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Health Care on the Line as Obama Prepares to Address Congress; Outspoken White House Adviser Quits; Some Call Obama's Planned Speech to Schoolchildren Indoctrination; Dugard's Hometown Turns Pink; Merriman Charged in Attack on Girlfriend; Conflict at Arizona Church; Kentucky Church Plans to Ordain Convicted Sex Offender; A Look at the First Latina Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis; Girl Pulls Out Gun in School Bus; Tackling Bullying

Aired September 06, 2009 - 22:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Richard, lawmakers and the American public are looking for detail from President Obama, and this week's speech all about selling health care reform may also be about pitching the message "let's take what we can get -- now."


BOLDUAN (voice-over): President Obama returns from vacation to face a crucial week ahead in the health care debate. Top White House aides insist the president will spell out his specifics for reform when he speaks Wednesday to a joint session of Congress.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They'll lead that speech knowing exactly where the President stands, exactly what he thinks we have to do to get health care done.

BOLDUAN: At the same time, CNN has learned the White House is quietly talking about drafting its own health care bill, a kind of contingency legislation, and is leaning toward a plan that would trigger a public insurance option only if health care reforms fail to meet certain goals. White House officials dodged questions Sunday about whether the President would sign a bill that doesn't include a public option.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: He believes the public option is a good tool. Now, it shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however.

BOLDUAN: It's a contentious issue that has the White House squeezed from the right and the left.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We need credible, comprehensive, universal health care with a good, robust public option now.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: I think if the Democrats embrace the public option even in the form of the trigger, they're going to shoot themselves in the foot.

BOLDUAN: And political analysts say there's a lot riding on the president's short visit this week to Capitol Hill. STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: He can talk about, you know, various alternatives and ideas, but at the end of the speech, it seems to me folks on Capitol Hill and around the country have to have a much clearer idea what kind of a bill he feels he needs to sign.


BOLDUAN: Recent numbers show the president may have some hard work ahead there. According to a CNN opinion research corporation poll, "A majority of Americans say they feel more secure under the current health care system than with the president's proposal." Richard.

RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Kate Bolduan there in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much, at the White House.

Let's dig a little deeper into the president's speech now and the high stakes week ahead. CNN's Political Editor, Mark Preston, joins me tonight from Washington. We've also got Mary Mitchell, Columnist for the Chicago Sun Times. She is in Chicago.

Mark, let's start with you. Let's look at the latest poll numbers on health care reform. And we pull those up, they really don't look great for President Obama, especially in that one category, 65 and older.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Look, Richard, look at those numbers right there. If you're over the age of 65 -- rather, over the age of 35, a majority of Americans oppose President Obama's plan at this moment. And then, again, if you jump up to 65 and older, these are folks who are on Medicare.

These are folks who think that this plan, if enacted, is going to take away their Medicare. When President Obama gives his speech later this week, he has got to sell his plan to these folks. These are folks who are very active and people who vote, and this is going to be crucial when it comes down to the midterm elections in 2010.

LUI: Yes. And one of the issues here, Mary, is that there's certainly division within his own party, the president's. Will this be an attempt here to try to coalesce that support?

MARY MITCHELL, COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, first of all, he has to sell a health plan, his health plan, by clearly explaining why there's so many myths out there and giving the American people the truth. That's first of all. And then he can't sell out the Liberals and the supporters who really want to see a form of universal health care and a public option. He has to be really strong on this. He cannot back down. This is the moment that he has to stand up and say this is the right thing to do for American people.

LUI: All right. Let me build on what you're saying there, Mary. The public option -- Axelrod had said, as we saw in that package from Kate Bolduan, it's not all about the public option, but isn't it, Mark? PRESTON: You know, at this point, if you are a liberal or progressive, it is all about the public option, and this is really a big problem for President Obama heading into this week. We've seen Liberals come out and tell us, Richard, that the public option has to be part of this bill, and if it's not they're not going to support it.

But look, here in Washington, to get things done there has to be a compromise, and when you saw the White House advisors out today really not drawing a line in the sand on the public option, I think that's foretelling what we're going to see when President Obama speaks later this week when he lays out his vision for health care reform.

LUI: All right. Mark and Mary, stick around. We're going to get to some other stories and get back to you in just a second. A quick reminder, by the way, CNN will carry the president's health care reform address to Congress live Wednesday night at 8:00 Eastern.

Now we take you to a 9/11 petition signature and some strong opinions about Republicans that seemed to have cost an outspoken White House adviser his job. Word came in in the middle of the night, in the middle of a holiday weekend, that Green Jobs' Van Jones was quitting. Jones accuses his critics of mounting a smear campaign against him. Mary Snow sheds some light on how this all reached a boiling point.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs, was thrust to the forefront over questions surrounding this 2004 petition he signed on the Web site demanding, "a call for immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur." Van Jones is listed as signer 46.

Asked why his name is on it, an administration source tells CNN that Jones did not carefully review the language in the petition, and in a statement issued Friday, Jones said, "I do not agree with this statement, and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Jones' name appearing on the petition responding, "It's not something the president agrees with." Jones has also gained attention for comments he made before his White House job, including this one, now on YouTube, when he was talking about Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are the Republicans able to push things through when they have less than 60 senators but somehow we can't?

VAN JONES, SPECIAL ADVISOR, GREEN JOBS: Well, the answer to that is they're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holes. That's a technical political planning term. And it -- (INAUDIBLE).

SNOW: In 2005, he was quoted in the East Bay Express saying, "By August, I was a communist," when explaining about his radicalization following the acquittals in the police beating case of Rodney King in 1992. Jones said, "If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize."

The Green Jobs guru came under scrutiny by some Conservatives, notably FOX TV Host Glenn Beck. Defenders of Jones say Beck targeted him because Jones was formerly with a group now working to get advertisers to boycott Beck's show. The boycott came after the FOX host called President Obama a racist.

Before this, Jones was primarily known for his environmental work, including the best-selling book The Green Collar Economy. Back in May, in comments on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, Jones even won the praise of former eBay's CEO Meg Whitman, now a Republican candidate for governor in California.

MEG WHITMAN, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE, REPUBLICAN: I am a big fan. He's done a marvelous job.

SNOW: On Friday, Whitman said she did not know Jones well and distanced herself, saying it's clear he holds views she entirely rejects.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


LUI: OK. Mark and Mary had been listened along with us to that report. Mark, let's start with you. The White House says it did not order Van Jones to step down, but, you know, no one came rushing, certainly, to his defense - so we've heard. Do you think the administration caved to the Right in this case?

PRESTON: No. I mean, look, I mean when you have all this controversy boiling up, I mean, I think Robert Gibbs said it best earlier today on the Sunday shows when he said that not one person is bigger than the president's agenda and when you are causing turmoil around the administration, you are asked to leave, basically, or you know best to leave.

LUI: You know, Mary, bottom line, Van Jones here, did he become a distraction he just had to get out of the way?

MITCHELL: Well, I think that he did the right thing, because he understands that the health care debate is much more important than arguing over his comments that were made in 2004 or whether he signed a petition, why he signed that petition. I mean, he's not on - he's not trying to get on a commission that's looking at terrorism. He is looking at Green Jobs and looking at how America can move forward with that.

I think it's unfortunate that in this day and age anyone can take a snippet of what you say, go back into, you know, speeches that you have given or look at some of the film clips - maybe you made a bad joke, and they can pull that out in a situation where you want to cause a distraction.

So I think rather than caving in, I think what's happened here is that the Obama administration is being pushed around by conservatism. If they don't get a grip on that, Van Jones would not be the last person who will be pushed out.

LUI: OK. Mark, in this case how big of an obstacle would have Jones - Van Jones - been? And, for that matter, do you think it's really the end of the controversy?

PRESTON: You know, Richard, what it is is just another dagger for opponents of President Obama's administration to keep on digging at him. You know, he stepped down -- it's not going to go away. It wouldn't be a huge issue, but it's another bullet, so to speak, you know, in the gun for Conservatives just to continually go after President Obama. Look, we're going to hear about it on talk radio this week, no question.

LUI: OK. Mark, Mary, stick around. We need you to give us more insight to another issue that we're going to cover after the break. Those aren't the only problems, certainly, the White House is dealing with right now. There's also the follow up from his scheduled Speech to School Children this week. That's coming up.

And then, later, a convicted sex offender wants to be ordained as a minister in Kentucky, and his congregation is OK with this. We'll ask him and his pastor what they're thinking.

Also, the Phoenix pastor who prayed for President Obama's death refuses to back down a week after his controversial comments.


LUI: The White House is facing a big test this week quieting the theory over President Obama's planned speech to the nation's school kids. Many parents say that Tuesday's address will amount to indoctrination, not education. Some are even considering keeping their kids at home.


SHANNEEN BARRON, PARENT: Thinking about my kids - sorry - in school, having to listen to that just really upsets me.

TAD MILLER, PARENT: I may have voted for McCain and Bush in the past. I wouldn't want them speaking to my student or your student or anybody else's student, for that matter, their child. Politics is totally up to the family.

ANDREA MILLER, PARENT: So, will I send my child? I don't know. Right now, I'd say no.


LUI: All right. But Education Secretary Arne Duncan is calling those complaints "silly." Today he admitted the original lesson plan was flawed when it called for students to write a letter about how they can help the president. That section has since been changed and Duncan says participation is totally up to the parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The president's whole speech is about asking students to take personal responsibility for their education and really challenge them to work hard every day, to set goals, to have a strong work ethic, and I think this is a really important message. It's absolutely voluntary. No one is mandating this. Folks can watch it in school or they can watch it that night at home with their families. They can watch it two months from now, or they can never watch it. Whatever they want to do.


LUI: All right. So let's get back to Mark Preston and Mary Mitchell right now.

This is supposed to be an 18-minute speech about studying hard in class. And Mary, you know, does this show how split the country is right now? I mean, why is this speech so polarizing for so many?

MITCHELL: Well, I don't know if this shows that the country is split. It certainly shows that there are still people in this country who are not respecting Barack Obama as president and as being in that office. I have never heard of people being upset when the president of the United States wants to take time out of his schedule to encourage our youth to do better in school. That's not indoctrination. That's just encouragement, and it's really quite sad that even when the president wants to just do something that is not political that his critics will come out after him.

LUI: Mark, this has certainly energized a portion of Conservatives. How savvy of a move is this speech?

PRESTON: Well, you know, the Obama White House is brilliant when it comes to controlling the message. But, in this case, I think that the criticism is really unfounded. I mean, the fact that we just had somebody on our air crying because President Obama was going to deliver an 18-minute speech is just fascinating to me that that would actually happen.

You know, I mean, look, the fact is he's going to deliver a speech. The initial lesson plan was, in fact, flawed. They shouldn't have done that. But, you know something? The text is going to be on the White House Web site tomorrow. If parents are concerned, feel free to go there and read the speech. But the fact is, he's the President of the United States, Richard. He should be delivering these speeches.

LUI: All right. Mark Preston, CNN's political editor. Mary Mitchell is from the "Chicago Sun Times." Thank you for spending time with us this Sunday evening. Have a great Labor Day.

PRESTON: Thanks, Richard.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

LUI: You don't have to be in a school, by the way, to catch the president's speech to the kids. Just tune in to CNN. We plan to carry that live for you at noon Eastern on Tuesday.

A big-time pro football player charged with assaulting his reality star girlfriend. We'll tell you what happened there. Also, a week after praying for President Obama's death, a Phoenix pastor stands his ground and defies protestors outside his church.

Plus, practicing what they preach? A Kentucky congregation prepares to ordain a convicted sex offender who says he's no longer a risk to the community.


LUI: Jaycee Dugard's hometown turned pink today to celebrate her reunion with her family 18 years after she vanished on her way to school. Dugard, now 29 years old, was found living in Antioch, California with convicted sex offender Philip Garrido. South Lake Tahoe held a similar parade for Dugard eight years ago to mark the tenth anniversary of her disappearance. Today's parade route followed the reverse direction to symbolize Dugard's homecoming.

Big trouble for pro football star Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers. His girlfriend, reality TV star Tila Tequila, claims that Merriman choked and physically restrained her from leaving his San Diego home before dawn this morning. Police arresting the 25 year old linebacker, and he was booked into jail on one count of battery and one count of false imprisonment. Tequila starred in an MTV reality dating show.

An Arizona pastor who stood in the pulpit and prayed for President Obama to die is not backing down, and many of his parishioners flocked to Sunday services today. But as Melissa Gonzalo of our affiliate KPNX reports for us, they found themselves defending their pastor to a swarm of protestors crowding the church entrance.


MELISSA GONZALO, KPNX-TV CORRESPONDENT: People lined Southern Avenue Sunday morning, spreading their message of love.

CAROLYN LOWERY, DEMONSTRATOR: Because I, too, am a minister and I would never get on the pulpit and preach hate.

GONZALO: This is a video of one of Pastor Anderson's sermons posted on YouTube.

STEVEN ANDERSON, PASTOR, FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH: I hate Barack Obama, and I'm going to prove this from the Bible tonight why I should hate Barack, why God wants me to hate Barack Obama, why God hates Barack Obama.

TINA CAMPBELL, DEMONSTRATOR: I'm appalled that anyone would talk about killing the president and as a religious leader I'm appalled that anyone would do it from a pulpit.

THOMAS JOHN, DEMONSTRATOR: There's more of us who believe God means peace and love than hatred and wishing the president's demise. GONZALO: But Pastor Anderson is standing by his message. He refused to be interviewed today, only saying...

ANDERSON: I'm not changing anything that I've said.

GONZALO: Last Sunday, he told us...

ANDERSON: Do you want to know how I'd like to see Obama die? I'd like to see him die of natural causes.

GONZALO: Herb Rice attended Anderson's service today. He admits preaching about wanting President Obama to die is extreme and offered this solution.

HERB RICE, ATTENDEE, FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH: I think Obama could maybe reach out to Pastor Anderson and I would pray that they both come to some kind of agreement.

GONZALO: Other members of Faithful Word Baptist Church are continuing to stand by Pastor Anderson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was the sermon today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was real good. You guys ought to go.

GONZALO: This member even admitted he has prayed for the president and others to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people do evil in this world, things will happen to them, OK? The Bible says God is a God of judgment.

GONZALO: Thomas John says, not his God. In Tempe, Melissa Gonzalo, 12 News.


LUI: A Kentucky church plans to ordain a convicted sex offender this week, despite the obvious concerns in the community. We asked the pastor and the prospective minister about this issue.

Also for you, a terrifying sight off the coast of Cape Cod. That's right, great white sharks. And this Labor Day weekend we'll introduce you to the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, as we kick off our new series, "PIONEROS: LATINO FIRSTS."


LUI: Can violent sex offenders be rehabilitated? Will they ever purge themselves of the desire to sexually violate someone? One pastor in Louisville, Kentucky says yes. As a matter of fact, he's preparing to ordain one of his members who happens to be a registered sex offender. Adam Walser with CNN affiliate WHAS has their story.


ADAM WALSER, WHAS-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): City of Refuge Church proclaims that everyone is welcome. That's probably what attracted Mark Hourigan. Hourigan was charged back in 1998 with sodomizing, sexually abusing and intimidating an 11-year-old boy. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, served time in prison and agreed not to serve as a leader in any church where he would have contact with children. But Hourigan's probation is over, even if his sex offender registration will never end.

PASTOR RANDY MEADOWS, CITY OF REFUGE WORSHIP CENTER: But us as a society, we can't forget. We can't move on. And I preach in this church to try to allow God to move you on to a better life.

WALSER: Pastor Randy Meadows says the Lord has touched Hourigan's heart. Hourigan now leads praise and worship at the church and he will become an ordained minister next Sunday.

MEADOWS: If we show people that someone with Mark's background, Mark's past can become someone that will be productive in society, then - who else could reach out to other people but Christ's people?

WALSER: But former Church Deacon Kevin Pickerrell says Hourigan was never straightforward about his past until he was confronted.

KEVIN PICKERRELL, FORMER CHURCH DEACON, CITY OF REFUGE WORSHIP CENTER: So I had, of course, my piece of paper that I did my research on and I handed it to him and I said, "This is the problem." And his reaction was, "Oh, you found out."

WALSER: Pickerrell fears Hourigan may be tempted by children who gather at the church for weekly Sunday School. He worries he could reoffend.

PICKERRELL: Maybe he's going to fall in that category of the low percentage that doesn't, but I don't want to take the chance.

WALSER: Pastor Meadows says Hourigan will sign an agreement not to minister to children.

MEADOW: God is a God of love and a forgiving God, and I'm doing what He's telling me to do. And if that's not popular, well, Jesus wasn't either, so --


LUI: Well, Mark Hourigan and Pastor Meadows join me live, and, as you just heard, Hourigan is a registered sex offender soon to be an ordained minister. He was charged back in 1998 with sodomizing, sexually abusing and intimidating an 11-year-old boy. He pleaded guilty to lesser charge of two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree and served a four year, eight month sentence.

Randy Meadow is pastor of the City of Refuge Worship Center. Meadows will ordain Mark, and Pastor, you admit it's the first time you've heard of a church in the US ordaining someone who is registered for life as a sex offender. Is that right?

MEADOW: Yes, it is. LUI: All right. You know -- go ahead.

MEADOW: I just look at that God gives everyone a second and a third and a fourth chance, and, you know, I've watched the walk of Mark for the last year and a half, and the church has watched his walk, and I know that God can change people if we allow God to do so. So I - I'm very proud of his walk in the Lord.

LUI: Mark, in the Jaycee Dugard case, Philip Garrido is a good example of one who was in recovery but really wasn't in recovery. Why should parishioners that you go to church along with believe that you are in recovery?

MARK HOURIGAN, REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER: Well, I completed the sex offender treatment program while I was in prison, and also since I was released, while I was on parole, so I've completed it twice. And I've learned a lot of tools through that program, and I've learned that - that I have to change the way that I think in order to change my actions and my behaviors. And I've learned a lot of things as far as what situations not to place myself in and when I'm having problems on emotional level to seek out counsel from other people such as my pastor or other members of the church in order to deal with those so that it doesn't turn into something that it has in the past.

LUI: Pastor Meadows, the Catholic Church has experienced -- as you know -- scores of sex offense cases over the decades -- that have spanned the decades and has had significant financial repercussions. Aren't you a little bit worried of the risk that you'll be facing here?

MEADOWS: I don't take anything lightly when it comes to someone's past. And, please, I want everyone to know that. But I want everyone to know that this church in no way, shape or form will be putting the children of this church in harm's way, the members of this church, or Brother Mark in harm's way.

We are very aware of everything, and the one thing is that he's not hidden this from me or the board members of the church or the ministers. So we are very watchful of every situation that comes along in our congregation. We're just a small church of this nation, preaching the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, that he is a God of love and a God of second and third chances, and even many more. So we are very watchful.

LUI: Mark, in the report from Adam Walser, he reported that the Deacon did not feel that you were being forthright about your background. Have you been?

HOURIGAN: Yes. It's something that I've always done since my release from prison. In any church I've attended, I've always -- if I'd known, knew that I was going to be attending the church for any length of time, I always go to the pastor and let him know of my background and my situation, which I did with Pastor Randy, as I did at other churches.

And -- just so that they -- so that there's a level of accountability, and I pretty much just let the pastor know so that he can be watchful of me and if there's other people within the church that he needs to inform so that they can also -- that I can be accountable to them as well.

LUI: Pastor Meadows, when you heard from Mark about his background, did that surprise you at all?

MEADOWS: To be honest with you, when I opened up the church about six years ago, I wanted a church for all people, a safe place to reach out to the whole city of Louisville and to other areas, that we are a church that does reach out to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight community. And I believe that's what Christ would have us to do. So I, therefore, you know, stand strong on...

LUI: So it didn't surprise you? It did not surprise you?

MEADOWS: I'm sorry?

LUI: It did not surprise you, then, Pastor?

MEADOWS: When he came to me, yes, it did surprise me. But I took it under great consideration and great prayer, and therefore, you know, took it with the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit of the Lord.

LUI: Mark, back to you.

"The Washington Post" points to a Danish (ph) study that showed basically eight in 10 offenders offend again. It mentions that either physical or chemical castration actually reduces that to one in 50. Now, would you consider that, that process of castration, whether physical or chemical, to satisfy some of your critics that are out there at the church and in other places?

MARK HOURIGAN, REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER: Well, it's not something that I've considered or even thought about, because as I learned through the treatment programs that I've been in that this offense is more a mental and emotional problem that has to be corrected through thinking, and therefore, as you change your thinking about things in the way you have in the past, that you can change the way that you behave. And being able to seek out counsel through others can help you get through that and not allow yourself to be in high-risk situations.

LUI: Mark, we've got to go but I want to ask you, why do you want to be a minister?

HOURIGAN: Well, I've felt the call of God in my life when I was younger, and I was going through a divorce before and I wasn't allowed to be ordained through that church because of that, because of the denomination that I was affiliated with.

And, of course, I went to prison after that, soon after that, and I just -- and I had no intentions when I joined this church of being ordained, but I felt because of the acceptance and the love and the way that Pastor Randy has reached out to not just me but a lot of people who have been rejected that God can use me to reach out to those people that need that hope and need that light. To see them through whatever situation they're going through, whether it's one similar to mine or, you know, we all have things we go through so that's what my mission that I want my mission to be, is to reach out to those who need that hope in their lives regardless of what they've done in the past.

LUI: Mark, thank you so much for stopping by tonight to speak with us. Also, Pastor Meadows, we appreciate your time tonight as well. Thank you.

MEADOWS: Thank you.

LUI: It's a race against time. At the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, can they finish emergency repairs before Tuesday morning's rush hour?

Great white sharks also off the coast of Cape Cod throw a monkey wrench into beach-goers Labor Day plans there.

And then later, as a girl, Hilda Solis was told to be a secretary but she beat those expectations by becoming President Obama's secretary of Labor. We'll tell you how this Latina pioneer broke barriers to make some history.


LUI: We're taking you to San Francisco where engineers and repair crews will be working around the clock to fix a major crack in the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Now this crack is unrelated to the replacement of a span at the other end of the bridge. Officials cannot say for sure when the crack will be fixed. The goal here, though, is to have all the work completed and the bridge reopened to traffic on Tuesday morning.

That's not exactly the story line, but somewhat reminiscent of the blockbuster movie "Jaws." Here's why, yes. That's a great white shark you see there.

City officials have in Chatham, Massachusetts have closed a number of beaches to swimming after multiple sightings of the sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. The bay state's division of marine fisheries has tagged two of the sharks with electronic devices so they can be tracked. The sharks were eight to 10 feet long. Imagine seeing that if you're in the water.

Over to Jacqui Jeras in the weather center, how's is going?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going great. I'm staying here on dry land, my friend.

A lot of people hitting the beach, though, this holiday weekend. And, you know, clear across the northeast, so weather-wise it's great. It's the gulf coast in parts of Florida where we've being the showers and thundershowers kind of popping up. And this will be the rule again as we head through tomorrow. So your Labor Day forecast looks like this. The heaviest showers and thunderstorms we think will be here across the Ohio River Valley, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, into the Pittsburgh area. Also into the Nashville area. Temperature-wise it's going to be feeling fine. Lots of 70s and 80s but cool and damp in the Pacific Northwest -- Richard.

LUI: A great Labor Day weekend. Thank you. Thanks, Jacqui.

The daughter of immigrants, the first to graduate college in her family, now she's serving in President Obama's cabinet. We're going to introduce you to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in our new series, "Pioneros, "Latino First."

And we saw it this week. A student standing up for himself to prevent a tragedy. More and more students are stepping up to deal with issues of bullying to try and prevent school violence. We're digging deeper.


LUI: Starting tonight right here in the NEWSROOM, we're profiling Latinos who overcame obstacles and shattered stereotypes to make some history. It's part of our new series, "Pioneros, Latino First." Our focus tonight on this Labor Day weekend is Hilda Solis, the nation's first Latino Labor secretary. She spoke with CNN's Brianna Keilar.




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary, what do you think of where you are today?

SOLIS: It's amazing. Just really amazing to be here, to be seated as a cabinet member and the first Latina in the Obama administration. And it's a dream.

KEILAR: When you received the call from, well, then President- elect Obama, what was your first thought knowing that this opportunity was open to you?

SOLIS: I was very proud. I mean, I think it's -- it was very unexpected. But our president is a very, very giving man. Very, very open, very much about bringing in diversity and coalescing with different people. So I think he took a lot of people by surprise.

KEILAR: How important is it to have someone be the first so that it -- is it breaking a ceiling in a way? Is it breaking a barrier to make this more likely in the future?

SOLIS: I think it is. And all you have to do is look at the election that took place last year. Having the first African-American president in our lifetime, that's amazing. The fact that this is one of the most diverse cabinets that we've seen in the history of our presidencies is amazing to me.

And I feel very honored to have colleagues like Hillary Clinton, who's a friend, to see Ken Salazar, former U.S. senator who is also a high-ranking Latino serving in the Department of Interior. To have people like Eric Holder, African-American serving as our attorney general, I mean, these are capable, talented and intelligent individuals so I feel -- I feel like, gee, what a wonderful opportunity to be able to serve as colleagues with them.

KEILAR: There must have been a point in time, if you would share with us, when it was clear to you that it was harder because you are a Latina. Was there ever a time?

SOLIS: Certainly I know people have doubted my capability or my intelligence or, you know, what I bring to the table. And you often get tested in that way, and I think the first example that I often refer to is in high school. And the fact that my original high school counselor, not the one that encouraged me to go to college, the one that you get assigned by alphabet in high school actually had asked me, well, you know, Hilda, what are you going to do? You're in 11th grade. You have a year to go here. What are your career choices?

And I said well, I don't know. Well, why don't you follow -- he tells me why don't you follow along with what your sister -- your older sister did and become a secretary. And that's what his sights were for me.

KEILAR: You did become a secretary.

SOLIS: Surprisingly, a cabinet secretary.

KEILAR: Not what he was suggesting.

SOLIS: Exactly. And the counselor who was saying that I should be a secretary actually told my mother that, well, you know, Miss Solis, your daughter isn't college material. So, I mean, that, to me, and my mother, I think, really just kind of made us want to work even harder and for her to support me more.

So it meant more. It just created more internal energy on our parts to really do something that goes against the grain. And when I think about it now, I think about all those students that were told, oh, no. Here. Just do that. Just settle for that. You'll be fine. You'll make due. And I think, no, this has got to change.

So one of the things I did after I did get admitted to the four- year college was to go back to my high school, and I recruited other students who had similar backgrounds, same grades and things like that and told them that they could go to college, too. That year we ended up recruiting about 25 students from that high school.

KEILAR: When you look at your bio, there is this list of firsts for you. And I think the one that really sticks out is the first first is being the first person in your family. A large family, you have several siblings. The first person in your family to graduate college. How important was that, being the first in your family to graduate college?

SOLIS: It was very important, and I think it's important for other families to think about that, too. That in -- typically in our culture young women aren't always encouraged because many -- there aren't many people in the family that have gone on to college to share that experience and to encourage the parents to understand the importance and significance what that means. So it is important for that to kind of be a lesson for other people to know that it's possible to have changes like that coming maybe even influenced from outside sources like a high school counselor who happen to take an interest on what I was doing and thought I was capable of going to college.

KEILAR: How hard is it right now to have this job that you have?

SOLIS: You know, we've inherited this very bad economic crisis which started officially December 2007. But I know in the community where I grew up and that I represented as a member of Congress, we were seeing high numbers of unemployment way before 2000. I could see figures going up high, always in the Hispanic community, the African- American community, disadvantaged where you saw people struggling.

KEILAR: Is the Latino American experience in this recession different than the American experience of it?

SOLIS: It's harder, yes. They definitely have higher rates of unemployment. And we see that women, Latina women are the ones that are really bearing the brunt of this, because they are typically the ones that keep the household together. So they're tending to their children or having to work another -- or maybe two part-time jobs or minimum wage jobs, they are really feeling a lot of pressure.

And I know -- and I know that and I see it. I see it in the faces when I go out to different communities whether it's San Antonio, Texas, East Los Angeles or Miami, Florida, or in New York or in Chicago. I was just, you know, visiting some places there, some work experience, job experience places there, and saw that there was a lot of -- there's a lot of concern and anxiety, but at the same time when I get to talk to people and explain what our programs are, there's a change in their attitude. And their eyes light up and they're looking to see how they can get engaged and take advantage of these programs.

And so that's what I want to do. I want to inform people about opportunities that the Department of Labor can offer to them, and I want to do in a way that will impact the Hispanic community and other communities that are also in great need right now.

KEILAR: As a member of President Obama's cabinet, what do you bring from your background that enlightens what you do as the secretary of Labor, that enlightens what you say when you are at that table near the Oval Office?

SOLIS: Well, I think about why I was -- why I was selected, and a lot of it has to do with, you know, your record. What have you done before in the past? What issues have you cared about? And those issues continue to be about working families, about continuing to help improve the quality of life for young children and for young adults, and for seniors to help our economy, you know, repair itself right now.

All these things I have worked on throughout my 25 years of public service. And I feel like I've come full circle, so I have the confidence about knowing what I stand for and what voice I would like to project. And it's not Hilda Solis' voice. It's the voice of women. It's the voice of people wanting to see justice in the workplace, wanting to have equality of education opportunities, equal pay, and to see that we have more access for diverse communities. So when I speak, it isn't just Hilda, the Latina cabinet member, it's Hilda the person who's bringing these other experiences with her.


LUI: Join us every week at this time as we profile more Latino firsts. Next week, we talk live with Oscar Hijuelos, the author of "Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" and the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

And coming this October, an in-depth look at what it's like to be "Latino in America." Its coverage you'll only see on CNN.

It was a tarrying scene on a school bus in Mississippi, but fast thinking by one of the students prevented a tragedy. And then later, this picture pretty much says it all. We'll explain how this car ended up in this house.


LUI: A 14-year-old girl in Yazoo, Mississippi was apparently fed up and frustrated with bullies. I'll let you take a look at what happened on her school bus this week. Take a look.

OK. Now, what you didn't see here is that the boy at the back of the bus, a senior football star, tackling the girl to the ground who was holding a gun. He potentially saved lives and risked his own as well. Listen to what happened. He describes it for us.


KALEB EULLS, TACKLED GIRL WITH GUN: As I tried to catch her attention, you know, just to get everybody safe off the bus, and I just tried to just focus directly on me, just pointing the gun at me, so I would that she's not pointing it at anyone else besides me. And in a split second, I guess she tried -- she looked out the bus or flinched or blinked, and I just knew that was my only chance and I just went at her.


LUI: Well, that situation could have ended tragically. It often does. Earlier this year, an 11-year-old Georgia boy hanged himself after school. Jaheem Herrera's mother says her son was constantly bullied. Conversations are happening all over the country now about how to protect children and educate others about the ripple effects of bullying. Here's a peek into a Youths Against Bullying conference held in Atlanta after Herrera's death.


TYLEIS SPEIGHT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: This year we lost the lives of two youths that committed suicide after enduring months of relentless bullying. We want to hear from you especially youth today. Today is your day.

Adults will tell you all bullying has been an issue that's always been around. You know, it's just, you know, teasing and, you know, toughen up. It's deeper than that. You know, our kids are hurting.

JEFF GRAHAM, GEORGIA EQUALITY: With increasingly frequency and increasingly younger and younger and younger people, some of the taunts are the perception of homosexuality. These taunts are going too far.

YEIRALIS BERMUDEZ, JAHEEM HERRERA'S SISTER: I was in Jaheem's class, too. I saw and heard when they bullied my brother, when they called him gay, virgin and ugly. They kept doing it every day until the day he died.

SIMONE MILSAP, 15 YEAR OLD: I have been bullied, and most of the time I retaliated because I let anger get the best of me.


LUI: And then check this out, we've heard of people totaling their car, but how about using a car to total a house?


LUI: It's like a scene from a Hollywood car chase, but in this case, it is all too real. It happened on Long Island, New York.

A man was driving so fast in his jeep that he jumped a speed bump and crashed into this house you see there on the second floor -- the second floor. The jeep ripped a hole in the house, fell down through the foyer and landed with its headlights pointed towards the sky. The homeowner was asleep on the couch. He wasn't hurt, but he still can't believe what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was shocked. How did you do this, you know? What were you thinking? How fast were you going?

He was doing "The Dukes of Hazzard".


LUI: Well, we believe some of what he said there. The driver of the jeep, by the way, faces DUI charges. He suffered only minor injuries and his passenger wasn't hurt at all.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: I'm Richard Lui in for Don Lemon at the CNN Center in Atlanta. You have a great week ahead.