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Obama-Castro Handshake; Memorial for Mandela; U.S. Gospel Singer Performs at Nelson Mandela Memorial; Winter Ice Grips U.S.

Aired December 10, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Memorial service honoring the global icon wrapping up just a couple of hours go in Johannesburg. Watch.

Absolutely beautiful, as you see there, the atmosphere inside. This is the FNB Stadium. A huge celebration despite the heavy rain there. Presidents, prime ministers, royalty, regular folks, all of them coming together with the Mandela family to pay tribute to a man described as one of the greatest peacemakers ever.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: A man who united a bitterly segregated country even after its oppressive white rulers imprisoned him for nearly 27 years. President Obama describing Mr. Mandela as a giant of history.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well, to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you, to teach that will reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.


MALVEAUX: President Obama getting a warm welcome there, attending the memorial service with three of his predecessors. You see them there, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The leaders of more than 90 countries in attendance there.

HOLMES: President Obama surprised a lot of people when he shook hands with the Cuban president, Raul Castro. You see it there. A rare gesture between the U.S. and Cuba, which, of course, have had some pretty strained relations for the last half century or so. And we are already getting reaction from Cuba. We're going to get to the significance of that handshake and how it is being viewed in a moment.

But first, want to go to Johannesburg.

MALVEAUX: We've got reporters on all angles of this story, including our Robyn Curnow, who was at the Mandela -- Nelson Mandela memorial service, now outside the home.

And I want to focus on the emotions here because it was incredible to watch. I know a lot of people here, at least East Coast time, got up at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning just to see this historic occasion. You were there on the ground. Give us a sense of what that was like.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was speaking to Christiane Amanpour when we were watching it at one point and I think both of us who obviously covered a few stories in our time took a deep breath and looked at each other and just said, wow, you know, it was an honor being there. And there were times when you actually just had to say, let's watch this and let it all sink in.

There was the singing, you know, that chanting, that sense of people just coming together. There were prayers. There were the speeches. Some of them slightly long winded and boring I think for the crowd. A lot of the sound system wasn't that good so you couldn't hear some of the speeches.

But I don't think the crowd seemed to mind. You know, there was a sense of people just happy to be there. It was pouring with rain half the time, too, but that didn't sort of take away from that sense of occasion.

Of course, you know, tens of thousands of South Africans were joined by more than 90 heads of state and then, you know, at least another 100 or so more rather eminent people, whether they were pop stars like Bono or film stars like Charlize. There are also royalty like Queen Rania. You know, it was just the who's who of the world.

And I think what was so key about them, what was so powerful was that it was everybody mixed up and mushed up together. And it was - it was just so Mandela because he, you know, and I've said it over and over again, you know, he didn't mind if you weren't wearing your best clothes when you saw him. He didn't mind even if you hadn't brushed your hair or if your kids weren't, you know, wearing shoes. He saw you. He saw every person. And I think that what was so key.

And it was so key today. It was a - it was a wonderful sendoff because it was a bit of everybody's experience of him all mixed up in that stadium. And, you know, it was a bit messy because it was raining and, you know, the logistics were sometimes a bit off. But, you know what, that didn't matter because this was for Madiba, this was for Mandela and, you know, everybody came to say good-bye, whether they were there or not.

We're at the home. People are still coming. They're laying flowers. They're saying good-bye. You know, this doesn't seem like it's going to end, does it?

MALVEAUX: Yes. Yes. It's wonderful, Robyn, the way you put that - kind of messy and all smushed up, the way Nelson Mandela would have loved that. Really an amazing tapestry of people there in that stadium. Thank you so much, Robyn. We really appreciate it.

HOLMES: Did a great job this morning, Robyn, part of our team there.

And it's interesting, in the Timbu (ph) and Hossa (ph) culture, rain is good luck. So it rained the whole day there. But that's good luck. MALVEAUX: That's good luck.

HOLMES: So that's a good thing.

All right, let's talk about that gesture now that caught some people by surprise. We saw President Obama arriving on stage there to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, to join the other leaders, and you see there the handshake. Shaking hands with the Cuban president, Raul Castro. A bit of a symbolic moment because of those strained relations that we mentioned earlier. Patrick Oppmann is our man in Havana.

You know, I suppose, when it comes to that handshake, I mean this was Nelson Mandela's memorial. And so in the spirit of reconciliation, he couldn't really ignore Raul Castro. But how's it being seen there in Havana?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, if this wasn't the handshake heard around the world, Michael, it's certainly the handshake heard all over Havana. I've been talking to people all morning here in the Cuban capital and it's all they have to talk about. They want to know what it means, what it means for them and the future in Cuba/U.S. relations. Was is just a simple courtesy or does it mean something - does it mean there could be a change after all these years of literally no change between how the two the countries get along or don't get along.

And, you know, this comes after months of a slight warming in relations. U.S. diplomats are now able to travel outside Havana more regularly. They've been prohibited from doing that for years. And the same for their Cuban counterparts in Washington, D.C. The two countries are now talking about very simple but significant things like restoring direct mail, (INAUDIBLE) more cultural exchanges. So we've seen, you know, what's being called something of a (INAUDIBLE) here between the two countries. But, of course, there still remain major, major issues.

But what's significant, of course, Nelson Mandela was a great friend of Fidel Castro, a great friend to Cuba. And he advocated to U.S. officials lifting of the economic embargo, improving relations. So it would be quite telling if his memorial service was something of a starting point for a conversation. But we'll just have to see how that plays out, Michael. There have been so many fallouts over the years and Cubans have had their hopes dashed time and time again when they thought relations were going to improve and it turns out they just didn't.

HOLMES: Yes, we'll see if this may be another step along that warming trend.

Patrick Oppmann, appreciate it. Thanks so much. Patrick Oppmann there in Havana.

MALVEAUX: We also have more reaction on the handshake, not surprising because former President Jimmy Carter making his own news when he had his handshake long after he was out of his own presidency. But here's how he reacted to the handshake today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice-over): Well, I think it was something significant. I've known Raul Castro quite well for a number of years. I don't hesitate to visit Cuba when I want to and I've known his brother Fidel, as well. But that was the first time I believe that an incumbent American president has shaken hands with a leader of Cuba. And I hope it will be an omen for the future.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen, to talk more about the significance of this. And, very quickly, what do you make of this, more of a symbolic gesture than something that's a break-through? And then I've got a follow-up for you.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an important symbolic gesture. And that is, we are moving toward a thawed relationship. Many more Americans are traveling to Cuba. You don't have - and within the Hispanic community and the United States, of course, there are some Cuban resistance still, but generally speaking you find in the Latino community in the United States there is a sort of - yes, there's a willingness to try to build relationships.

I think that's coming very rapidly and President Obama, of course, has been reaching out to a number of people around the world who -- most recently Iran. And I think he's trying to change the American foreign policy in that regard. Whether it will -- he'll get -- completely get there or not, I don't know. But he certainly has moved it.

MALVEAUX: And, David, let's go back for a minute here because let's be for real, Fidel Castro was financially supporting the ANC when the U.S., Great Britain, other world powers were essentially shunning them. Some even considered them a terrorist group. So at some point the U.S. was not on the right side of history when it came to South Africa. It is very fitting that you have Cuba's leader front and center, even a speaking role there. Is it possible that there could be some recognition of Cuba's role at that time that could alter perhaps the way the United States sees Cuba today?

GERGEN: I'm not sure I'd go that far, Suzanne, but I do think that, you know, Nelson Mandela, in his early years, depended heavily upon a number of people we found odious in the United States, including Moammar Gadhafi. And if Gadhafi had been alive today, perhaps he would have spoken as well.

I think it really speaks to the Mandela journey that in the beginning he was - he was regarded by the west, by the United States, by Britain, by Margaret Thatcher, as a terrorist. But as we've learned over time, you know, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. And I think he evolved and now we see him as a freedom fighter, just as we saw many people who fought to secure Israel as terrorists at the time. Some people thought they were terrorists. They became freedom fighters.

I think it says a lot about the evolution of Nelson Mandela's reputation, who he became, how he's often -- how he became - you know, how he embraced reconciliation. I think President Obama spoke well to all of that today. And it's important for Americans to know, as we watch this, that, you know, the - that President Obama got the loudest applause of anybody who spoke today. He had roars from the crowd. And I think that speaks to the kind of - we - you know, he's very controversial here in the United States, but there are parts of the world where he's extremely popular.

HOLMES: Yes. And, David, you know, it was interesting, he got - he got roars of -- from the crowd before he even spoke. The camera went on him. He appeared on the big screen and he hadn't even stood up yet. Somebody else was actually speaking. So it was a little bit of one of those awkward moments.

Let's play a little bit more sound from the president, though, when he sort of emphasizes there's a lot to be done.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality for universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.


HOLMES: And the president did go on to say that people, of course, still in prison for their beliefs, religious or otherwise, persecuted for how they look or worship or, as he put it, who they love.

You know the interesting thing, David, about Nelson Mandela was, he never looked for approval or wanted approval. He said what he thought and sometimes that might have offended people in the United States and certainly some political leaders. He was no fan of the Iraq War. For example, do you think that his dream, particularly when it comes to South Africa, but also on the broader world stage, has legs, if you like?

GERGEN: Oh, absolutely. And one of the things that was interesting about President Obama's speech today was he lifted Nelson Mandela into a pantheon of three great moral leaders of the 20th century. One was - one's Ghandi and Martin Luther King and now Nelson Mandela. And he spoke of them together as sort of moral giants. And I thought that was quite striking.

And I - and what he was trying to do was to universalize the messages that they brought. And their messages, are, of course, in many ways quite consistent. It's almost as if the world religions have some of their central messages are consistent. Here, I think President Obama was helping us understand that what Nelson Mandela was first and foremost a son of South Africa, but more than that, he became a father to the modern world, to the moral path forward as he saw it.

MALVEAUX: All right. David Gergen, thank you so much. We appreciate your perspective.

GERGEN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Michael, it was interesting, you and I asked Christiane Amanpour yesterday whether or not there would be any lesson that all those world leaders coming together would have based on Mandela. Then we saw that handshake today from the president and the Cuban president. Something happened.

HOLMES: Absolutely. And just the very breadth of it. We've heard from Cuba to the U.S., of course, but also China. You had royalty. You had rock stars. I mean the breadth of those -- you had people there who would never spend time in a room together who all came together for Nelson Mandela, which was fascinating

MALVEAUX: Yes, it's a wonderful moment.

Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

Ice, sleet, wind, snow hitting the East Coast for another day. Even federal offices in Washington, D.C., are closed. We are tracking the flights and the roads up ahead.



Grammy Award-winning gospel star Kirk Franklin performed at the memorial service for, of course, the freedom fighter, anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela. This was earlier the morning. And we have got him on the phone at the airport in Johannesburg.

So it's nice to have you with us. You're one of my favorite performers and gospel artists. How did this happen, how did this come about?

KIRK FRANKLIN, GOSPEL SINGER (via telephone): Well, first of all, it's really an honor to get a chance to talk to you. Thank you for talking to me.

I landed here last Thursday in Johannesburg. We were scheduled to do two concerts here. So when I landed me and my crew, when we got to the hotel and we started flipping the channels, that's we got the breaking news that Mr. Mandela had passed. And so we just all sat around the TV stunned and just couldn't believe it.

And so the next day, I just wanted to really feel connected to what was happening within the community, just within the country, so we went over to his home. There were hundreds and thousands of people standing outside singing, and so we were outside dancing with the people, singing with the people.

So I guess people started to find out that I was I kind of there hanging out. So it was time for me to leave yesterday, and the South African government asked me if I would mind staying and being a part of the event. And we had already checked our luggage and everything. I told them, I said, "You have to get my luggage off the plane," and so they were able to do that. And we went to a rehearsal last night and rehearsed and taught some of my songs in Zulu. And they told me I would be performing right before the president gets up. And that was an honor.

And, so, we stood up today and I hope I made people proud. I hope I made the South African proud. I hope I made my hometown proud. I hope I made just my community and my country proud and just really tried to represent my faith in this great man.

MALVEAUX: And, Kirk, tell us about that, because clearly it was an electrifying performance, and you chose the song, "My Life Is in Your Hands."

What did Mandela mean to you?

FRANKLIN (via telephone): What's very interesting is sometimes, unfortunately, you come up a lot of times, you're not taught extensively about a lot of the history, you know, that happens in other countries.

And so I was in my early 20s during apartheid. And I didn't know much about it except what I heard from a distance, but just as I got older and started to hear more and more and more, there were things I learned from a distance.

But I can tell you, these last five days, I've become so informed and so educated being here in South Africa for five days that my 13-year- old son is telling me, Daddy, as soon as you get home teach me everything about Mandela. And it's like he has no idea, because I'm ready now. I'm ready and prepared to teach him all about this great man.

MALVEAUX: All right, Kirk Franklin, thank you so much for your performance and also for passing that lesson down to your son.

This is something that -- he makes a good point. A lot of young people don't know.

HOLMES: You're a huge fan. You are a huge fan.

MALVEAUX: I'm a huge fan of Kirk Franklin, but a lot of young people, they don't know about Mandela. They haven't heard about him. They don't know the full story.


MALVEAUX: So it's nice to see when something like that can really happen.

HOLMES: Exactly.


HOLMES: Exactly. All right, we're going to move on, round two of snow and ice, bad weather hitting the Northeast again, even federal offices in D.C. shut down because of all of this.

Chad Myers is standing by to tell us all about it.


MALVEAUX: If the weather is this bad in the United States now, what is winter going to be like?

HOLMES: It's not even winter.

MALVEAUX: It's not even winter. That's the whole point. You've got temperatures in part of the country, they're 20 degrees below normal.

HOLMES: They are, and snow falling from Virginia all the way to New England.

Some people could see half a foot on the ground today, which means the roads could be risky, and check out that video if you haven't seen it already.

This was Sunday near Milwaukee. Officials say nearly two dozen vehicles slamming into each other in five minutes.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, thankfully no serious injuries. The weather is so bad, it's even iced over parts of the federal government.

And that's where we find, of course, CNN's Chris Lawrence in the storm in Washington, D.C., Chad Myers, tracking every move from the Severe Weather Center.

So Chris, you know, D.C. doesn't always handle ice and snow very well. We know, having lived there for quite some time. What is it like today? Is it any worse off than we've seen in previous winters?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Suzanne. It really hasn't been all that bad.

A couple of hours ago, we were seeing it really, really come down. And it was the kind of thick, wet snow that tends to accumulate very, very quickly, but in this case, it just simply did not. I don't think Chad would even classify this as a dusting here in the heart of D.C., here on the National Mall.

Of course, the federal government is closed. That means a lot of businesses that rely on the government are also closed. The schools are closed. So the roads are fairly clear, not many cars out, and there's nothing that ever really accumulated on the roads.

Of course, there was a lot of concern over what this storm could have been because of what we saw over the last couple days, those pile-ups, a tremendous amount of snow in places like Philadelphia that really didn't expect that much. So there was a lot of concern that getting more snow on top of that would cause even more problems from some of the areas that were still trying to dig out. Looks like we missed the brunt of this, at least here in the Washington, D.C. area.

HOLMES: I was going to say, Chris, you need to get a wind machine and a bigger jacket if you're going to impress us, because you look quite comfortable there and all around you, it doesn't look too bad.

Am I missing something?

LAWRENCE: It's almost 40 degrees. What do you want me to do? Do you want me to put on the full parka here?

I've been trying to convince the joggers not to jog behind me to make it look somewhat wintry at this point.

HOLMES: I love it.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate you doing that.

HOLMES: You done good.

MALVEAUX: D.C. does not always handle -- having lived there for many years, it doesn't handle snow or even a little bit of snow very well.

So that could be part of the reason why they shut some of the federal government down.

HOLMES: It's not as nice as that everywhere.

Chad Myers?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Inside the Beltway, there's a lot of hot air. You get outside the Beltway and it's not so nice. You get out toward Vienna and elsewhere, Dulles, it's a little bit nasty out there, Gaithersburg. You know, the snow did come down and it did stick. The issue is now, yes, it's above 32 and it's melting.

But after sunset tonight, it will begin to refreeze and watch out for 28 as we get into even up toward 1 and I-95, we will see snow, finally into New York City, ending here I'd probably say in the next probably hour or two.

So just about, what you see is what you get, except the cold air still coming in. There's so much cold air that's going to be sinking in these bridges and overpasses tonight that, even though it looks wet right now, it will be ice. Some black ice will develop. So, watch that as we start to sink into the nighttime hours.

Bismarck, high today 16, that's 13 degrees below where we should be. And it doesn't get a lot better, because that cold air moves east.

HOLMES: Oh, that's cold.

MYERS: Yeah. HOLMES: Yeah. That's --

MYERS: That's the high.

HOLMES: They've got big jackets there.

MALVEAUX: Yeah. Thank you, Chad.

That's what you like about you, Michael, keeping it real in Washington, D.C. just keeping it real.

HOLMES: I like Chad's line.

MALVEAUX: Hot air.

And just when you think you're complaining about cold where it is where you live, well, the coldest day ever has been recorded in Antarctica. And, insanely, we're talking about minus-135.8 degrees Fahrenheit. It is so cold scientists say that it could actually hurt, of course. It would hurt you, to breathe.

HOLMES: Look at the pictures, though.

Yeah, this happened more than three years ago, actually. We're not that behind on the news because NASA only just recently analyzed all the satellite data and released the results.

That's a bit chilly.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, it is very, very chilly there.

We're watching this, as well, about a half hour, Secretary of State John Kerry is going to go before the House foreign affairs committee.

And why? The Obama administration says that the recent deal with Iran, the Iran nuke deal, is a good one.

But it's a tough sell for the administration because members of the president's own party say it's too easy on Iran.

We're going to go live to Washington, next.