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New Developments in Search for Flight 370; Obama Marks Civil Rights Act's 50th Anniversary; Civil Rights Summit

Aired April 10, 2014 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer. And you're looking at video from just moments ago of President Obama arriving in Austin, Texas. He's about to speak at the LBJ Library at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. And as soon as it gets started, we'll be taking you there live.

In the meantime, though, we're going to turn to the day's other big story. Dramatic developments are unfolding in the mystery Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Search crews have detected another signal that could be from the black boxes. And new details are adding to the mystery surrounding the flight's final moments.

Sources tell CNN, the plane disappeared from military radar for about 120 nautical miles after crossing back over Malaysia. They say that means it must have dipped as much as 4,000 or 5,000 feet. Malaysia's military scrambled search planes on the morning that Flight 370 was reported missing but they didn't tell aviation officials until three days later. And sources say the pilot was the last person to speak to air traffic controllers with the words, "Good night, Malaysia 370."

Now, a lot of new information to sort through. Let's start with the details about the plane's likely drop in altitude after it disappeared from military radar.

Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson joining us now from Kuala Lumpur. Nic, walk us through what you're hearing from sources about how long the plane was out of radar contact and what exactly this means.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time we have been told of an altitude variation of the aircraft. The implications are that the aircraft was taken down an altitude under control, taken back up under control. What we're being told is if you remember, the aircraft took the left turn off its original track to Beijing, flies back across the Malaysian Peninsula. Once it gets back over the Malacca Straits, we're told there it dips down. It's then lost from military radar, reappearing on military radar about 120 nautical miles northwest of that position.

Now, we're being told that because it disappeared from military radar, the belief is that it dropped down to 4,000 - around 4,000, 5,000 feet. And the reason that investigators believe it did this was because it was flying across busy civil aviation routes, flying from Asia to Europe to India. So, that's one of the reasons, they believe, that it might have dipped down. Of course, it adds to the complexity of the investigation as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur. And we'll be getting right back to our coverage of Malaysian Air 370 in just a few minutes.

But first, we want to go to Austin, that story we told you about that we are following, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. And the program now beginning at LBJ library. This is Mavis Staples singing, known as the musical voice of the civil rights movement.

MAVIS STAPLES, SINGER AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST (singing) (live): We'll walk hand in hand. We'll walk hand in hand someday. Hey, deep in my heart, you know I do believe that we'll walk hand in hand someday. We shall live in peace one day we shall live in peace. We shall live in peace someday. Yes, deep, deep in my heart, you know I do believe that we shall live in peace someday. Oh, yes, God is on our side. God is on our side. God, he's on our side, oh, today, yes he is. Yes, deep, deeply in my heart, you know I do believe that God is on our side someday. Everybody. Hey, we shall overcome, sing it. We shall overcome. Oh, yes, we shall overcome someday. Yes, deep in my heart, you know I do believe that we shall overcome someday. One more time, come on. Yes. We shall overcome. Someday, you all, some day.

KEILAR: All right. That was a beautiful performance by Mavis Staples that we just watched there. This is Austin, Texas, at the Lyndon Bianes Johnson Presidential Library, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act which, of course, made it illegal to discriminate on the bases of race. It outlawed segregation at restaurants, on buses, at schools. So, this is a big occasion and we are going to be seeing a number of speakers. President Obama will be talking in just a moment for this occasion, but we're also going to be hearing from the director from the LBJ Library, Mark Updegrove and here he is.

MARK UPDEGROVE, DIRECTOR, LBJ PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Welcome to the civil rights summit as we welcome the president and first lady of the United States.

"We shall overcome." That song became an anthem for the civil rights movement. And for those who fought against racial injustice, those words have special meaning. On March 7, 1965, John Lewis helped to lead a protest march for voting rights from Selma, Alabama to the state's capitol, Montgomery. The march was brutally thwarted by Alabama state troopers in a day of infamy that became known as bloody Sunday.

President Lyndon Johnson was never one to let a good crisis go to waste. A week later, he used Bloody Sunday to show the need to pass the Voting Rights Act that he had proposed but that had stalled in the halls of Congress.

In a plea before Congress and the nation, he said, it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. John Lewis watched that speech in Selma with his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, at his side. As President Johnson said those words, Mr. Lewis saw Dr. King cry for the first time. We will march from Selma to Montgomery, Dr. King said with tears in his eyes. The Voting Rights Act will pass.

Dr. King and Mr. Lewis made their march from Selma to Montgomery and President Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act. If we have overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice, it is largely because of the courage and fortitude of those like Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King and John Lewis.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to this stage, Congressman John Lewis.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Thank you, Mark, and the staff of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library. My beloved friends, my sisters and brothers, I have the special honor to introduce the keynote speaker for this 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is so fitting and so appropriate that President Barack Obama would join us today to honor the legacy of President Lyndon Johnson.

Now, President Barack Obama was born into a dangerous and difficult time in American history. A time when people were arrested and taken to jail just for sitting beside each other on the bus. It was against the law for black and white people to ride in the same taxicab or stay in the same hotel. People's homes were bombed, their lives were threatened for taking a simple drink from the same water fountain, for sharing the same table at a restaurant or at a lunch counter. There were signs everywhere that said white and colored and they impose an unholy order on the lives of the average American citizen.

Then, President Johnson used his political power and the force of his will to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and, later, the voting rights of 1965. All of those signs came tumbling down. And you will not see those signs. Our children will not see those signs, except in a museum, in a book or on a video.

President Lyndon Johnson, this man from Texas, liberated not just a people but an entire nation from inhumanity illegalized segregation. Without the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, an involvement of hundreds and thousands and millions of people in the civil rights movement, there would be no President Jimmy Carter, no President Bill Clinton, no President Barack Obama. Lyndon Johnson using his skill and his power made this possible. And when people say nothing has changed, I say come and walk in my shoes and I will show you change.

When President Barack Obama walked through the doors of the White House, he ushered in a time of great hope, silent prayers and deep aspiration. As a nation, we felt we may have finally realized the vision President Johnson had for all of us, to live the idea of freedom and eliminate injustice from our beloved country.

We used the liberty we gained from Johnson's legacy to elect a man with the raw courage and tenacity to do all he could to make our society a better place and move us closer to the beloved community. I know this man, this president, Barack Obama. He sees the progress we made as a nation. He understands there's much more work to do to redeem the soul of America.

And that's why, as president, he has set his shoulders to the plow to bring about meaningful change in America by ending two wars and passing comprehensive health care reform. That is (INAUDIBLE) good. Thank you, Mr. President.

Now, my dear friends, it is my great honor and pleasure to present our friend, our president, President Barack Obama, and the first lady.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, please have a seat. Thank you. Thank you very much. Please, please.

What a singular honor it is for me to be here today. I want to thank first and foremost the Johnson family for giving us this opportunity and the graciousness with which Michelle and I have been received.

We came down a little bit late because we were upstairs looking at some of the exhibits and some of the private offices that were used by President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson. And Michelle was, in particular, interested to the recording in which Lady Bird is critiquing President Johnson's performance. And she said, come, come, you need to listen to this. And she pressed the button and nodded her head. Some things do not change, even 50 years later.

To all the members of Congress, the warriors for justice, the elected officials and community leaders who are here today, I want to thank you.

You know, four days into his sudden presidency, and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served, Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation. He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill. The most sweeping since reconstruction. Most of his staff counseled him against it. They said it was hopeless. That it would anger powerful southern Democrats and committee chairman. That it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda. And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a president should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be, to which it is said President Johnson replied, well, what the hell's the presidency for? What the hell's the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in.

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible. Some of them are here today. We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young (ph) and Julian Bonnet (ph). We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers whose names are etched not on monuments but in the hearts of their loved ones and in the fabric of the country that they helped to change.

But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man's remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Those of us who've had the singular privilege to hold the office of the presidency, know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you're stymied. The office humbles you. You're reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow, to fully vindicate your vision.

But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents, by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates. By working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be. This was President Johnson's genius.

As a master of politics in the legislative process, he grasped, like few others, the power of government to bring about change. And LBJ was nothing if not a realist. He was well aware that the law alone isn't enough to change hearts and minds. A full century after Lincoln's time, he said, until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. He understood laws couldn't accomplish everything, but he also knew that only the law could anchor change and set hearts and minds on a different course.

And a lot of Americans needed the law's most basic protections at that time. As Dr. King said at the time, it may be true that the law can't make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me. And I think that's pretty important.

And passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do. No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson. He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required. He could wear you down with logic and argument, he could horse trade and he could flatter. You come with me on this bill, he would reportedly tell a key Republican leader from my home state during the fight for the Civil Rights Bill, and 200 years from now school children will know only two names, Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen. And he knew that senators would believe things like that.

President Johnson liked power. He liked the feel of it, the wielding of it. But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition, by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast. And it was a sympathy rooted in his own experience.

As a young boy growing up in the Texas hill country, Johnson knew what being poor felt like. Poverty was so common, he would later say, we didn't even know it had a name. The family home didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing. Everybody worked hard, including the children. President Johnson had known the metallic taste of hunger, the feel of a mother's calloused hands, rubbed raw from washing and cleaning and holding a household together. His cousin, Ava (ph) remembered sweltering days spent on her hands and knees in the cotton fields with Lyndon whispering beside her, boy, there's got to be a better way to make a living than this. There's got to be a better way. It wasn't until years later, when he was teaching at a so-called Mexican school, in a tiny town in Texas, that he came to understand how much worse the persistent pain of poverty could be for other races in the Jim Crow south. Oftentimes his students would show up to class hungry. And when he'd visit their homes, he'd meet fathers who were paid slave wages by the farmers they worked for. Those children were taught, he would later say, that the end of life is in a beet row, a spinach field or a cotton patch. Deprivation and discrimination, these were not abstraction to Lyndon Baines Johnson. He knew that poverty and injustice are as inseparable as opportunity and justice are joined. So that was in him from an early age.

Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man. His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was ambitious, very ambitious. A young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career. And in the Jim Crow south, that meant not challenging convention. During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation a farce and a shame. He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part because of his affinity with an ability to deliver that southern white vote. And at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, he shared with President Kennedy a caution towards racial controversy.

But marchers kept marching. Four little girls were killed in a church. Bloody Sunday happened. The winds of change blew. And when the time came, when LBJ stood in the Oval Office, I picture him standing there taking up the entire door frame, looking out over the South Lawn, in a quiet moment and asked himself what the true purpose of his office was for. What was the end point of his ambitions? He would reach back in his own memory and he'd remember his own experience with want and he knew that he had a unique capacity as the most powerful white politician from the south to not merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation. He's the only guy who could do it.