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"CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE," Young at Heart Chorus Rocks to Its Own Beat; British Defense Ministry Backs Up Top General Who Says Does Not See Increased Threat from Iran; Trump Speaks at Peace Officer's Memorial Service. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I always appreciate your perspective. It is great to see you again. Thank you for coming in. Let's talk soon.

CHRISTOPHER GIBBS, FARMER: More than welcome. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Christopher Gibbs, out of Ohio.

Coming up, a group of senior citizens making a big difference with rock 'n' roll, if you can believe it. John Berman is next, on why they are his "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE."





[11:35:13] BOLDUAN: This week, we have been bringing you stories of exceptional people who are making a lasting impact around the world. The series is called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE." This year, we had a chance to revisit some of the extraordinary people we covered that not only leave a mark on the world but have left a lasting impression on us.

For the one and only John Berman, that's a group of citizens who rock to their own beat. John has been kind enough to bless us with his presence today.

Good to have you here.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is so nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: Good to have you hear.

You have traveled the world. There's not a story you haven't covered, which you love to remind me of all the time.


BOLDUAN: What is it about this group that left a lasting impression on you?

BERMAN: You can get cynical in this line of work. When I first met this group, it was 2008. And you'll hear me say this. I had been covering war. I just off covering Eliot Spitzer and his prostitution scandal, and so I was in a dark place. They are the antidote to cynicism.

We did a documentary, which was a big hit. People might remember the documentary from 2008.

When I met them, I was blown away. They honestly brighten my life. So, watch.



BERMAN (voice-over): The Young at Heart Chorus has a unique membership.

BOB GILMAN, DIRECTOR, YOUNG AT HEART CHORUS: It's a performance group of older people, ranging in age now from 75 to 90.

BERMAN (OC0: And how young are you?


UNIDENTIFIED CHORUS MEMBER: I will be 90 in November.

BERMAN: You're up there, singing. Do you feel 90?

UNIDENTIFIED CHORUS MEMBER: No. I don't feel any age.


BERMAN (voice-over): And the chorus has a unique repertoire.

(on camera): Seniors singing rock 'n' roll is a simplistic way of saying it, yes?

GILMAN: It is. It's a very limited way of saying it, yes.

BERMAN: Why limited?

GILMAN: There's more to it than that.


GILMAN: For older people, it's a joy to see older people on the stage rather than in the seats. That breaks a lot of rules. And the music we choose to do breaks a little bit of the mold as to what seniors are used to seeing.


STEVE MARTIN, MEMBER, YOUNG AT HEART CHORUS: Don't give up when you get older. Don't be afraid of getting old. Because you have so much to offer. You have so much to give.

BERMAN: The first time I visited with the Young at Heart Chorus, it was 2008. I had spent much of the previous five years going back and forth to Baghdad, covering the U.S. war in Iraq.

I meet Young at Heart and what I need more than anything is a story that's not violent and will just make me smile. And man, did I find it.

When I first met you, which was 11 years ago, you told me that it's super bold, like the world's best bar mitzvah and being ordained as a pope.

MARTIN: I still feel that way. It gave me a purpose to want to wake up in the morning and come to rehearsal and participate in something that just was great.

BERMAN (voice-over): And everyone needs to participate, as I learned, even a reporter can't stand around and watch.

(on camera): We were pretty much getting ready to go and you said to me, no. Wait a minute.

(voice-over): So I sang Barry Manilow's "Copacabana."


BERMAN (on camera): You told me the chorus is 25, 26 members, and it changes.


BERMAN: The membership changes?

GILMAN: Yes. We lose a lot of people. We've lost a lot of people. There's four or five people left from the chorus you saw in 2008.

BERMAN: So 11 years ago, Young at Heart had performed in a prison. Basically, once or twice. They went in and they sang before the prisoners and it was a very moving experience, but it was performance.

Now, 11 years later, it's part of their program. They're inside the prisons, singing with the prisoners.


BERMAN: When you hear Young at Heart is coming, when you see on the calendar --

AARON FOGG, INMATE: I get excited. I get excited. It will be like the night before and I want to go to bed early.

GILMAN: They know it's an hour, hour and a half where they'll be able to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable doing.

ANTHONY RODRIGUEZ, INMATE: Out of my comfort zone. I'm just doing this because, I don't know. I want to change. You know what I mean? I want to be a new person.

[11:40:05] BERMAN: Do they inspire you?

RODRIGUEZ: Of course.


MARTIN: It's a blessing to both of us, the prisoners and to us. We mix between the grandfather or the grandmother that they can't see or may not even have. We're saying to them, look, you're OK. You're going to be all right. Don't quit.

BERMAN: What's changed for you since we first met?

GILMAN: My age. I have become one of them.

You know, I'm now 65, you know. I get Medicare. The average age of this group is 84. And I can't imagine what I'm going to be doing when I'm 84. I look at what they're doing and I have deep appreciation for it all.

BERMAN (voice-over): And I do, too, because if they can do it, who am I to say no --


BERMAN: -- to a little James Brown.


MARTIN: This chorus, some day, people will look back and they'll say they did good things for people of all ages.



GILMAN: Don't quit your day job.


BERMAN: I'm not going to have a day job after this.


BOLDUAN: I mean, best part, not only seeing John Berman singing but the entire newsroom was right with him on this one.

Nice. Rock stars. You're amazing. You know I love you and love anything you do. But they're mazing.

BERMAN: They're so inspiring. That's the point. The only reason I agreed to sing is because, how do you say no when they're laying it all out there, when these 90-year-old people are out there, laying it on the line? It proves you can do anything.

BOLDUAN: That's amazing. Thanks for bringing that.

BERMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Nice to see you.

BERMAN: Nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: Back together.

We'll be right back.

Oh, after this. We'll continue sharing these inspiring stories all this week. Tune in on Saturday 8:00 p.m. Eastern for an hour-long "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" special.

We'll be right back.

BERMAN: Now we'll be right back.

BOLDUAN: Now officially.


[11:46:52] BOLDUAN: Give you a live look at Capitol Hill where President Trump is going to be speaking any moment now at the annual event and gathering honoring fallen law enforcement officers on Capitol Hill. We'll bring you his remarks live when he begins.

Meanwhile, there are troubling new signs of the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. Just this morning, the State Department is now ordering all non-emergency staff ordered to leave Iraq right away, citing intelligence that Iran was threatening Americans and American interests in the region.

Intelligence that top allies now seem to be questioning. The British Defense Ministry is coming to the defense of one of its top generals today after that general told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that he does not see an increased threat from Iran right now.

Joining me from the Pentagon is CNN's Barbara Starr with much more on this.

Barbara, what are you hearing there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, It's an unusual dust-up between two close allies right out in public. The British general was basically saying he doesn't see a change in the ongoing, existing threat that is always there from Iranian-backed forces inside Iraq. He was very clear that it's something they see, follow, track and something he felt prepared to deal with on behalf of the troops in the coalition.

So, the Pentagon, the U.S. Central Command, the portion that oversees operations in the Middle East, kind of fired back yesterday with a public statement, saying that the general's remarks, the British general's remarks did not follow the line of intelligence that the U.S. saw.

This morning, the British MOD in London, Ministry of Defense, firing back at the U.S., defending its general, saying he was talking about day-to-day operations.

Look, amidst all of this kerfuffle, the bottom line is that there's skepticism in a lot of quarters about the intelligence. People are waiting for the U.S. to come out publicly and show the evidence it has of this increased threat.

Right now, we're told that intelligence remains highly classified. They're going to see what they can bring up in public. So far, they're not showing it -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And how more important it becomes every day to see that evidence.

Good to see you, Barbara. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

STARR: Thanks.

[11:49:08] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, FAA officials are getting a grilling on Capitol Hill as Boeing is facing even more backlash over the 737 MAX 8. Next, new audio that has been revealed, reveals just how far some pilots went to sound the alarm and demand answers before a second -- before the second deadly crash happened.


BOLDUAN: Take you live to Capitol Hill now. As you can see, President Trump standing up to speak at the annual gathering of the Peace Officer's Memorial Service. Let's listen in to the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Please, thank you.

What a beautiful day. Third time and I have to say, this is the most beautiful weather, so that brings us a little luck. And it brings us a little happiness.

Chuck, I want to thank you for the great job that you've done. Your devotion has been incredible. I've known you a long time. We worked together and congratulations really on doing a fantastic job. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Chuck.


TRUMP: As president, I am deeply honored to join in this sacred commemoration for the third year in a row. Today, in the heart of our nation's capital, we come together to pay tribute to the American peace officers who made supreme sacrifice, all in the line of duty, in many cases, for people they never met, for people they didn't know. We're here to remember their noble lives, to thank God for their

profound courage, and to express our love, respect, everlasting gratitude for the heroes of law enforcement. And that's what they are and were, the heroes of law enforcement.

We're pleased to be joined today by Attorney General William Barr.

Doing a great job.


TRUMP: Secretary Acosta, Secretary Chao, and acting Secretary McAleenan.

Thanks also to the members of Congress who are in attendance, which there are many.

And to the members of the Fraternal Order of Police, including Jim Pasco, Linda Haney, and Chaplain Wiggins.

To all of the families of our fallen officers, our whole country is praying for you, embracing you, and pledging to you that we will never ever leave your side, never disappoint you. Your loved ones were extraordinary and selfless Americans who gave everything they had in defense of our communities, our children, and our nation.

These brave heroes did not put on the uniform for praise or for glory. They wore the badge because it was their duty, their calling, their noble purpose to serve, protect, like nobody has ever done it before. They embodied our highest ideals and greatest aspirations. They were the very best of us. There was nobody close.

Today, we engrave their memories into our hearts and inscribe their names into the eternal roll call of American heroes.

In honor of the fallen, we pledge to always support their brothers and sisters in blue. We stand firmly, strongly, and proudly with the incredible men and women of law enforcement.


TRUMP: You do not hear it nearly enough, but Americans across this country love you, they support you, they respect you, more than you would ever know, more than you would, frankly, ever think even possible. They have great respect for law enforcement and the job you do.

As we memorialize those officers who fell in the line of duty, we also grieve for the 87 officers who died in recent years as a result of exposure to toxic debris following the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

I would like to ask all of the family and fellow officers of those 9/11 heroes to please stand.

Thank you. Please. (APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

[11:55:01] I can tell you I live in that city and lived in that city during that time and the job they did was incredible. Today, we renew our solemn oath that we will never forget.

Before we read the names of the fallen, I want to share a few of the stories that exemplify the courage of those we honor at this ceremony.

Last year, America lost two extraordinary officers from Brookhaven, Mississippi, Patrolman James White and Corporal Zach Moak.

James asked his mom to sign a waiver so he could enlist in the Army National Guard at the age of only 17. Nearly 18 years in the military, James became something that he always wanted to be, a police officer.

His teammate, Zach, spent time caring for his nieces and nephews and family. On days when he worked the night shift, he would tell them, while you were sleeping, I will always be watching over you.

Last September, James and Zach responded to a report of shots fired at a home. When they arrived, they bravely engaged the shooters. It was a bad two minutes. It was violent and it was vicious.

Within seconds, the killer shot James. At that moment, Zach could have raced to safety. Instead, he raced to the side of his friend. As Zach tried to save his teammate, he, too, was shot and killed, giving his life for his brother in blue.

Today, we remember the words James once told his mom. He said, "Mama, if I ever die in the line of duty, know that I died doing what I truly loved.

This morning, we are honored to be joined by the families of both of these remarkable officers.

To patrolman James White's mom, Laura, and dad, Darrell, and sons, J.C. and James, and to Corporal Zach Moak's mom, Vickie, dad, Marshall, and brother, Chris, your heroes loved their job, they loved their country, and today, their love shines down on you from heaven. They're watching right now, they're watching, they're looking down on you and they're proud.

So please, could I have you just stand up, the families? Please. Please.


TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much. Two great men.

Also here with us for this ceremony are the families of Investigator Farrah Turner and Sergeant Terrence Caraway, of the Florence Police Department in the great state of South Carolina. Last October, Investigator Farrah Turner went to the house of a man

suspected of a crime against a minor. When she and her fellow officers approached, a gunman opened fire from his second-story window. Nobody knew it could happen. Nobody thought it was even possible. There was no evidence, no anything. But they knew it was trouble.

At that very moment, Florence Police Sergeant Terrence Carraway, a very popular person in that whole area of South Carolina -- they all knew him, legendary guy -- he was on his way home. He heard the call come over the radio. He sped to the scene, jumped out of his car, and was racing to the rescue. He knew the bullets were coming, but he kept going forward and he was struck by one of those bullets. In total, seven officers were shot on that very terrible day.

We lost Sergeant Carraway, a 30-year veteran of the department. As his pastor has said, if you were in his presence, you could feel that love. That's what they all say.