Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Obama to Get Right to Work after Inauguration; Obama's Challenges; A Day to Remember; The Next First Lady; Martin Luther King's Dream
Aired January 19, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from Washington, D.C. we are live on the mall. We're going to be live throughout this entire hour. Not far from the spot on the west front of the Capitol where just 13 hours from now Barack Obama will place one hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible, raise the other, and become America's 44th President.
The crowds are already gathering, they are excited; we're told a security sweep is about to get under way. One more check in a week that has seen a lot of them. Mailboxes removed, steam grates and manhole covers welded shut, snipers on rooftops, thousands of troops on alert.
But if the preparations are intimidating the atmosphere is joyful. The Obamas and Bidens have been soaking it in, observing Martin Luther King Day. Painting houses and meeting troops, dining with John McCain tonight and Colin Powell.
The evening wrapped up about an hour ago with a dinner honoring Joe Biden. President-elect Obama returning tonight to Blair House, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from his new home.
We have some breaking news as well tonight, Vice President Cheney injuring himself, moving boxes believe it or not. He'll be in a wheelchair tomorrow; a very busy night on the eve of a history-making day.
Our coverage tonight begins with Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As inauguration goers began to clog the streets and subway stations in the nation's capital, the President-elect was painting.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good practice for me because I'm moving into a new house tomorrow.
CROWLEY: Amidst the celebration, Barack Obama took a kind of time-out to begin work on one of his oft-stated goals: changing the culture.
From a private visit with wounded troops to this teen homeless shelter and a visit with volunteers writing letters to soldiers, Barack Obama paid tribute to Martin Luther King, wrapping the King legacy into the high ambitions of the Obama era -- the remaking of America. OBAMA: And on a day where we remember not just a dreamer, but a doer, an actor. Somebody who dedicated his life to working at the grassroots level on behalf of change; on behalf of making communities better.
CROWLEY: A former community organizer, Obama made community service a cornerstone of his campaign. And he intends to turn that into a kind of economic call to arms after he moves into the White House.
OBAMA: Given the crisis that we're in and hardships that so many people are going through, we can't allow any idle hands.
CROWLEY: Also turning campaign rhetoric into reality for now, the President-elect hosted a salute to John McCain. A bipartisan gesture designed to cool the tone of Washington and dissolve the aftertaste of an often bitter election.
OBAMA: It's not been the need to compromise for politics' sake that has shaped his distinguished career. It is rather a pure and deeply felt love of his country that comes from the painful knowledge of what life is like without it.
CROWLEY: On the eve of the inauguration, there is nary a discouraging word to be heard in the corridors of power or the streets of Washington. It will not always be like this. It may not ever be like this again.
But for this moment, this is a city teeming with people, history and hope.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Teeming with all of that tonight. Moving on to what we are learning about Mr. Obama's inaugural address and what comes after it. How his staff plans to hit the job running. With that and the Cheney news we are joined once again by Ed Henry.
Ed, what's going on with Cheney?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Anderson.
What happened, we're being told that the Vice President was trying to move some of his own boxes into his personal home today. Sort of wrenched his back and he's going to have to now be in a wheelchair tomorrow at the inaugural ceremonies.
Meanwhile, the incoming administration, while the outgoing administration is trying to pack up, the incoming administration trying to hit the ground running, as you said. We're learning about the inaugural address and how the incoming President is going to be talking about how he wants to bring back trust on Wall Street and in Washington, usher in what he's calling a new era of responsibility. And there -- I think this is such an urgent task that some of the incoming White House staffers are going to have a couple of vans over on Capitol Hill, we're told. And as soon as the new President is sworn in they're going to head over here to the White House behind me and get right to work.
We're being told the new President will be jumping right in, too.
HENRY: After the inaugural address is over and he has made his way to the White House, CNN has learned new President Barack Obama is planning to head right into the Oval Office before even sitting down in the reviewing stand to watch the rest of the parade.
Aides say he wants to get right down to business. As soon as Tuesday he plans to name at least one special envoy to deal with the Mideast crisis.
DAVID AXELROD, NEW WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: The President-elect has said repeatedly that he intends to engage early and aggressively with diplomacy all over the world and using the men and women, the professionals who are in place who are great and where appropriate, special envoys.
HENRY: Then aides say on Wednesday the new President will bring in his senior economic advisers to immediately suggest he's on top of the financial crisis. And to show he believes the nation is up to the monumental challenges ahead -- a key theme of his inaugural address that he's been previewing.
OBAMA: Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead, I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure. That it will prevail. That the dream of our founders will live on in our time.
HENRY: Another big moment Wednesday. The new commander-in-chief will huddle with military leaders and tell them to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months.
What's really going on is he's trying to reassure nervous liberals he will fulfill his signature campaign promise. And aides say there will be other dramatic moves to show a clean break from President Bush's approach to the war on terror, with multiple executive orders.
ROBERT GIBBS, NEW WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've talked about banning torture and closing Guantanamo Bay; the process by which that will happen, I think those are probably the big things that could happen as early as the first week.
HENRY: He also may flex his muscles this week with other executive orders on the home front that will have a huge impact on millions of Americans starting with an Executive Order that would reverse a Bush administration policy that banned taxpayer money from funding international family planning groups that promote abortion as an option. Another move under consideration would raise fuel efficiency on automobiles which would please environmentalists, but put more pressure on the struggling car industry.
COOPER: Ed, an Obama spokesperson has said that they plan on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Have they put a timeline on that?
HENRY: They have not yet done that, Anderson. That's one of many policy decisions they're going to have to make. It's going to get very difficult, fast and furious in trying to deal with one campaign promise after another.
Meanwhile, the outgoing administration behind me, literally the lights just started going down in the last few moments. And I want to bring in Anita McBride, she's the Chief of Staff to the outgoing First Lady.
We were just talking about the nostalgia you're feeling now. Because the outgoing President and First Lady, actually they had the President's parents there basically here for dinner tonight. The President's parents with him. A little bit of nostalgia in the air.
ANITA MCBRIDE, CHIEF OF STAFF TO FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: Right absolutely. Here's a family that has walked through history not once by twice; Presidents 41 and 43 having dinner together here on the final night of 43's presidency. Now, that's very historic, too.
HENRY: Now tell me, you were saying there're still some lights on in the bottom that we could see of the resident staff. And you said some of them will be on cots tonight working all night to get this ready for President Obama tomorrow.
Talk about that process. What's going on behind us?
MCBRIDE: Well, sure. They've been working very hard to get the White House ready. They've been working very hard also to make sure that the transition out of the current family goes very smoothly, too. And the majority of the Bushes' belongings have to have left the White House.
So that there is more than ample time this time to move in the Obama family. And the resident staff know exactly what to do. Many of them have done it for many administrations. So they are quite prepared.
Of course, worried about traffic tomorrow and want to be sure that they're here as soon as the -- you know, in the morning.
HENRY: Thank you, Anita McBride.
It's another sign of this historic transition that's going on, Anderson in the building right behind me. And it's fascinating most of the staffers have already turned off their computers, they've moved everything out, they've given their Blackberries back to the government. Anita says she's giving hers back tomorrow at Andrews Air Force base when she goes with the President and the First Lady. They're going to be flying to Texas. I think she's giving up the Blackberry basically at noon tomorrow -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ed Henry great. That was a really interesting interview. I appreciate it, Ed, thanks very much from the White House tonight.
We are watching literally history unfold hour by hour. And we are just a few hours away now from the inaugural celebration.
Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. We are live throughout this hour and so is our chat, AC360.com. Let us know what your thoughts are, or your reflections are on this Martin Luther King Day as well as about the inauguration.
Also, watch Erica Hill's live web cast during the break.
Up next, our panel on the challenges facing Mr. Obama: David Gergen, Alex Castellanos, Jamal Simmons join us.
Also ahead tonight, damage control after the Bidens go on Oprah Winfrey; what Joe Biden's wife said about the jobs, plural, she says Mr. Obama offered her husband.
And later, rarely seen video of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. talking about electing the first black President and when he believed it would happen.
First, U2 performing at the concert here on the National Mall yesterday courtesy of HBO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This country is great because of its people. Don't underestimate the power for people who join together to accomplish amazing things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President-elect Obama today. Now, less than 13 hours from the start of his administration. He's got a lot of work ahead of him to say the least.
Let's talk about those challenges with senior political analysts David Gergen and also from the right Alex Castellanos and on the left Jamal Simmons.
David Gergen, has any President-elect in our lifetime faced many challenges as Barack Obama now does?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not in our lifetimes, Anderson. And perhaps George Washington at the beginning of the Republic, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, but no one in recent years.
And what's striking to me what someone very close to Barack Obama told me shortly before the election he's really enjoyed the campaign, he's learned a great deal about traveling the country but what he's itching to do, what he loves to do is to go in there and get his hands dirty trying to solve problems.
And that's -- he wants to govern. I think that's what he's shown during this transition. He's been the most active transition President-elect we've ever had; acting-President in effect on domestic issues.
And now we know tomorrow afternoon, Ed Henry reported, he may just go into the White House and get started even before the inaugural parade gets down the street.
COOPER: Jamal Simmons, you've been supporting Barack Obama for a long time. What is your greatest concern about the weeks and months ahead? I mean, what is sort of the greatest unknown, you think, facing this President?
JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN STAFFER: Well, you know, the polling shows that, in fact, people are willing to be patient. But the question is how long are they truthfully willing to be patient? People are going to really have to understand that this is -- you know, being President is going to be a long time fixing the problems that it is that we have.
But what's really amazing is I spent this morning at a breakfast. I went to Morehouse College which is where Martin Luther King graduated from. We had breakfast this morning -- the University Alumni had breakfast this morning in the Willard hotel where Martin Luther King slept the night before he gave the "I Have a Dream" speech.
And what's phenomenal about the Barack Obama story is that it's such a uniquely American story. That nowhere else in the world that someone can come from where Barack Obama came from, not just the color of his skin but also where he was born, not a member of the elite, and be able to make it to the top of the political class in these country. It's just such a phenomenal American story; I think we all should take time to celebrate it.
COOPER: Alex, I mean, every President comes in talking about bipartisanship, every President comes in talking about let's put politics aside. And yes these are heady day with this inauguration but in the weeks ahead. I mean, does that kind of rhetoric really last, doesn't every President get bogged down in politics?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, those sky-high approval ratings that he has are something else. Also, they're political capital. They're capital you can spend to buy the change that you want to -- to bring to the country.
You know, Lyndon Johnson used it for the Voting Rights Act. Ronald Reagan used it to crush inflation, take a country through a hard time and then renew the economy. This President has some great challenges to use that political capital too.
As we do, I hope we'll see a little bit of a return to some partisan bickering because we've got some important choices to make. But you know, also we should remember, yes, he's got great challenges and all of that. But this country has fought World War II. That we took on the Nazis who could conquer the world. This country took on the Soviet empire. We could all be speaking Russian right now.
So America's faced some big challenges before. And we've done pretty well at it. Always when we've called on the strength of the American people, which is what this President to be seems to be doing.
COOPER: Well David, to Alex's point though, mobilizing to fight the World War II took the entire country -- changed an entire country to a wartime economy, to a wartime footing converting factories to produce armaments, to produce weaponry and planes and tanks.
Is this country ready for the challenges ahead? I mean, these economic challenges, none of us have lived through this kind of thing before.
GERGEN: I think the country is certainly willing and ready to rally around Obama and rally around the cause of change. What -- to go back to Jamal's point, there's one question about how patient they're going to be.
There's another point about how willing they're going to be, how willing all of us are going to be to accept sacrifice, true sacrifice. No President in a long time has asked very much of us by way of sacrifice.
And we don't know what the political system will do in that case. My sense at the moment is there's so much goodwill built up that he has about six months to a year in which he can act, he can act boldly, people will support him on it, and one issue is going to be whether he makes many mistakes or not.
Franklin Roosevelt when he came in did make some mistakes. He had some setbacks early on. And it took a while to get things really -- get it right. So we just don't -- we don't know what the political limits are. What we do know is we have huge, huge problems and we've got the most popular President we've seen in a long time with an enormous amount of goodwill, not only in this country but all around the world.
SIMMONS: Anderson, I do think we've seen at least a couple times before, this is maybe possible. Right after Katrina, we saw it after 9/11, the American people seem to be very ready and willing to do something to help the country.
And one of the big failings of George Bush is that he didn't ask us to do anything to help the country. I think when you talk to people on the Obama team, they see this economic crisis that we're facing as a similar moment. That they can go to the country and say, here's what we have to do to dig out of the ditch, and everybody grab a shovel.
COOPER: Yes, I think if I remember, President Bush recommended people to go shopping to try to help the economy after 9/11.
Jamal, I just to play for our viewers this moment that has occurred on Oprah Winfrey earlier today, a kind of an interesting moment. Jill Biden speaking about -- basically saying that her husband, Joe Biden was offered two jobs, both Vice President or the Secretary of State for him to decide.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: Joe had the choice to be Secretary of State or Vice President. And I said, Joe -- oh, well. Ok. He did. So --
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, OPRAH SHOW: You said, Joe, it's ok?
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: You ask that right, now go ahead.
WINFREY: Go ahead.
J. BIDEN: So I said, Joe, if you're Secretary of State, you'll be away. We'll never see you. I'll see you at a state dinner once in a while.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jamal, I mean, was he really offered both jobs and he got to decide?
SIMMONS: You know, the only people who actually know what happened in that conversation are Barack Obama and Joe Biden. What I suspect happened, and we saw a statement today from Joe Biden's press person that came out and said that's not actually what happened.
I think what I suspect happened is Barack Obama and Joe Biden had a conversation about a variety of things including, you know, his interest in what he would be like as Secretary of State and what he would be like as Vice President.
And but -- from what I understand from the administration or from the incoming administration is that there was only one job offer made and that was to be the Vice President.
CASTELLANOS: It does reveal something interesting, Anderson. We all thought Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton's toughest challenge would be to find a country somewhere to take in Bill Clinton. But she may have a little turf battle with the Vice President of the United States who either way seems to have a very strong foreign policy portfolio in the President's ear.
So it's going to be interesting how that's resolved, who's actually the number one, number two on foreign policy.
GERGEN: Anderson, the lesson for me is --
COOPER: Although I think about -- go ahead.
GERGEN: Yes. Unleash Jill Biden. She's going to be great fun in the next few years.
COOPER: No doubt about that.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for staying up late with us. David Gergen, Alex Castellanos, Jamal Simmons, appreciate it.
We're going to let you guys head down to the Huffington Post Party, going on right now at the Newseum. Randi Kaye brings us a report from there shortly.
Also next tonight, how Dr. King was honored today in a church he and his father made famous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MARTIN LUTHER, KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Frankly, I have seen certain changes in the United States over the last two years that surprised me. I've seen levels of compliance with the civil rights bill and changes that have been most surprising.
So on the basis of this, I think, we may be able to get a Negro President in less than 40 years. I would think that this could come in 25 years or less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Martin Luther King Jr. in an interview from 1964. He believed there would be an African-American President in his lifetime.
And tomorrow, five days after King would have turned 80 years old his vision will come true. That clip comes to us from BBC World News America.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. From "I Have a Dream" to "Yes, We Can," it is a day to remember and for many to rejoice.
Here is Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the eve of history a day of tribute and a defining one. In sermons and services across the country, Americans celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the nation reaching back to the past and looking ahead to what will happen on the Capitol steps tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a new president. Everything. About to make a change. You know, America is going to be different from now on.
JOHNS: It is indisputable that King paved the road Obama will take to the White House. General Colin Powell sees an inseparable link between the two men.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a tribute to the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King because this is what it was all about as far as he was concerned. That people should be judged on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin.
OBAMA: Dr. King used to say if you sweep floors for a living, make sure you're the best floor sweeper there has ever been. All right?
JOHNS: The first African-American elected President of the United States honored the civil rights leader by rolling up his sleeves and helping to paint a teen shelter in Washington. Following through on King's pledge for national service and promising to carry the torch.
At King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, fulfilling his dream will not end when Obama puts his hand on the Lincoln bible.
ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS, KING CENTER DIRECTOR: This great and historic election of Barack Obama is not, and I'll repeat, is not the realization of the dream of Martin Luther King. The dream was not about an individual or any race of people attaining power. It is a human dream.
JOHNS: King's hopes taking hold in Obama. And look how far it's come.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That gives one insight that, oh, I can really do something with my life. Oh, I can dream of becoming President.
JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Look how far it has come.
Still ahead, sharing the wealth and the experience. How one man is giving others a front-row seat to the inauguration? A really cool story that you want to watch.
But first, as we go to break, Stevie Wonder and Usher from the concert here on the Mall yesterday courtesy of HBO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(STEVIE WONDER AND USHER SINGING)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BOYS' CHOIR FROM KENYA SINGING)
COOPER: That was a boys' choir of Kenya. They're also going to be performing tomorrow as well. It's amazing here, even though it's late at night, it's 11:30 here in Washington, D.C. on the mall. There's still an awful lot of people who have come out, just want to kind of soak in as much history as they can and just kind of experience this night. The crowd is very excited.
What's your name?
COOPER: You can talk normal; you don't have to yell.
Where you from?
COOPER: You don't have to yell. I know you're excited. Calm down. Calm down. Why did you want to be here?
LAUREN: I'm actually here with a conference, a youth leadership conference. I just wanted to see Obama and make history and be here for, like, my grandparents who couldn't be here and everybody who thought this wouldn't happen and like --
COOPER: You think about your grandparents on this occasion.
LAUREN: I do. I know they've been waiting for this forever, since they didn't even -- they couldn't even imagine this happening. And now it's happening and it's here.
COOPER: You got a big button, too.
LAUREN: I did. I paid way too much money for this button. It doesn't matter.
COOPER: What did you pay for that button?
LAUREN: Like, $10 I think.
COOPER: Well, you're helping the economy. The economy needs the help.
LAUREN: Yes, I'm trying to help the economy.
COOPER: Where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from Ithaca, New York. We drove down from Ithaca.
COOPER: You drove all the way down from Ithaca just to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to see you, Anderson. COOPER: Why was it important for you to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wanted to be a part of history. We figure, why not? Our parents' generation did it and we should, too.
COOPER: And are you going to be on the mall tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. We probably won't sleep tonight.
COOPER: What's going to go through your mind at 12:00 when Barack Obama raises his hand and takes that oath?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my goodness. History is being made. I'm so proud to be there. My grandparents are going to be watching.
And actually I'm from Chicago, Illinois. I'm from Hyde Park. I'm Obama's neighbor. I live three blocks away from him. I was there in Grant Park when he gave his acceptance speech. This is just like the culmination of everything. It's going to be awesome.
COOPER: All right. Well, I'm glad you're here. Thanks very much.
When we come back we'll tell a pretty remarkable story about one man who made it possible for so many others to be here to witness history. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Why did you want to be here? Why did you -- you flew all the way from Nassau in the Bahamas?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because history is in the making. You need to be a part of history. I want to be a part of history. I was around when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was around when he fought for equality. This is the reality of it. I think America should give itself a big pat on the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A woman who has traveled a long way to witness history; I talked to her on the mall yesterday. A party this big does not come cheap. Reportedly the price tag for the inauguration is a staggering $150 million.
Many of the invited guests and ticket holders had the money to celebrate. Others do not. To help some of them, one man has given them the opportunity of a lifetime. Wait until you see what he did.
Here's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you spent over $1 million to give people the experience of a lifetime, you'd probably be greeted like this, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
TUCHMAN: Earl Stafford found out Washington's J.W. Marriott Hotel was offering 300 of its rooms, $200,000 worth of food and this perfect viewing sight for the inaugural parade for a cool million dollars. Stafford heads a faith-based foundation that helps serve the poor, ill, disadvantaged.
EARL STAFFORD, INAUGURATION DONOR: The lord leads our life. And we were inspired to do this. I often joked that if it was up to me this wouldn't have gotten done.
TUCHMAN: But it has been done. About 350 people from 23 states have arrived in Washington without having to pay a penny; compliments of Stafford.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here pinching myself.
TUCHMAN: But it's not just watching the inauguration and staying in a luxurious hotel. The participants selected by a number of civic groups get to pick an outfit of formal wear so they can look their best to the post inaugural ball.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like Cinderella at the ball; coming to the ball. This is just so exciting.
TUCHMAN (on camera): I think you look very sharp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It feels good except for the pants.
TUCHMAN: Those are a little loose, huh? But you look like a million bucks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe me, I know what that looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the most amazing -- I can't find words -- thing that has happened to me in my life.
TUCHMAN: The clothes, the shoes, the jewelry have all been donated. And they're not for the borrowing. They're for the keeping.
Crystal Williams is 17 years old. She says she feels transformed after being invited to the inauguration.
How do you feel about being here in Washington?
CRYSTAL WILLIAMS: I'm enjoying it.
TUCHMAN: Isn't it exciting?
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.
TUCHMAN: Where are you from?
WILLIAMS: North Carolina. TUCHMAN: Have you been to Washington before?
WILLIAMS: No, sir.
TUCHMAN: What do you think of the city?
WILLIAMS: I think it's beautiful.
TUCHMAN: I bet you won't ever forget this experience.
WILLIAMS: I won't.
TUCHMAN (voice over): Earl Stafford started this foundation after a successful career as a technology entrepreneur.
STAFFORD: This is our feeble effort to try to do good in America and inspire others to do the same.
TUCHMAN: He also paid for a huge prayer breakfast and lunch honoring Martin Luther King Jr. where the participants dined with dignitaries.
STAFFORD: If you don't believe in God -- if you didn't believe in God when you came in here and you don't believe now, see me afterwards.
TUCHMAN: What many of the participants can't believe is that they're in Washington for this most historic of inaugurations.
(on camera) What do you think about Barack Obama being president?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's my man. I thank God for him.
TUCHMAN: Well, you look very beautiful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
TUCHMAN (voice over): It's an experience of a lifetime that many have waited a lifetime for.
COOPER: What an amazing, amazing experience
TUCHMAN: Amazing thing to do.
COOPER: What is his hope that these will people do after they leave here?
TUCHMAN: Yes. They're gone on Wednesday but they won't be forgotten according to Earl Stafford. He says that he will keep in touch with them. And that down the road this people need resources his foundation will give resources.
You know Anderson, what's amazing about these people, they're from all over the place, all different kinds of people. Lots of children.
There's one woman that's part of this, her name is Rachel Tucker; she's 106 years old from Alexandria, Virginia. Born when Teddy Roosevelt was president; has been alive for 27 inaugurations. She'll go to her first inauguration tomorrow.
COOPR: Wow. That's incredible. Really amazing. Gary Tuchman thanks so much.
Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you ever experienced this?
TUCHMAN: This whole --
TUCHMAN: It is really amazing. It is just such a party. And it's very unique to the United States.
COOPER: Yes, it is. All right, Gary. Thanks.
Next, the big question about Michelle Obama: what will she be wearing tomorrow night? We're going to have a who's who of designers who fought to create her inaugural gown, First Lady fashion. Coming up.
First, Bruce Springsteen from the concert here on the mall yesterday, courtesy of HBO:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SINGING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: Whether it's picking up trash, whether it's writing letters to our troops, we can all do something special. We can all work to make this great nation one filled with hope and prosperity for us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michelle Obama earlier tonight at the Verizon Center. In just over 12 hours she will become the nation's next First Lady. Imagine what that must feel like on this evening.
No first lady escapes the scrutiny that comes with the role. Of course, the Obamas are expected to attend ten inaugural balls tomorrow night and all eyes will be on Mrs. Obama. What kind of fashion statement might she make? A lot of people have been asking that question.
More on that from Erica Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michelle Obama's status as a fashion icon was sealed last fall on "The Tonight Show" on the heels of the $150,000 Sarah Palin wardrobe debacle.
JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Now, I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I'm guessing about 60 grand? $60,000, $70,000 for that outfit?
M. OBAMA: Actually, this is a J. Crew ensemble.
LENO: Really? Wow.
HILL: J. Crew found out just how good it could be as sales of the outfit soared.
MARY ALICE STEPHENSON, HARPER'S BAZAAR: She is selling clothes out. The moment she puts something on it sells out within 48 hours.
HILL: In June an appearance on "The View" was so good for the White House black market retail chain it's now capitalizing on the Obama connection with a new tag line: "From our White House to yours."
M. OBAMA: It's fun to look pretty.
BARBARA WALTERS, HOST, "THE VIEW": You have a flair for it, too. They compare you to Jackie Kennedy very often.
M. OBAMA: That's very flattering.
HILL: It's a comparison many make. But stylists and Harper's Bazaar contributor, Mary Alice Stephenson, says there's an important difference.
STEPHENSON: Jackie Kennedy, when she showed up on inauguration night, I think there was a collective wow. She brought glamour to the White House.
What makes Michelle so special is that she seems normal. She has the same kind of figures that most of us have as women. She dresses in a very American way.
HILL: Michelle Obama also mixes high-end designers like Narciso Rodriguez to Coon and Maria Pinto with more affordable pieces from stores like J. Crew or even H & M, making her and her style more accessible.
STEPHENSON: That's a very realistic way of dressing for women now. And she shows you that it's not about the dress. It's about the woman that wears it.
HILL: But for one night, it will be about that dress. And every major American designer was hoping to create it. Among those sketching out their vision for Women's Wear Daily, Diane Von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Oscar de la Renta. CARL SFERRAZZA ANTHONY, NATIONAL FIRST LADIES LIBRARY: The inaugural gown has taken on a significance akin to the Holy Grail of Inauguration Day.
HILL: While Jackie Kennedy's was a hit, Nancy Reagan's glittering off the shoulder gown in 1981 was considered over the top for a country in recession. Four years earlier, Rosalynn Carter was panned for wearing the same dress she'd worn to her husband's gubernatorial balls.
So what will this First Lady wear?
STEPHENSON: I think she has to be elegant. She has to be appropriate. But she'll use color or she'll use cut to be a little sexy and there'll be a little moment of that individuality that we all love.
HILL: And you can bet Wednesday morning that dress will be the talk of the town.
Erica Hill, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Erica, that dress is then sent to the Smithsonian.
HILL: It is.
COOPER: All the inaugural dresses are in the Smithsonian, right?
HILL: That's right, they are all there. And you can visit them in Washington, which is great.
I have to mention to you, I did ask, with all this talk about dress and clothes and what she's wearing, even if some of its reasonable, is it a tough thing to talk about when the economy is tanking and people are having trouble putting food on the table. Mary Alice Stephenson said to me, in her own way, this is Michelle Obama offering up a little hope in giving people a little bit of an escape to think about what -- maybe they would wear -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, time now for our "Beat 360" winners; our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption for a photo we put on our blog. A caption that's better than one we can put up with. Tonight's picture, President-elect Obama with his daughter, Malia and future First Lady, Michelle Obama at the "We are One" inaugural celebration yesterday.
Our staff winner tonight is Kay. Her caption: "Dad, you promised me the Jonas Brothers would be here."
Our viewer winner is Aaron from Kentucky. His caption, "Yes, Malia, they do say 'Hail to the Chief,' but I still bow to the princess."
HILL: What a wise man.
COOPER: Aaron, your "Beat 360" t-shirt is on the way. That's a pretty good one right there.
Still to come, celebrating his dream: honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.
But first, Barack Obama's America: the challenge, the inspiration seen through the eyes of a teenager.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The march on Washington. How do you compare the mood there, the atmosphere there to what you're seeing today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the march on Washington; we were here to make demands. We were here for a purpose. We were here because we wanted America to live up to its democratic values and to the things that our country was founded for. And it seems to me that this has come full circle.
That's one of the things about this being a moment. This is a moment when the whole world feels America is as big as it planned to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Counting down to history; just over 12 hours from now Barack Obama will become the first African-American president of the United States. His journey to the White House has inspired millions around the world of all ages.
John King caught up with one teenager who lives near Baltimore and has high hopes for Mr. Obama's presidency.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Melvin Thomas is last off the bus. Like most 14-year-olds, in no rush to get to school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melvin, what have you got?
KING: Science is his favorite class. But he prefers the hallway banter and lunch with his buddies.
What do the kids at school say about Barack Obama about to become president of the United States?
MELVIN THOMAS, HANOVER, MARYLAND: Sometimes they -- at random somebody yells "Obama" out in the hallway.
KING (on camera): Melvin is relaxed in the game room. Much more shy in front of the camera. But this soft-spoken young man has a story of change that could be as important as anything that Barack Obama does in Washington.
If I were here a couple of years ago, say, you were 10 or 11, 12, and I said, you know, who do you most admire, who's your role model, who do you say I want to be like that?
THOMAS: Michael Jordan.
KING: And if I ask you today, what's your answer? Who do you most admire?
THOMAS: Barack Obama.
KING (voice over): Melvin thinks a President Obama will mean more jobs and less of something else.
THOMAS: The hate against black people.
KING: He prefers video games to the news but got a glimpse of Obama early on and got excited.
THOMAS: I thought it was cool that the first African-American president was running.
KING: He playfully teased his mom when she backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. And later took a break from video games with younger brother Kyle to watch the Obama-McCain debates.
THOMAS: To be honest, I didn't get most of it. But I got some of it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, SITUATION ROOM: We're going to have to wait for more votes to come in, and then we'll be able to make projection.
KING: Bed by 10:00 on election night was frustrating. But rules are rules until they are broken.
THOMAS: Well, I had to go to sleep. And my mom, she -- when I woke up, she was crying. And I said, mom, why are you crying? Did somebody pass away? And she said no, Barack Obama won.
KING: And what did you feel then?
THOMAS: I felt really happy, and I hugged her.
KING: John King, CNN, Hanover, Maryland.
COOPER: Wow. That was a great story.
Just ahead, remembering the man whose vision will finally come true tomorrow: Martin Luther King's dream about to become reality, when our live coverage continues from the National Mall.
Stay with us.
COOPER: We are live on the mall in Washington, D.C., as you can see and hear probably. There's an awful lot of energy in the crowd despite the hour and despite the cold. A lot of folks here are very excited and want to stay out here as long as they can.
There's going to be a Secret Service sweep at about 3:00 a.m., so these people will at some point have to clear off the mall. But for now they are enjoying being out here. It is cold, but they frankly are not feeling too cold right now. As you can tell, they're very excited.
Tomorrow, five days after Martin Luther King would have turned 80 years old, his vision, or part of his vision, will come true. An African-American will become president. We showed you the sound bite earlier from the BBC in which he predicted that would happen.
King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech of course at the Lincoln Memorial, which is about a mile or so away from where I'm standing tonight. Tonight we celebrate his lasting legacy with his own words, spoken by those who honor him from around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I have a dream --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That my four children will one day live in a nation that they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a dream today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the day when all of God's children --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will be able to sing with a new meaning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of thee I sing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Land where my fathers died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Land with pilgrims pride.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From every mountainside let freedom ring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let freedom ring --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not only that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside let freedom ring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From every state and every city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- we'll be able to speed up that day. When all of God's children --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black men and white men.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jews and Gentiles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protestants and Catholics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will be able to join hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And sing in the words of the old negro spiritual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free at last.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free at last.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank God almighty.
CROWD: We are free at last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A dream deferred but not denied and now one step closer to being fulfilled. That is our report tonight.
We will see you for the inauguration tomorrow and into the evening, really all day tomorrow and into late at night. Thanks for watching.
We leave you with the work of photographer Peter Turnley, who traveled for us on a bus here from Harlem. His pictures now followed by "Larry King Live."
Have a great night, everyone.