have now, Hugh?

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly what we know is that sometime in the pre-dawn darkness, something dreadful happened to a small convoy, just two vehicles traveling in this area, Mahmoudiya, just to the south-southwest of Baghdad.

What we know is that they were ambushed or attacked in some way. Some of the details emerging in a news statement put out by a senior officer here, Major General William Caldwell. Let's listen in to some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: At the time of the attack, a nearby unit heard explosions and attempted to establish communications, but without success. At 4:59 a.m., an unmanned aerial vehicle observed two burning vehicles. Coalition forces arrived within an hour, secured the site and immediately initiated a search. The names of the soldiers are being withheld pending final identification and notification of next of kin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIMINTON: Yes, now, that first reaction that came from a quick reaction force that got to the scene. They found the two burnt-out vehicles. They found the bodies of five people. Now this was a team of eight. There were seven American soldiers, plus one Iraqi interpreter. It is not clear which of the five and which of the three the Iraqi interpreter fell into.

We know that the five were found dead at the scene. The other three are presumed to be still alive. But they are missing. A huge search under way for them at this time. A number of questions arising. First of all, how far might they have gone in the one hour that they had to take them away from the scene before that reaction force got in there?

Another question. Why were there two vehicles traveling in the predawn darkness? The normal convoys are larger, three or four. Also, why only eight onboard? We haven't told what vehicles these were, but the smallest regularly used vehicle is the Humvee that customarily takes five people per vehicle. Four down below, and one turret gunner.

Each of these would appear to have only have four onboard. Why? Some questions that have not yet answered. But right now the focus is on getting a rapid response. They know in these hostage-taking, if that's what it is, cases that it is the first few hours that are critical.

They have got planes, they have got helicopters, they have got unmanned drones flying over this area, checkpoints put up across a wide area. The key thing, according to the experts who deal in this, is don't let them get away too far the first hours, the first days are critical in trying to getting a safe recovery for soldiers under these conditions -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, they are. And hopefully they will find them soon. Hugh Riminton joining us live from Baghdad, thank you for that.

Well, combat search and rescue teams, they can be the difference between life and death when American troops are missing in hostile territory. A closer look at these special teams, that is coming up just a little bit later in the NEWSROOM. HOLMES: We do want to turn to the wildfires now. They are as far east as Florida, as far north as Minnesota and as far west as California. It is a working weekend for firefights as drought conditions spread flames across miles and miles and miles of woodlands and fields.

Our up to the minute coverage this morning includes live reports from John Zarrella in Florida, and Kara Finnstrom in California. We do want to start in Florida this morning where hundreds of fires have burned nearly 100,000 acres. And again, that is where our John Zarrella joins us again from Lake City.

We have been trying to look through that smoke. It has been good and bad at times. So we can see you all right, right now.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm close to the camera right now. It is a good and bad news situation here in Lake City. Now basically we just got an update from fire officials here. And they are telling us that 157 square miles have already burned from this fire here which has started as the Bugaboo Fire in Georgia and spread into Florida.

So that equates to about 100,000 acres in Florida alone that burned from this fire. They have 400 to 500 people working this fire. You can see behind a lot of these fire trucks lined up, waiting to get in to start to fight these fires and to protect the structures and homes that are out there.

The problem is, the smoke and fog is absolutely so thick that they cannot move to get into position now. And that fog is causing -- and the smoke is causing some serious, serious problems on the highways. Multiple accidents on Interstate 10 and Interstate 75, which basically converge here in the Lake City area. And they have forced many road closures.

In fact, I-75 south into Florida has been closed down at the Georgia line. And we got specific details from the Florida Highway Patrol on how this fire is impacting travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR RICK CARPENTER, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: What we're standing in is everything deteriorated to the point that it's probably at the worst-case scenario for what we're looking at. We have had to take some actions that is going to affect a lot of people. And we are going to ask, please put the word out to tell people -- I hate to say this because I love it, don't come to Lake City, not right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now there have been, again, multiple road closures. Portions of Interstate 10 closed down. Portions of I-75 closed down. Basically all around the interstate area here, lots of multiple car accidents, they can't give us details on the level of injuries in those accidents, and they are even saying that there are many people who are just pulled over on the side of the road because they are disoriented.

Visibility on portions of these major arteries is at zero, zero visibility. Now yesterday when the visibility was a little better late in the afternoon, we had an opportunity to go out with the division of forestry firefighters. We were able to take a look at one structure, it is literally the only structure that has been affected, burned, by these fires, as extensive as they are.

It's certainly a miracle that only one structure has been affected and that was a hunting camp deep out in the pine forest out there. And that fire was hot when it raced through there. You can see everything absolutely charred right down to the metal. The tires on the vehicles completely -- absolutely completely burned down.

So -- but again, good news in that these weather conditions are good. Are good for fighting the fires, but not so good for the traffic on the roads -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. A good news-bad news, but we're glad to get any good news from you, John Zarrella, thank you so much.

And the week-old the Gunflint Trail fire has scorched 47 square miles in northeastern Minnesota. It has also burned 30 square miles in Canada. Authorities say hundreds of people have been evacuated and fire damage is almost at $4 million.

NGUYEN: All right. So you have seen all of that. Let's take to you the West Coast now where things are getting a little bit better. The fire is still burning though on Catalina Island. But some people are being allowed to return home. Kara Finnstrom joins us now live with the latest on what is happening on the ground dealing with this fire.

It looks a lot better today than it did yesterday.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. And actually the first ferry this morning to bring those residents back to the island just pulled away from behind us. We caught up with some of those residents as they were coming back. They say they are extremely grateful to the firefighters for keeping that fire away from the city of Avalon.

At times it actually burned around the edges of the city. But they also were understandably a little anxious to get back to their homes and businesses and check them back for themselves. We did get some good news earlier this morning that we shared with some of those residents coming back.

We spoke with L.A. County Fire Department leaders as they were going into a briefing. And they tell us, they made progress on this fire overnight. We were last reporting 35 percent of the fire had been contained.

They say that number is now closer to 50 percent and that they should be releasing an official update on that number a little later on this morning. They also say they had fire crews out overnight, working, continuing to dig trenches and to make sure this fire doesn't creep back closer to these homes and to these businesses.

A big break for firefighters, as we just heard also across the country in Florida, has been the weather here. None of the hot, dry weather that we're accustomed to in Southern California. There is a fog here. Temperatures have been cooler. And actually the winds have been helping blow the flames away from the city. So that has all been helping fire fighters out.

More than 700 firefighters have come here to fight these flames. Actually on the ferry I came out on overnight, there were more firefighters coming out to relieve some of those on the lines and also to keep that work up-to-date and try to keep this all contained.

There are 10 structures so far that we know of being affected. Most of those are industrial. But one private home was included amongst those structures, burned completely down to the ground. We caught up with that homeowner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD WILSON, HOMEOWNER: We were evacuated at 2:30 yesterday afternoon, and we could see the fire come, you know, back behind this ridgeline and we knew at that point in time that, you know, there was a chance, but you know, you are sitting here, it's a beautiful day like it is today, you drive your car up, and they say, well, you need to get out of here.

And, OK, so we load our -- you know, what valuables we had, we really needed to take, pictures and those kinds of things. You never really think that you are going to come back to this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM: Well, this is starting to look like a city again this morning. Some of the businesses are opening back up. But right now on this islands only allowed, firefighters, residents and the media and other personnel covering and helping with this fire. So visitors not allowed back to Catalina quite yet.

Reporting live in Avalon, Kara Finnstrom for CNN.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Kara. Well, in Los Angeles, parts of Griffith Park is reopening today, including the zoo, the golf courses, and the Gene Autry Museum. Fire fighters are still trying to work other parts of that park there still burning, but expect to have those flames contained this morning.

That fire burned more than 800 acres and officials say restoration efforts will begin immediately.

HOLMES: Well, it's water, not fire, that is causing the problem in Missouri. Levee breaks this week have drenched farms, highways and railroad tracks. And water levels still rising. The Missouri River is expected to crest more than eight feet above flood stage tomorrow in Jefferson City, that state's capital.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Give you some live pictures now. Yes. That is Ms. Oprah Winfrey. She is speaking at Howard University there, addressing the graduates during their commencement. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oprah Winfrey, receive at your hand the honorary degree, Doctor of Humanities.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oprah Gail Winfrey, pre-eminent global media mogul, incomparable international philanthropist, there is no glass ceiling for you to shatter, for you are on an uncharted path guided by infinite divine providence.

You are a universal touchstone personifying living your best life. Spiritually, physically, productively, happily, generously, faithfully, and fully engaged as a servant leader to all of God's creatures. Your beloved mentor and friend, the renowned poet Maya Angelo has said she is an honest, hardworking woman who has developed an unusual amount of caring and courage.

Your unique gifts from the creator allow you to realize your own dreams and your generosity inspires you to help us all grow. We have grown in our own personal spirit soul selves as you communicate, inform, educate, empathize, challenge, commit, care, generate, give, dedicate, dream, trust, love, believe, act, and do. You hold no false boundaries of race, religion, or gender, demonstrating your limitless ability to relate to all.

You see with a true journalistic eye and intellect, but tell the complete story with your heart. A rare gift from God no doubt, and you use it well. You believe with every experience you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice, I always knew I was destined for greatness and you get in life what you have the courage to ask for.

We herald and applaud your maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Presley (ph) Lee, with whom you lived during the early formative years in rural Mississippi. She is an example of our collective ancestral grandmothers and what they bring to the table of life. The unconditional love, intuition, understanding, faith, courage, strength, wisdom and grace, all wrapped up in backbreaking hard work, with no complaints and heaping spoonfuls of more love, hope and heartfelt desires for our rise.

You said, I am what I am because of my grandmother. My strength, my sense of reasoning, everything. All of that was said by the time I was six. Reading from the age of three, you regularly spoke on Sundays at the Faith United Mississippi Baptist Church in your hometown in Mississippi.

You remember the words, and little Ms. Winfrey is here to do the recitation.

(LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And afterwards ladies saying, Hattie Mae, this girl is gifted and you believed them in talking has always been your forte. As a teenager in Nashville, Tennessee, living with your father Vernon, you continued speaking in churches throughout the city.

When my father took me, you say, it changed the course of my life. He saved me. I was definitely headed for a career as a juvenile delinquent. You have stated Vernon Winfrey explained the ways of the world to you by saying, there are those who make things happen, there are those who watch things happen, and there those that don't know what is happening.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1973 you left TSU as the first African- American TV correspondent and the youngest to ever anchor the news at WTVF TV in Nashville, and began your meteoric rise. And the string of firsts, bumping Donahue, syndicating "The Oprah Winfrey Show," establishing Harpo Incorporated, portraying Sofia in "The Color Purple," establishing Harpo Films, and owning a major part of the distribution with Kingworld, making you a leader in the world of marketing and branding.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" begins its 21st season on September 8th, 2007...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and has remained the number one talk show for 20 consecutive seasons.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The door to freedom is education, you have said and through your private charity, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation and The Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program, you demonstrate certain (ph) leadership by giving back. After visiting Nelson Mandela in 2000, you pledged $10 million to build schools in South Africa.

You created the Oprah Winfrey Leadership...

HOLMES: All right. We're listening in here, of course, expecting that lady there to the right of the screen to step up and address those graduates at Howard University. We are going to try to get in a quick break because he is introducing her and her list of accomplishments could go on.

NGUYEN: Run long.

HOLMES: For the rest of the day here. So we are going to try to get a quick commercial break in here. And when she steps up to the mike...

NGUYEN: We'll be right back with Oprah.

HOLMES: ... we'll hear from her. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: An emotional day for Oprah Winfrey, as she gets an honorary degree there from Howard University. You can see the emotion on her face. This is really a wonderful day and a wonderful moment for these graduates to hear Oprah Winfrey speak at their graduation ceremony.

HOLMES: Can you imagine? I can't remember who my commencement speaker was. No offense if you're listening.

NGUYEN: But you would remember if it was Oprah, wouldn't you?

HOLMES: If it was, oh, my goodness. But such a big deal for her. I believe it was a Doctorate of Humanities. There it is, up on our screen there. A Doctorate of Humanities for Oprah Winfrey. Of course, done just massive humanitarian work around the country, around the world really. And she is being honored for it today, and expecting to hear -- the class there waiting to hear from Oprah Winfrey herself.

And like you say, wiping the tears there, an emotional time for her and really we just heard a wonderful introduction, a long introduction, of course. She has a long list of accomplishments.

NGUYEN: That list goes so far and so wide. But let's listen to Ms. Winfrey as she speaks.

OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA MOGUL: Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: President Swygert, trustees, distinguished guests, my fellow honorees, my she-ro, Dr. Dorothy Height, graduates, parents, friends, what a deep honor to be here today for me.

I think Dr. Gates said it best. You can receive a lot of awards in your life, but there is nothing better...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: There is nothing better than to be honored by your own.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Thank you. Thank you. I'll be calling myself Dr. Winfrey on Monday morning on the Oprah show.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Thank you. Well, let me just say that everybody I know who has ever graduated from here, and that's a lot of y'all...

(LAUGHTER)

WINFREY: ... told me just wait 'til you get there. Just wait 'til you get there. They said to me you are going to feel the love. And Howard, I am feeling you today.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: I am feeling you today. I thank you for the honor of being able to celebrate with you today. I am here because my good friend and former executive producer of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Dianne Hudson, and new member of the Howard board of trustees, said to me, you have got to come to Howard.

Howard is the bomb.

(CHEER AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Dianne Hudson says, it is our pride, it is a mighty force. You just have to experience it, girl. And she told me this. She said, once you come, it's going to feel like family reunion. And are you going to want to come again and again.

Thank you, Dianne, because it's your passion and commitment to excellence and created continued excellence for this great institution that made me stop whatever I was planning on doing and get to Howard.

And I'm really so glad I did, because I get to see you all. I get to witness and welcome you all to the beginning of your new and fantastic life ahead, if you choose it to be so. And I know that it is there for the choosing, because there is nobody more nurtured and prepared to lead us into an exemplary future than the Howard University graduating class of 2007.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: I can say that nobody knows for sure where you will go in your life. What impact you will have on others. But each one of us may have a better chance than most, because you all have spent four years responding to the nurturing, which is the truest meaning of teaching.

You sat in your different classes. You have tested. You have done your reports. You have turned in your exams. And you deserved to be here today. Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: And all after all of the partying is over, and I know there will be some partying up in here, the anxiety may start to creep in. What do you now do with all of this education? I'm here to tell you today, don't worry. Don't worry about it. Relax. Take a breath.

You are in really good hands, because God has got your back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: All you need to do is know who you are. And I know you know who you are. Because I have, as a part of my Harpo production team two former graduates of Howard, 1991 and '94, Terry Mitchell (ph) and Jackie Taylor (ph), who came with me today, and all the way here they were telling me that when you leave Howard, one thing you know for sure is who you are.

Because Howard teaches you to define yourself by your own terms and not by somebody else's definition. So here are a few things I want you to know that I know for sure. Don't be afraid. All you have to know is who you are. Because there is no such thing as failure. There is no such thing as failure.

What other people label or might try to call failure, I have learned is just God's way of pointing you in a new direction.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: So it's true. You may take several paths that end up on what might be a dead end for you at the moment. But this is what I also know for sure. You must trust in the words of my favorite Bible verse that say: "And know the lord will lead to you a rock that is higher than thou."

Every one of us has a calling. There is a reason why you are here. I know this for sure. And that reason is greater than any degree. It's greater than any paycheck. And it's greater than anything anybody can tell you that are you supposed to do. Your real job is to find out what the reason is and get about the business of doing it.

Your calling isn't something that somebody can tell you about. It's what you feel. It's a part of your life force. It is the thing that gives you juice. The thing that are you supposed to do. And nobody can tell you what that is. You know it inside yourself.

You know, I come from good stock. Dr. Swygert was mentioning my grandmother who had a dream for me. And her dream was not a big dream. Her dream was that one day I could grow up -- she used to say, I want you to grow up and get yourself some good white folks, because my grandmother was a maid and she worked for white folks her whole life.

And her idea of having a big dream was to have white folks who at least treated her with some dignity, who showed her a little bit respect. And she used to say, I want you to -- I hope you get some good white folks that are kind to you. And I regret that she didn't live past 1963 to see that I did grow up and get some really good white folks working for me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Oh, yes. So have no fear. Have no fear. God has got your back. And sometimes, sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do. So don't expect the perfect job that defines your life's work to come along next week. If that happens, take the blessing and run with it. But, if not, be grateful to be on the path where you eventually want to live.

Abide in the space of gratitude, because this is what I know for sure. That only through being grateful for how far you've come in your past can you leave room for more blessings to flow. Blessings flow in the space of gratitude. Everything in your life is happening to teach you more about yourself so even in a crisis, be grateful. When disappointed, be grateful. When things aren't going the way you want them to, be grateful that you have sense enough to turn it around.

I spent eight years in Baltimore. I knew in those years in Baltimore that I was unhappy being a television news reporter. But the voice of my father, who thought he knew what I was supposed to do was in my head. He said don't you give up that job, girl. You're never going to $25,000 in one year. That's my father's dream for me. But God could dream a bigger dream than you can dream for yourself. And so I tried to live in the space of God's dream. And the television executives told me when I was in Baltimore that I was just -- it was too much. I was too big, and I was too black.

They told me that I was too engaged, that I was too emotional, I was too -- too much for the news and so they put me on a talk show one day just to run out my contract. And that was the beginning of my story. So I say, even when things are difficult, be grateful. Honor your calling, don't worry about how successful you will be. Don't worry about it. Focus on how significant you can be in service and the success will take care of itself. And always take a stand for yourself. Your values, you are defined by what you stand for. Your integrity is not for sale.

From the very beginning of my career in Baltimore, and I walked in the room and all of the men in the room said to me you need to change your name, because nobody is going to remember your name. You need to change your name and I said what do you want me to change it to? They said we think Susie is a good name. Susie is a friendly name. Susie is a name that people will remember. People can relate to Susie. I said I think I'm going to keep my name if people remember it or not. It is my name. You have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in. If I -- if I could count the number of times I have been asked to compromise and sell out myself for one reason or another, I would be a billionaire 10 times over. My integrity is not for sale and neither is yours.

There are many times -- there are many times Diane Hudson, who has working with me for 20 years can tell you this, many times when we were told that we would lose the advertisers, we would lose the ratings. I said I'm going to take the high road. They said you won't be able to survive in this business taking the high road. You won't be able to get the numbers. The advertisers will drop out and I said let them. Let them. We will chart our own course. We will stand up for what we believe in. And 21 years later, we're still the number one show.

The human death of our integrity is the most we have to offer and I would beseech you to remember what Harriet Tubman said of her efforts to spirit slaves from the plantation. Harriet Tubman once said that she could have liberated thousands more if only she could have convinced them that they were slaves. So do not be a slave to any form of selling out. Maintain your integrity. It has always been, I believe, the only solution to all of the problems in the world and it remains the only solution.

Through your presence here today, you come from a long line of giants whose shoulders you strand on, giants who graduated from this school and giants who never made it to school. I believe in the words of Jimmy Baldwin, your crown has been paid for, so put it on your head and wear it. Your crown has been paid for and so as you walk forth from this place, these hallowed grounds today, the most important lesson I can offer you from my own life is that in order to remain successful, to continue to wear the crown, as you walk the path of privilege, you must not forget the less privileged you left behind.

You cannot continue to succeed in the world or have a fulfilling life in the world unless you choose to use your life in service somehow to others and give back what you have been given. That's how you keep it. That's how you get it. That's how you grow it.

We are in a crisis in this country with black youth. They don't know what you know. They are falling and they're failing. They are dropping out at rates of 50 percent and higher because we, our generation, didn't teach them who they are. We have a responsibility to raise them up, to lift them up to save them, to liberate them from themselves, go out and save a child. And sometimes it doesn't even take a lot to save somebody. As you all know, I built this beautiful school in South Africa, and I spent a lot of time trying to grow my daughters into a future as bright as yours and I can't wait to see some of them come to Howard University.

Recently, I was with them and we were all sitting around talking about careers and the possibility for them and I speak to what is possible. When you see me, you see what is possible. Many years ago, I saw Sidney Poitier receive the academy award in 1964. I was 10 years old and I watched him get the award for "Lilies of the Field." And as he accepted his award, I had never seen a black man on television in a suit. I'd never seen a black man get out of limousine and go anywhere on television. And when I saw Sidney Poitier accept his academy award for "Lilies of the Field," I remember sitting on my linoleum floor baby sitting for my half sister and brother, saying, if a black man can do that, I wonder what I can do.

I stand here a symbol of what is possible when you believe in the dream of your own life. I stand as a symbol of that turtle on the fence. Somebody helped me to get here, just as I know you were helped to get here, Howard, because I know a lot of you came here with only the clothes on your back and a dream for what could be. And so as you have been saved, as you have been liberated, you must liberate others.

I want to share the story about one of our honorees here today. I was in class with all of my girls and we were talking about careers and all -- a lot of my girls say they want to be doctors, because they have seen the ravages of AIDS and they want to grow up and be doctors and some say they want to teach and others say they want to sing or act or dance and there was one girl, one girl who said she wanted to be a historian. And all the other girls started to snicker, because I don't think they had heard the word historian and later that afternoon, I saw her sitting in the computer lab and she was slumped in the chair, and I said, Vindelli (ph), tell me, why are you sitting slumped in the chair? And she said I'm feeling very silly. I'm feeling very, very sad. I said why? She said because I'm not like the other girls. They all want to be really fun things. But I have to tell you, mama Oprah, history is my passion. When I read about the ancestors, it makes me come alive.

So we're sitting there at the computer and I said you know what? I know a famous historian, let's see if we can look him up on the computer and so we punched in Dr. Henry Louis Gates and her expression was you mean he's black? And she said and is he alive? I said, yeah, he's both black and alive. I said you know what? I'm going to e-mail him and see if he will e-mail us back. So I e-mailed Dr. Henry Louis Gates and I told him about my -- my daughter, who was feeling ostracized because she wasn't like all the other girls who wanted to be fun things and Dr. Gates e-mailed back a three-page letter, telling her how as a young boy, he too was one of the only ones who wanted to be a scholar, a Rhodes scholar, telling her how they carried the torch of our ancestors into the future, telling her how it's all right to be what you want to be.

And as she read that letter, I had her read the letter out loud before me. I saw her shoulders get a little straighter, I saw her head get a little taller, I saw her straighten her back and I saw the biggest smile I've ever seen come from the face of a child. And I said tell me how you are feeling now. And she said I'm feeling all right. I'm feeling like I'm not the only one. And so in that moment, through a letter, I saw her get saved. I know that it's possible to do, for every one of our lives, every one of us in our lives to help somebody, to liberate somebody, to save somebody. I know that the motto for Howard is truth and service. And I know when you move through life living your own truth and live through the paradigm of service, you too will be all right. So I beseech you to go forth and serve. Serve first yourself. Honor your calling, do what you are supposed to do. Honor your creator, your family, your ancestors and when you walk this path of privilege, don't forget the less privileged you leave behind.

NGUYEN: Oprah Winfrey speaking there at Howard University. What a speech that was. She talked about honoring your calling and not losing site of your integrity and making sure that you help those along the way get to where they're going. It was really a wonderful speech and then she also talked a little bit about her own history, how people tried to change her when she was coming up. They wanted to change her first name to Susie. Would not be the same as Susie Winfrey, no. Oprah Winfrey is her name and in fact, she is going to be joining "Larry King Live" tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern. It's a replay of an interview. You don't want to miss that either. We've got much more coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Want to update you now on some breaking news. Checkpoints are up, helicopters, drones in the area, because the U.S. military is urgently looking for at least two missing U.S. soldiers, possibly a third. They came under attack near Mahmoudiya, which is a dangerous stretch of Sunni territory south of Baghdad. Here's a map of that. At least four, possibly five U.S. soldiers were killed in that same ambush. One thing making the numbers uncertain, it is still unclear whether the soldiers' Iraqi interpreter is among the missing or if that person is among the dead.

HOLMES: Rescuing American troops missing in enemy territory. That's the mission of a special U.S. military team.

NGUYEN: It is a dangerous and sometimes deadly job. Let's take a closer look now with CNN's Alex Quaid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOU DOBBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. troops in Iraq tonight are searching for a missing Air Force fighter pilot after his F-15 jet crashed near Fallujah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U.S. Army (INAUDIBLE) helicopter hit by ground fire near Samarra.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U.S. helicopter is down in Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Urban rescue, hostile territory, nightmare for trapped U.S. Troops, a challenge for combat search and rescue men trying to save them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

ALEX QUAID, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Helicopter pilot TC shares for the first time his urban rescue of special forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the call to go in and these guys were pretty busted up bad. Had it not been for the para-rescue men, these two special forces would have lost their lives.

QUAID: Para-rescue men or PJs, like Kyle, who worked the urban recovery of a British aircraft in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were basically the first ones in on the ground. You got the whole town is coming out to check you out. A lot of Taliban sympathizers and basically you just have to keep your calm.

QUAID: Calm was key on a different Afghan mission for rescue pilot (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a SEAL team executing their invasion plan and running that battle with the enemy that was out there.

QUAID: (INAUDIBLE) crew went in to get an injured navy SEAL hiding in a village out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had taken an RPG in the middle of their group and that's how he had actually gotten wounded and then he had gotten separated from them.

QUAID: More on his story, later. With ongoing operations in hostile urban terrain, real-world training is crucial. Window, a back seater in an F-15 will soon deploy. Tonight, he plays survivor, shot down onto a building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right in the middle of an urban area where there is obviously an enemy.

QUAID: Injured, his GPS broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have my radio, but I can't tell them exactly where I'm at, because I don't really know.

QUAID: How real is this for you? I mean you weren't going to be deployed very shortly after this scenario?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's as real as it can get without being in enemy territory. You just set your goggles up so all you have to do is slide them down off your helmet.

QUAID: Tips from survival, evasion, resistance and escape or SEARS specialist Jesse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As for as enemy position, he has to have a fairly decent idea of location of these forces.

QUAID: So the rescue helicopter coming for him doesn't get shot down. (INAUDIBLE) reaches (INAUDIBLE) the A-10 fire craft looking for him overhead with the helicopters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the ejection, my leg was potentially broken.

QUAID: Does it bring it any closer to home that, hey, you are going over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me think long and hard about it.

QUAID:The voice on the radio is A-10 pilot Sandy, who is also about to deploy. You are up there trying to watch out for those guys, but that could be you on the ground some day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. It could be me on the ground while we are out there trying to pick somebody else up too.

QUAID: Joey (ph) arrives. That's the helicopter team and the PJs like Mark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. The potential for disaster there is phenomenal. When are you looking at a 22,000 pound aircraft, hovering, within six inches of his position.

QUAID: They could be blown off the roof, or PJ Kyle says get shot at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very vulnerable. Everyone and their mom is going to come out and they're going to want to take pot shots at you.

QUAID: In the middle of all of this, they are medically assessing the survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to be fast, you got to be quick and you got to be, know what are you doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best feeling is probably once they get back on board and you hit full power to get out of here.

QUAID: Which brings us back to the navy SEAL hiding in a village in Afghanistan, waiting for (INAUDIBLE) combat search and rescue men after a gun battle killed the rest of his field team. When you were flying into this Afghan village, you never felt at all that this might be a trap?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was always in the back of our minds that it could be.

QUAID: Especially when his PJs jumped out and were met by men dressed in traditional clothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:. The one navy SEAL identified himself and he had been wounded. They grabbed him and we got out of town.

QUAID: Later, they recovered the bodies of the SEAL's teammates in a challenging, high-altitude mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came into a hover and basically this little small hole in the trees and hoisted their two bodies out. I'll never forget when we landed bag at Bagram, the rest of the SEAL team was all out there, and when we opened up the doors and the flags were on it, all of these special operator guys, all kind of stood at attention and saluted.

QUAID: From villages in Afghanistan to cities in Iraq, from assisting special forces get POW Jessica Lynch out of town to helping recover more than 100 wounded and dead in the 2003 U.N. compound attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only do you have combatants, you also have civilians.

QUAID: This is urban combat search and rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a see something like this, a mission this big, that feels great because I know that they are coming for me.

QUAID: Alex Quaid, CNN, Avon Park Air Force range, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: That just gives you an idea of the search and rescue operations. Of course, one is underway right now in Iraq as there are, there was an ambush a little bit earlier today. Eight people involved, U.S. coalition forces, seven of them U.S. soldiers, one of them an Iraqi interpreter. Five people dead so far, three still missing. So obviously, a lot is being done right now to find those three still missing and hopefully bring them back alive. HOLMES: A massive search and unclear right now if that Iraqi interpreter is among the missing or among the dead, some confusion there, but no doubt, a massive search going on. Again, that attack happened south of Baghdad. You can stick here with CNN. We're going to be covering that story all day today and including in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: That's right, coming up with Fredricka Whitfield and she joins us now with a look on what's is on the plate today. Hi Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello both of you and of course, in the noon hour, we're going to continue on the intensified search of those missing U.S. personnel in Iraq. Meantime, I also spoke with CNN's Michael Holmes right after his eighth trip to Iraq. He had a very candid conversation with me about what military operations are, about the sophistication of the insurgents these days and some very candid remarks about what Iraqi people think and feel and think when they see the presence of U.S. troops in their neighborhoods these days. He says it's all evolved over the eight trips that he's been in Iraq. And he gives us an idea of just what to expect this weekend in his profile the mayhem in Iraq, profile that you'll see at 8:00 hour here on Saturday and Sunday throughout the weekend.

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness.

WHITFIELD: I know. Is that crazy? Would anyone expect to see over $4 a gallon gas in this country?

NGUYEN: I sure hope not.

WHITFIELD: That's the hope that a lot of folks won't be experiencing that, but especially as folks begin to make plans to hit the roads for those summer road trips, what kind of expectations might there be about how much you'll be paying at the pump?

NGUYEN: How about we just stay home.

WHITFIELD: No, we've got to get out there and explore.

NGUYEN: I'm not paying $4 a gallon.

HOLMES: I'll drive.

WHITFIELD: That's sweet. I like it, very chivalrous.

NGUYEN: He gets like 10 miles per gallon.

HOLMES: You got to pay the gas money, but I'll drive.

NGUYEN: No free rides here.

HOLMES: We'll see you here shortly. Thank you, ma'am.

NGUYEN: Sheryl Crow might want to consider re-writing one of her biggest hits.

HOLMES: Because all she's going to wanted to do now is maybe get some sleep.

NGUYEN: Or some diapers.

HOLMES: We'll explain this straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Let's see how much fun she is having now because singer Sheryl Crow has a new reason to celebrate on this Mother's Day. She is a new mother.

HOLMES: Yes. The new mom announced on her Web site that she has adopted a baby boy. He was born two weeks ago. And she named him Wyatt Steven after her father and brother. So happy Mother's Day to the new mom. And speaking of bundles of joy, this is a big bundle to tell you about here.

NGUYEN: Very large. Wow! Is that a toddler?

HOLMES: In Buffalo, New York, thought this guy would weigh around 11 pounds. Not so much.

NGUYEN: This is indeed a newborn and he was born tipping the scales at a whopping 14 pounds, 5 ounces, hurts just even thinking about it. (INAUDIBLE) is already wearing clothes made for three to six-month-old babies. Even his mom was surprised by his size.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMMY DOUGHERTY, MOTHER: When they said how much he weighed, I just starting bawling my eyes out in the operating room actually. It was just so surprising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Get this the baby was delivered about Caesarian section, 10 days before for good reason.

HOLMES: And he starts kindergarten next year.

So the NEWSROOM of course continues with Fredricka Whitfield coming up.

WHITFIELD: That's one big bundle of joy.

NGUYEN: Your little one wasn't that big.

WHITFIELD: No. 7-11 that was OK. That was average, but 14... You guys have a great day.

We've been reporting on this all morning long out of Iraq, missing soldiers, three of them. We're continuing to follow that story and we'll show you an intense, behind the scenes look at life in Iraq through the eyes of CNN's Michael Holmes.

Also, a weekend of wild fires, flames still burning from coast to coast and in between. We'll get the latest on the first.

This teen is fighting a terminal illness, but he's still typing out words on inspiration on the Internet. The news unfolding live this Saturday, May 12th. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and you're in the NEWSROOM.

A U.S.-led force attacked in Iraq, at least five personnel dead, three others missing. Let's get ride to CNN's Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Nic, what do we understand happened?

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