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Record-Setting Crowd Expected for Obama Inauguration; Obama Invites US Airways Crew to Inauguration

Aired January 19, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you and thanks for being with us. I'm John Roberts along with Kiran Chetry. And we are live this morning in the nation's capital. Crowds could line up as far as two miles away at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial way, way down that other end of the National Mall as Barack Obama takes the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States and the first American president who happens to be an African-American.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And the city is really trying to get ready for this, making sure that this first transition of power since 9/11 goes smoothly. Thousands of extra police, military will be on hand to manage the record crowds. But nobody knows exactly what to expect.

The swearing-in of President-elect Obama is expected to shatter all records for inaugural crowds and, in fact, it's very interesting, John. They are talking about studying the Hajj, the pilgrimage, the annual pilgrimage that takes place in Mecca, because that's also a time when millions go and try to converge on one place. That's going to be quite a challenge.

While Barack Obama's last day as president-elect will be certainly a busy one. Jack Bowers is calling us exactly at this moment, in fact, to help us with this. It's going to be back-to-back parties tonight and tomorrow. And he certainly making clear, though, that despite all the festivities, all the fun, all the celebration, there is hard work ahead.

Suzanne Malveaux is working this story from the warmth of our D.C. bureau this morning. Oh, and we guilted her so much, she is now outside. Poor Suzanne. She joins us from the White House now.

How does it feel now, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, you did guilt me. I felt really badly about it. But I know you got those cute gloves but these are warm here. So just, you know, a tip there, a bit of advice for you guys. I know we're all going to be out here in the cold for the next couple of days, as well as hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even close to a million who gathered for the inaugural celebrations.

Barack Obama yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial, it was a huge concert, but he was celebrating the moment, but he was also talking about the challenges. He was reminding Americans that we're at war, two wars. There's an economic crisis. There is a sense in the Obama team that they don't want to raise expectations any higher than they already are. They want people to know, that, look, there's a lot of work to be done. It's going to take some time, but he also is trying at the same time to give a sense of hope. Take a listen, Kiran.


OBAMA: I won't pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year. It will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts, and days that test our resolve as a nation.

But despite all this, 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.


MALVEAUX: And Kiran, one of the things that Barack Obama is asking people to do on Martin Luther King, this national holiday, is to participate in community service. So we're going to see Barack Obama later today, as well as Michelle. They are going to go out into the community. He's going to Calvin Coolidge High School, where he'll address some students. And they're also going to be preparing some blankets and video messages for some troops that are overseas. So, obviously, trying to give an example here to other Americans and say, look, you're a part of this process, you're a part of the solution, get involved -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, absolutely. And also, you know, we're hearing about the special Obama team inviting -- a special guest rather to tomorrow's inauguration. And we think we know who it is. Somebody that we've been talking a lot about in recent days.

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's right. It was actually on Friday. Barack Obama picked up the phone and he called Chesley Sullenberger. We know him now as Sully. He is that pilot of the U.S. Airways flight that went down in the Hudson River last Thursday. That amazing, miraculous flight that everybody survived. He obviously a hero. So Barack Obama is saying please come down for the inauguration, for the ceremony. Also the crew also included. So the inauguration committee, I talked to several this morning, they say they are working out logistics.

I asked them, well, you know, what seat is he going to get? What do we expect? And they say -- well, we're working that out. But I have a pretty good feeling, Kiran, that he is going to get a pretty good seat when it comes to inauguration celebration in the ceremony tomorrow, Kiran.

CHETRY: Absolutely. Certainly a national hero and, boy, we were just talking about that, thinking about what it would be like to land in those icy waters of the Hudson, especially with how cold it was back then, and he brought every single person on that plane to safety. So, hopefully, he'll be able to enjoy the celebrations as well. Suzanne, thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Kiran. ROBERTS: You know, and I'm thinking about -- right about now is why they decided to move the inauguration of the president from March to January? You're going to be outside. A little better to be outside March here in the nation's capital than it is in the middle of January.

Let's turn again to our political panel. Back with us is Daily Beast columnist John Avlon and Patricia Murphy. She is the editor of And in our Washington bureau this morning, Democratic strategist Lisa Caputo. And in New York, Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Let's start with you, and this go around, Patricia. I think that Suzanne limited the situation quite well. You know, there is so much celebration in the nation's capital these days leading up to the inauguration. There will be again tomorrow, but pretty dire straits in this country, in this time in our history.

PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: Yes, and you actually mentioned moving up the inauguration from March to January. That was done in 1933 because it was seen too difficult for FDR to come in with these lengths of time, to know all these problems, but not have a chance to really dig in and start working on those problems. And so, Barack Obama has an enormous task ahead of him. But again, he is sharing the responsibility. He is saying I am one man, you are an entire nation. These were self-imposed problems, particularly with the economy, it's up to all of us to solve these problems.

CHETRY: Tell me if I'm being too idealistic, but it seems, John, also that it's not just a day of celebration or a time of celebration for Democrats, but it seems like it's a celebration for people all around, no matter what your political stripes or in your case, you know, independents.

The fact that we have this type of peaceful transition of power now that the polling shows that President Bush is leaving with not the highest approval ratings, of course, and Barack Obama is coming in with very high approval ratings, but what does it say about us as a nation, about how our process works?

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: Well, it can be easy to not fully appreciate the miracle of peaceful transfer of power. And what you're seeing, Barack Obama now with approval ratings well north of what he had in Election Day, in large part because he has consistently reached it out. He's made good on his post partisan promise. And he is really riding the post partisan playbook.

Tonight, he's going to be -- having a pre-inaugural dinner celebrating John McCain and his record of reaching across the aisle. That's -- and his creation of centrist cabinet consistently reaching out. That's what the American people want. The political parties are deeply divided. The American people are not. And I think Barack Obama understands that. And that's what he's building. And you're going to hear a lot of that in his inaugural address. The idea that we need a Declaration of Independence from etiology, that's really renewing, and focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us Americans. That can sound cliche, but it's really quite a profound truth that we need to hear more of in the future.

ROBERTS: You know, Ed Rollins, we talked a lot here about expectations and are they too high in the incoming president-elect. I was talking to some folks who say that, you know, a lot of them from the inner cities, various cities across this nation who say they are pinning everything on this president. Is that putting too much on his shoulders?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he has broad shoulders. And I think the key thing is he is the next generation of leadership as I watched him yesterday with his two young daughters. I have a 13-year- old daughter who was born in China. He's going to be -- she's -- Obama is her hero. She's going to be led -- and the decisions that he makes are going to be -- have impact on her. You know, I've sort of had my era and we're beyond that. I watched Joe Biden. He's my era. This is the next generation. And I think to a certain extent, there's going to be great hope.

As I watch the sunrise an hour ago behind you shivering there, I remembered Reagan's campaign of morning you got in America, but we always said we had to get up and go to work. And this president has did not only go through the morning in the darkness, but get up and go to work. And America has to go back to work and basically he is going to lead us.

CHETRY: You know, you're right, Ed. And you bring it up, too. My 3-year-old pointed to the newspaper. She calls him Rocker Bama. But she still knows who he is as well.

And you know, Lisa, for all of us that want to lead, you know, just your natural propensity as a parent or just as a human being, is you want to leave the world a better place than -- you know, for your children than it was when you were around. And so that's something that he also has touched on a lot, and especially in that open letter to his children saying that, you know, before you were born, I didn't realize, but now I realize what my purpose is in life and that's to leave this a better place.

LISA CAPUTO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, that so poignant. I think myself, as a parent, I share what you're saying and what Ed said. My 5-year-old is obsessed with Barack Obama. He calls him Baroco. And my 3-year-old as well. I mean, it's really quite astonishing. And I think what you will see Barack Obama do, particularly tomorrow, is talk about the need for accountability in government which is what Americans want to hear.

I also think that he will do something similar to what President Kennedy did. When President Kennedy, in his inaugural address, asked citizens what they could do for their country. I think that you will see Barack Obama make an appeal to that grassroots movement that he has been building throughout the past two years that got him elected to the presidency, and how to use that grassroots movement to really restore unity and act as one country confronting two wars and an economy that is really challenged. ROBERTS: Yes, we're hearing that a big theme, Lisa, the inaugural address tomorrow is going to be about personal responsibility. Everybody has got to pitch in. So we'll be looking forward to that. See what he has to say. Lisa Caputo on our Washington Bureau. Ed Rollins in New York. To Patricia Murphy and John Avlon, as always good to be with you. They are troopers. They are out here in the freezing cold.

MURPHY: And we wouldn't be anywhere else.

CHETRY: And it's John's birthday on top of everything else.

ROBERTS: Hey, happy birthday.


MURPHY: Happy birthday.

ROBERTS: What are you, 29 now?

CHETRY: Twenty-nine forever. Thanks, John.

Well, once the serious business is over, which parties will the Obamas be attending? The D.C. social scene and our new first family. We're taking a look at all of that coming up here on AMERICAN MORNING. It's 10 minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shirts, hats and flags, for you, and you, and you. We're going to leave nobody out. And so, what time is it? Obama time.



ROBERTS: A little Stevie Wonder from yesterday afternoon here in the Mall, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was a concert at the Lincoln Memorial and it kicked off Barack Obama's inaugural celebrations. Tomorrow, millions are expected to be in the nation's capital for his swearing in. It's history in the making, and it has truly transformed this city.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Inaugurations are always big events but Washington has never seen anything like this.

TARA MCFADDEN, CROSSING GUARD: I'm loving it! I'm happy! Everybody is happy! Obama! It's beautiful. Everybody is getting belong, everything is happy.

ROBERTS: By the hundreds of thousands, people stream toward the pre-inaugural concert on the Mall. Different backgrounds, different nationalities, all with a common taught that this inaugural celebration is about far more than just politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I promised myself that I need to see history, and this means -- oh, it just means so much! I had to come.

ROBERTS: Jan Hunter (ph) trekked all the way from England to witness history. Pam Campbell came from just next door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so proud to be here. I am so excited to be part of this. And I got to tell you, we are all blessed in being part of this. Each and every one of us.

ROBERTS (on camera): We talk a lot about the sheer size of this event and how many people will be here for the inauguration. As you're looking at the Lincoln Memorial behind me here, the "We Are One" concert where Barack Obama will be speaking from virtually the same place that Martin Luther King did more than four decades ago. And to give you a good perspective on the crowd that's here just for that event, take a look here down the Mall by the reflecting pool.

This crowd looks like nothing if not the crowd that was here more than four decades ago for the "I Have a Dream" speech. And for so many people out there in the crowd, what is going to happen on Tuesday really is the culmination of old struggles between the 1960s and now the 21st century in America.

ROBERTS (voice-over): For Pam Jackson and Desiree Tate, it was impossible not to invoke images of Martin Luther King.

PAM JACKSON, CHICAGO, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: I was a little girl, but I just remember my mother and talking about that dream and here we are.

DESIREE TATE, CHICAGO, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: We were talking earlier about how our moms would feel. We're sort of here representing them.

ROBERTS: Even trendy Georgetown can't help but surrender to inauguration fever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are our Ojamas -- Obama pajamas. We also have Ojama nightgown. We've got the audacity of soap, special soap.

ROBERTS: From pop culture to politics, artist John Stango's brush has never been hotter.

JOHN STANGO, PHILADELPHIA ARTIST: You feel like you are part of something really great. And I just feel the same way. And, you know -- and I'm doing my part which is in the artwork and I just feel like, hey, it doesn't get any better than this.

OBAMA: Thank you, America. God bless you.

ROBERTS: Long time residents can't remember an inauguration that has captivated the Capital quite like this one. And at the normally rowdy Nathan's Bar, forget about Sunday's football. It was all about the future.

MICHELLE NETTLES, MILWAUKEE, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: For me, it was, it's my march on Washington. I listen to my grandparents. I've listened to people, you know, all my life tell me about the march on Washington. And so for me, it is my march on Washington. It is kind of breath-taking, amazing all in one.


ROBERTS: And we hear that, Kiran, from so many, many different people as they tell us what it's like for them to be here to witness history. It was very funny yesterday at Nathan's. You know, we had a couple of big championship games on yesterday.

CHETRY: No one was watching the Eagles and Cardinals?

ROBERTS: There were three television monitors. There was -- the game was on in one, and the sound was down. The other two monitors, Barack Obama and everybody was transfixed listening to his speech for the Lincoln Memorial yesterday.

CHETRY: Very interesting.

ROBERTS: It's quite a scene, yes.

CHETRY: And you can always look up the score later, but you can't necessarily hear that again, right?

ROBERTS: You should watch the Most News in the Morning. We keep playing it again and again and again, right?

CHETRY: Exactly.

Well, on this national day of service, because it is of course Dr. Martin Luther King Day as well honoring him, we're going to talk to New York Governor David Paterson about what this momentous occasion means to him. Right now it's 17 minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard people say from other countries, we're so happy for you. We were rooting for him. We can't wait until he is in the White House. I just feel like it's such -- it's for the whole rest of the world. It's such a big deal that I thought it was worth a trip to come here and see it in person.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING today as we're out here on the Mall. Pretty soon, just a matter of a day, this place is going to be crowded. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, expected out today and tomorrow to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. So it should be a very exciting time, for sure. ROBERTS: Absolutely.

CHETRY: And we're very pleased right now to welcome with us the governor of our state, Governor David Paterson of New York, who is here for, of course, the inauguration as well as some meetings.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

GOV. DAVID PATERSON, NEW YORK: Thank you for having me.

CHETRY: Nice to see you, by the way. You know, I was going to ask you about this because it's interesting. Here we are on Martin Luther King Day and, of course, all of us remember Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. There was an interesting poll that came out and they asked if African-Americans felt as though Martin Luther King's vision had been realized and fulfilled. Nearly 70 percent said yes, almost double what how many people felt that way when the same poll was asked in March.

What do you think about tomorrow and the significance for realizing Martin Luther King's dream?

PATERSON: I think the reason for those poll numbers is that most African-Americans in this country did not believe that, at this time, an African-American could be elected president. I think we felt that it would eventually happen, but I don't think that anyone thought that Barack Obama was going to be able to be successful in his first attempt, maybe some time down the road. In many respects, I thought that it was a good warm-up for something he might do four or eight years down the road.

We still have poor housing, crime, unemployment and poor, inadequate health care facilities for African-Americans and other disadvantaged people in this country, but I really like that poll because it means it's the real stimulus package. It's hope. And I think it's going to be what will work for the administration for a period of time and then, hopefully, if we get real concrete results, then those numbers will stay where they are.

CHETRY: And the only stimulus package that doesn't cost billions right now at least. You know, we're dealing with a lot of big problems, of course, not only across the nation, but in particular states. New York, for example, dealing with unemployment at about 6 percent. A lot of challenges ahead. How do you hope to be able to work with this administration to solve some of the problems of your state and for other governors who are dealing with these same difficulties?

PATERSON: Well, when people talk about Wall Street, they interpret that means New York and Wall Street accounts for 20 percent of New York's revenue. So we were hit about as hard, maybe with the exception of California, by this downturn in the economy. We were losing at one point $80 million a day in deficit to our budget, which went from $6 billion to about $15.4 billion in just three months.

So, what we are really hoping is that the administration will understand that as they try to cut taxes and they try to create opportunities, if we are, at the same time, cutting programs and raising taxes, it will be a wash. They've got to help the states, in addition to helping this whole country. We are not a company. We are not a firm. We're not an insurance dealer or financial institution. We are a bunch of people that live in one of the 50 states of which 43 are now in this deficit.

CHETRY: Absolutely. I just have to quickly ask you because a lot of people are still awaiting and they want to know who you are going to announce as the replacement pick for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat. Have you come any closer to the decision?

PATERSON: I may be further away. If I stay out in this cold, there may be a replacement for me and then that person will tell you who the new senator is. But I'm going over questions that we ask the candidates and, you know, sort of background checks. We need to make sure that we are able to weed out any real problems. And I think had it not been for the inauguration, I would have been able to make the decision by now. I'm hoping to do it by the weekend.

CHETRY: There are others who say that there is pressure to appoint a woman because Hillary Clinton of course -- because it was Hillary Clinton's seat. Do you feel that or do you -- is that one of the considerations?

PATERSON: I don't consider it pressure, but there were 17 women in the United States Senate when the women population is nearly 52 percent, and without Hillary, it would be 16. So I think it's a valid point. I wouldn't say it's pressure. I wouldn't say it's a factor. But it is a point that people raised.

Also, upstate New York doesn't have an elected official in the state government and the entire Hispanic community, which is 17 percent of New York's population, has never, in its history, had a statewide or even New York City-wide elected official.

CHETRY: Wow. So a lot to consider, for sure. We want to thank you for joining us this morning. You do have to give John Roberts his gloves back.

PATERSON: I will. Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Since I've loaned you my gloves, let me ask one question if I could. Can you tell us which way you're leaning at this point in terms of replacing Hillary Clinton?

PATERSON: If I tell you which way I'm leaning, it will read he's made the decision. But I'm actually -- I think, narrowing the field to about half of the people who are involved and then I would hope in the next few days, get down to one. And then I'm going to have a real challenge, because I'm not prepared for all of the other questions you could ask me. The Senate questions have shielded me from all kinds of questions about the economy and how we're going to put people back to work in New York.

CHETRY: Well then, you better come back on our show next week because we'll ask you all those as well.

PATERSON: Well, I'd be delighted.

ROBERTS: We've got a spot for you. Governor, thanks very much.

PATERSON: Thank you.

CHETRY: Enjoy the inauguration.

ROBERTS: Well, D.C. is going to be packed to the gills. No question about that. Who is coming to town? And is the town really ready? We'll tell you. It's 26 minutes after the hour now.



OBAMA: Directly in front of us, the dream of a king and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character's content.


ROBERTS: Barack Obama yesterday invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It's been over 45 years since King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Obama's words a fitting tribute as we observe this Martin Luther King Day.

We're joined now by "Time" magazine columnist Joe Klein. CNN contributor Tara Wall of "The Washington Times" is with us here on the Mall as well, and our D.C. bureau CNN political analyst Donna Brazile and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno.

Tara, let me ask you first of all because you wear an interesting couple of hats here -- Republican but at the same time African- American. Where are your feelings running on this day as we look forward to the inauguration of the first American president who's an African-American?

TARA WALL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly. I mean, you can't be black in America and not be proud of this moment, no matter if ideologies are different or not. I mean, this is a significant time in history. You know, I think the symbolism can't be any more glaring on a day when we're celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

For many black -- for all black Americans and many -- most Americans, this is a mountaintop. We've gotten to the mountain top. So, certainly, I think that we have to take a moment to put politics aside and take note of this very historic moment.

CHETRY: The interesting thing is I mean there is this jubilation. There's a lot of happiness and a lot of camaraderie that's been going on, but then come Wednesday morning, the reality of our situation -- the financial crisis, the two wars and Barack Obama saying he's really wasting no time trying to start finding solutions to those problems.

How do they decipher and determine where they focus first?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, where they focus first is the economy but they also have to focus on the mood of the American people first which is what I think he's going to do on his inaugural address on Tuesday.

You know we've gone through a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity in this country. Most of us have never known hard times. And what he has to do is to start teaching us how to think in hard times, how to live in hard times.

Government has to behave more responsibly. We have to behave more responsibly, I think.

ROBERTS: Hey, good, Joe.

Donna Brazile, we were talking to the governor of New York about this. 69 percent of African-Americans polled at a new CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll believe that tomorrow's inauguration is going to be really the culmination of Martin Luther King's vision, that it will be realized for African-Americans in this country.

Do you agree?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we have hit one big historic milestone in our journey toward freedom and equality for all Americans. But you know, Dr. King's vision was a vision that was inclusive, that would take America beyond its limitations and to really help build a bridge toward the future.

His last speech given in Memphis on April 3rd, was, I thought -- I believe his most profound speech, where he talked about seeing the promise land and perhaps now that we have witnessed the dream. It is important that we begin to build that promise land together as Americans.

CHETRY: And you know, Frank, along those same lines, a really poignant part of -- one of Barack Obama's speeches this week. He was saying it not only changes the way that young African-Americans look at themselves but also the way that their white counterparts view them and -- you know, during the campaign, he didn't focus as much on race, but he is now speaking a little bit more about just how profound this moment is and his place in that.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: The way he ran his campaign and the way he maneuvered the discussion in the debate really tried to make him a candidate who wasn't about race. He was a candidate who happened to be black, rather than a black candidate. That was the key to what he was doing, you know.

And, today, being Many Martin Luther King Day, it's really worth taking a look at just how complete arc from the "I have a dream" speech to where we are now. You know, Dr. King spoke about the fierce urgency of now. That was a phrase that Barack Obama invoked without necessarily connecting it all the time to King's name. King said his dream was a dream that was rooted firmly in the American dream. He said this was about marching forward, always forward. This fierce urgency of now, he said, was about now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

That's why this is such a profound moment. If you connect Martin Luther King's words with the deeds and the actions and where we are now, this historic moment, it is simply overpowering.

ROBERTS: A lot to think about as America takes -- opens up a new chapter in its history.

Frank Sesno, Donna Brazile, Joe Klein and Tara Wall, good to see you this morning. Thanks for dropping by.


KLEIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you for showing such tenacity for being out here.

KLEIN: Well, you're the guys who are freezing.


CHETRY: Well, all day, CNN will be commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s King's birthday. At noon Eastern, we're going to have a rare re-broadcast of Dr. King's entire "I have a dream" speech.

And tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we're going to be airing a special, a short tribute film, "FROM MLK TO TODAY." It was actually directed by Antoine Fuqua whose movies, it included Denzel Washington's "Training Day" and as part of a CNN special, hosted by Soledad O'Brien and Roland Martin. And here now is a quick preview.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was but 26 years old when he led a bus boycott in Montgomery to mobilize the movement.


CHETRY: All right. So there again a brief snippet of that tribute film. It's going to be airing tonight on CNN at 7:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, D.C. frenzy over Obama. The excitement really reaching a fever pitch in Washington. And we're still a day away. We're going to take to the streets to show you what it's like down here on the nation's capital. 34 minutes after the hour.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are really no words to express how someone of color, not only an African-American male like myself, can feel about a moment like this. It's something that you think can happen, but it's something that you want to see happen, and as I listened to his speech, as I, you know, see these things or I see how people are reacting to this, this momentous moment in -- history, there are no words that you could use to grasp the -- I mean, there are no words.

I mean, there's nothing that I can say that with wrap around how large this moment is for the world. Not just for a man, not just for a black person, not just for the United States, for the world.


ROBERTS: Barack Obama, a master with words, leaving some of his supporters speechless. This election is energizing a nation that needs something to cheer for. Times out there are pretty bad.

AMERICAN MORNING's Carol Costello is here with a look now at some of the excitement in Washington. And it's almost like this is a different place.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isn't it? I mean, you know, Washington has never been exactly known as the "it" town. Not exactly vibrant as far as...


COSTELLO: ... the perception people have in their minds.

ROBERTS: Or a particularly positive place either.

COSTELLO: Exactly. All that bickering going on on Capitol Hill. But since the Obamas are going to move into the White House, Washington has regained its luster.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama, get us a taxi.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Barack Obama is not the only one having a major moment. D.C., our nation's capital, is too.

FELICIA GRANT, CHICAGO, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: This is just a thrill for me. First of all, we're on historic ground anyway in the United States, period. Anything coming from out of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, this is where our history began, this is where it should start all over again.

COSTELLO: Hear that? She said historic ground. Not where politicians bitterly bicker or homeless people sleep near the White House, where D.C. mayor Marion Barry smoked that crack pipe. Suddenly D.C. is where it's at.

Sunday's "The New York Times" lamenting the action has moved on. Washington suddenly has the stars. Yes, like U2, Usher and Bruce Springsteen, who are coming to rub elbows with the biggest star of all.


COSTELLO: Obama's celebrity is so huge. His visit to Washington's Ben's Chili Bowl has made the restaurant an international sensation. People, most of whom have never been to D.C., are flocking to Ben's, taking pictures, eating dogs, spending money and waxing poetic.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just north of Oakland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Ohio. Why did I come here? I'm here for history, baby.

COSTELLO: Joshua Isen from Chicago came to Ben's to bask in post-Obama glow and missed the birth of his son. It was worth it.

JOSHUA ISEN, CHICAGO, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: I'm telling him his daddy was in Washington, D.C. at Obama's inauguration for the 44th president of the United States. I can say I was there.

COSTELLO: D.C. hopes that kind of crazy passion sticks. And by the sounds of things, as long as Obama is in the house, D.C. will be, too.

SHARON FREEMAN, SAN FRANCISCO, ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: I think it's on the map in a way it never has been before. In fat I had never been to D.C. before and now coming here, I mean I love it and would come back in a heartbeat. And I think it's going to hold a special place for everybody now.


COSTELLO: That certainly what the District of Columbia is hoping for. You know that Obama went to Ben's Chili Bowl and actually eat a chilidog. He actually paid for it, too.

They really touched the community here because it made him seem like a common person and it gave D.C., everyone at the District Columbia, hope that one day, D.C. will become a state and that day might be coming soon or at least it will get a vote.

ROBERTS: No more taxation without representation.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

CHETRY: Change his license plate.

ROBERTS: There's a sense that he'll be very visible in the D.C. area. Much more so than his predecessor. COSTELLO: Well, Ben's Chili Bowl, his appearance there really meant something because word is that the Clintons ordered food from Ben's but had it delivered to the White House.

ROBERTS: Take out.

COSTELLO: And George Bush never visited Ben's. But he was at Cardozo High School, a local high school in D.C., and he painted a mural and part of the mural was Ben's but he never been there. And that kind of insulted the people of Washington.

CHETRY: That's funny.

ROBERTS: I will give you $100 if you run out to Ben's right now and bring back some hot chili.

CHETRY: Yes. And please, the fries with the chili and the cheese on it.

COSTELLO: Will you give me $100, too?

CHETRY: Of course.

COSTELLO: I'm going.


CHETRY: Carol Costello, great to see you.

ROBERTS: Carol...



CHETRY: Stay warm.

Well, what is it like to be part of the Secret Service elite? We're talking about the real life men in black and what they have to go through to protect the commander in chief. Watch the counter sharp-shooters in action.

Right now, it's 42 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, they make it look so cool but in real life the men in black, the ones in charge of protecting our next president, have a far more nerve-racking job. There is, of course, so much at stake.

Our Jeanne Meserve is live in Freedom Plaza here in D.C. to tell us what it's like to be part of the Secret Service elite.

Good morning, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. If you're down here tomorrow for the inaugural parade and look up at some of these rooftops you will see the men in black with rifles at the ready to protect the president.


MESERVE (voice-over): They shoot with great accuracy at great distances.


MESERVE: And call it a blend of art and science. They are the counter-snipers of the U.S. Secret Service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're very good. And I would put them among the best in the world at what they -- what they do.

MESERVE: The counter snipers consider themselves the most elite unit in the uniformed secret service. Nine weeks of intense training turns them into Olympic quality shooters. They have to re-qualify monthly.

Standards are so high, half of the agents accepted for training wash out.


MESERVE: Each counter sniper uses a rifle customized for his height and arm length. They work in two-man teams. Though both are expert marksmen, only one shoots at a time, the other gauges the wind which can change a bullet's trajectory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit. Mind to forehead.

LT. BERNARD HALL, COUNTER SNIPER UNIT: There are different methods, smoke from chimneys, undulations and the mirage from heat, foliage on the trees, flag poles.

MESERVE: When a president is going to move along a public route, the counter snipers scout it out to assess the threat and find good vantage point for themselves.

On Inauguration Day, some will position themselves on rooftops with a view of the parade route, the crowd and other buildings where snipers could be hiding. The cold will be biting, but the counter snipers can wear lightweight gloves and they have tricks for keeping mental focus, no matter what the weather.

HALL: When it's hot in the summer, we think about the cold days in January and then in January, we're thinking about what is happening in August.


MESERVE: The counter snipers make no effort to hide their location. They want the bad guys to know where they are ready to shoot, if necessary. Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: I'd love to get a lesson in their -- in how they use their mental powers to stay warm in this type of weather. But, wow. They -- certainly have a big job and a serious job. And they certainly look like they are ready for it.

Jeanne, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: So this historic inauguration has made Washington, D.C. the "it" town but could the Obamas put the glint back in D.C.? The first family and the Washington party scene, we've got all of the dope for you.

It's 48 minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here for history, baby. I was born and raised in Alabama. So you know why I'm here. OK? Right. That's right. That's why I'm here. I was in Alabama when George Wallace made the line in the street, OK? So that's why I'm here today and I'm going to enjoy this historical moment.



ROBERTS: And there it is. The viewing stand out in front of the White House where Barack and Michelle Obama and the family and all of their invited guests, some dignitaries, will be watching tomorrow's inaugural parade.

That will take place in the afternoon. Of course, CNN will have complete coverage of that.

If the number one focus of Inauguration Day is Barack Obama taking the oath of office, number two, well, the parties and the inaugural balls and the whole D.C. social scene.

Joining me now is "Reliable Source" columnist for the "Washington Post" Amy Argetsinger.

It's good to see you this morning.


ROBERTS: Thanks for joining us. I know this isn't exactly what you're used to.



ROBERTS: So what do you expect? You know, in the 1990s, Bill and Hillary Clinton really did keep the social scene here in Washington alive. George and Laura Bush, not so much. They didn't go out too much.

What do you expect is going to happen with the Obamas?

ARGETSINGER: Well, I think it remains to be seen. People are very optimistic. People like to see -- in Washington, people like to see a president who's and about. And it wasn't just the Clintons, the Bush 41s, George and Barbara, they went out to restaurants all the time.

You know, on the other hand, Barack Obama and Michelle are known for having date nights regularly in Chicago. They patronize a bunch of place. But while he's a senator here in Washington his first couple of years, Barack Obama was never out. He was kind of known for going straight home with carryout.

You know, people who want to see a president out got a hopeful sign the other day. He took his wife out to Equinox Restaurant, a fine dining establishment just a couple of steps away from the White House really.

But we'll see. They also have small kids at home. So who knows how much they will be on the scene.

ROBERTS: It's also difficult once you get inside the gates of that comfy minimum security prison to get back out again so...


ARGETSINGER: And the food supposedly great at the White House.

ROBERTS: You really do have to make an effort.


ROBERTS: Do you think he'll make the effort?

ARGETSINGER: I think what we've seen is that he is sending signals that he wants to get out. We already talked about the Ben's Chili Bowl visit.


ARGETSINGER: There's -- I think we will see some effort to connect with local Washington.

ROBERTS: And -- certainly you're starting to see a reaction in the -- social elite here in Washington. You wrote in a recent column that some of the more prominent hosts in Washington are sitting back saying, better get a couple of African-American friends.

ARGETSINGER: That is sort of what it is. You know, it's interesting. Of course, every hostess, every host, is always buying to get the president at their dinner table. But not just the president also the high-ranking officials in the White House.

Washington is a southern town. The black elite and white elite work together. They haven't played together so much. And what you're seeing now are host and hostess as saying, you know, gosh, now I want to have Eric Holder, I want to have Desiree Rogers at my dinner party.

You know, just by virtue of their titles alone and realizing, my gosh, how awkward to have one black face at the table. And so what we're seeing from a lot of the black professionals, black elite in town they're realizing their dance cards are more full than ever. Everyone wants to recruit them as friends.

ROBERTS: Well nice -- it'd be nice if you know, as we see America coming together for this inauguration, that the Obamas do pull together the Washington social scene as well.

But a lot of celebrities out and about in the last couple of days, I believe, really -- no, other than the (INAUDIBLE) celebrities we saw at the Lincoln Memorial, I only saw George Lucas, you know, of "Star Wars" fame.

ARGETSINGER: You saw him in the flash.

ROBERTS: You saw him in the flash, yes. But got any dish on celebrities that are out?

ARGETSINGER: There are a lot of people that I've been seeing around. We had -- you know interesting sightings from, you know, Beyonce running into a drugstore, to Queen Latifah stopping by Macy's for some last-minute shopping.

Everyone is here, though. It's like the A-list, the D-list, the C-list. At this point it wouldn't surprise me, you know, any particular name showing up. Just everyone is here.


ARGETSINGER: They're headlining parties. They're, you know, hanging out at parties. They're trying to get inauguration tickets. They're realizing you don't get the red carpet a-list treatment when you're here in Washington for inauguration week. There's usually only one A-list.

ROBERTS: It's definitely the place to be, though.

Amy Argetsinger, it's great to see you. Thanks for joining us.

ARGETSINGER: Good to see you. Thank you.

ROBERTS: And you brought along the warmer weather because it started to snow.


CHETRY: Yes, right on cue.


CHETRY: About five minutes before our show is over. The snow is coming down here. Hey, we're going to fast forward right now to see what's on tap for the rest of the day.

A busy day, of course, today. At 10:00 Eastern Time this morning, President-elect Obama, as well as Michelle Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be heading to service-day projects in D.C. Martin Luther King Day represents a national day of service to emulate the civil rights' leaders own action.

At 12:30 this afternoon, 12:35 actually, the Obamas and the Bidens will be attending a community service. They lunched for as many as a thousand other people in attendance. And President-elect Obama is expected to speak there.

A little bit later, the president-elect will be hosting a dinner honoring former opponent, Sen. John McCain, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as his vice president, Joe Biden.

It's a bipartisan dinner tonight at 5:00 p.m. And at 7:00, soon to be first daughters Sasha and Malia's favorite part of the festivities for sure, the Jonas Brothers. They'll be headlining the kids' inaugural concert at the Verizon Center. So, a lot of kids that are coming with their parents to witness history or probably wishing to get to witness the Jonas Brothers live as well.


ROBERTS: I'll tell you. There's a lot of great entertainment around and a lot of parties as well. We got an invite from the governor to go to the New York ball tonight. But...

CHETRY: Little Casino at 8:00 p.m. We'll be fast asleep.

ROBERTS: Because don't forget tomorrow, we're going to be starting at 5:00 a.m. We're actually going to be up in the media platform by the west front of the capital which is where the actual inauguration will take place.

So that's going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. Great edition of AMERICAN MORNING coming up then.

And you know I've been -- I came down after the show on Friday because I kind of wanted immerse myself in the atmosphere here. It's been so extraordinary. Washington really is a city transformed. I have never seen so many happy people here in Washington. I've lived here since 1999 and I just never seen it like this.

CHETRY: No, this is where I grew up as well. And I'll tell you, I did a double-take. We were riding the metro back and you know, there's so many out-of-towners coming in to witness history being made and there were suitcases were all over. People were so pleasant. Not after you. You know? Giving many directions as people are trying to figure out how the heck to get around with, of course, the unbelievable security.

ROBERTS: Now, of course, that could change quickly as well.


ROBERTS: Today they're coming together. Wednesday, maybe not so much.

Well, thanks so much for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING. As I said, bright and early tomorrow morning. We will see you here.

CHETRY: And a special four-hour edition of AMERICAN MORNING tomorrow starting at 5:00 a.m. And up next, CNN special MLK Day programming starts now with Soledad O'Brien.