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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama: What You Can do for U.S.; Revealing Details of Obama Inaugural Address; Interview With Congressman James Clyburn

Aired January 19, 2009 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at this. This is the National Mall, where folks are coming in not only from the surrounding areas, but from all over the United States. Indeed, from all over the world. They're getting ready for history tomorrow, right there.
The west front of the White House, that's where Barack Obama will be sworn in as the next president of the United States. And he'll formally move into this building, the White House, on this important day. That would be tomorrow.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a very special SITUATION ROOM we're bringing you. We're here atop the Newseum. It's at the corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue. Right behind me you see Capitol Hill. That's where the historic moment will occur at noon Eastern tomorrow.

On this important day, the day before he becomes president of the United States, lots of symbolism. Barack Obama spends some time trying to reassure everyone that community service has to be a top priority for the entire nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: This country is great because of its people. And when all of our people are engaged and involved in making their community better, then, you know, we can accomplish anything. And one of the goals of my administration is going to be to make sure that we have a government that's more responsive and more effective and more efficient at helping families. But don't underestimate the power for people who join together to accomplish amazing things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Barack Obama spending part of this day involved in community service.

Gloria Borger is here with me.

You're going to be spending most of this day with us.

Don Lemon is here as well. A pretty historic, exciting moment for all of us.

Candy Crowley, let's talk a little bit about this important day. None of the decisions are made lightly as to what the president-elect should be doing and promoting on this day.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not. And the fact of the matter is that the Martin Luther King holiday has been on the calendar for some time now, so they understood, even before he won, what sort of message this was. So the whole thing today, the agenda today, the words today, are all about making words into service.

Martin Luther King's message, you must get involved, you must move things forward. So he went to Walter Reed Hospital to visit some of the most severely wounded veterans from the Iraq War. He stopped off at a teen homeless shelter, helped paint the walls there. He went next to a high school that is putting together packages and blankets for servicemen.

So the whole thing is, we're all in this together, much what you saw on the bus -- sorry, on the train yesterday -- I'm getting my vehicles mixed up -- on the train yesterday with the 40 average Americans. So very much a part of Barack Obama has been, this is a grassroots campaign, and it's now, I'm not going to let you go because I really need you.

BLITZER: And it all sets the stage for the big moment tomorrow, the swearing-in ceremony, Candy, on the west front of the White House, and then the inaugural address that Jessica Yellin has been looking into.

Jessica, you're already there. You're on the Mall right now, surrounded by a lot of folks. It's really beginning to fill up, and we've still got a lot of time to go before tomorrow.

What are we hearing about that inaugural address? What are we likely to hear from the next president of the United States?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the guidance I'm getting is that right now, the speech runs 18 to 20 minutes. And Barack Obama has already been practicing it at Blair House today.

Now, the overarching theme of the speech will be about ushering in a new era of responsibility. One message Barack Obama will address is that he believes we are facing an economic meltdown, in part because America has been driven by a "me first" mentality, a sort of focus on personal advancements. And he's going to call on both individuals and all of Americans collectively to put the rest of the nation first.

He will also though counter that sort of critical message with a very optimistic note, talking about his beliefs that, while we're facing two wars abroad and an economic crisis at home, there is nothing that America is facing that cannot be solved with the values that have always defined America. Wolf, Barack Obama is really setting expectations, high hopes for him, and he's trying to remind Americans everybody has a stake, everybody has a responsibility, and everybody needs to be patient in getting out of this crisis we're facing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, Jessica.

Jessica's down there on the Mall.

You know, Gloria, there is a palpable sense of excitement. It's building dramatically. Just walk around this area where we are and you feel it, because the folks, they're coming in. And despite the weather -- it might be chilly out there -- it doesn't seem to be stopping a whole lot of them.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we've been talking all weekend and today about the moment. And I think everybody is thinking about being here in Washington at the moment.

And today, coming here to the Newseum, it's as if Washington has turned into a mall itself, with everybody walking around, lots of people from out of town. It's a terrific environment here because there is a sense that history will be made and that the folks who are lucky enough to be here are going to be a part of it, and it's going to be something to tell their families about for generations.

BLITZER: What was it like for you walking around, Don, and recalling, you know, your roots in Baton Rouge, Louisiana? You're here in the nation's capital, and folks are coming up to you. What are they saying?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Besides working, the part that I do get to see, honestly, most people want to take picturing pictures, right, with you because they see you on CNN and they think of you as a public figure, which I don't think I am. I think I'm a journalist. But obviously very proud of someone who is of color, a person of color, who appears to be achieving, appears to be going beyond the statistics that you read about with African-Americans. So it's a very interesting time.

All of the e-mails that I'm getting, all of the phone calls I'm getting, "I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of America right now."

But one word of caution. If I could just sort of be the Donny Downer here...

BLITZER: Please.

LEMON: It's amazing, it's great what's going on. But in a sense, there's almost a festival sort of feel to it, which is -- it's a little strange.

We want to celebrate. We want to remember Dr. King. But it's not a festival. And people are hocking their wares and those sorts of things.

Today is a day of service. It is the day that we remember Dr. King and the day that we prepare for the first African-American president of this country. And I think if we could have gotten all of these people into a shelter, or into a church, or into some clinic to help people, I think that it's what Barack Obama probably would have preferred and -- would prefer, and what Dr. King probably would have preferred. Good that they're here, but let's remember what the day is about.

BLITZER: And what an amazing coincidence, or whatever, that tomorrow happens just before this national holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

Jack, you've got "The Cafferty File," as usual, but this is not a usual day by any means.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: True. Sometimes things work out the way they are supposed to.

Today is Martin Luther King day. A holiday set aside to honor the slain civil rights leader. Without him, tomorrow would never have happened.

Tomorrow, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, the first African-American president that we've ever had. It's been almost 46 years since Dr. King, who would be 80 years old if he was alive today, led the march on Washington and delivered that famous "I have a dream" speech.

From segregation, lynchings, water canon and police dogs to the Oval Office in less than half a century. Dr. King, I think, would be very proud.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 49 percent of Americans believe the United States has fulfilled Martin Luther King's vision that he laid out that day in that speech. Sixty-nine percent of African-American and 46 percent of whites.

A tremendous amount is riding on this Barack Obama. He's making history in a way that his predecessors have not. None of them.

Not since the late John Kennedy has so much hope been placed at the feet of one man by so many. It's going to be a hell of a ride. And if Barack Obama can pull this off, our country will finally reemerge from eight long years of winter.

Here's the question: What would Dr. Martin Luther King say if he was alive today?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Can't wait to hear the response. It's a great question. Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty. We'll check back with you.

We're standing by -- the highest-ranking African-American in the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Clyburn, he's coming here. Earlier today, when we replayed Dr. King's historic speech at noon Eastern, the speech that occurred back in August of 1963, our cameras were there when Congressman Clyburn and his family were watching and listening. You're going to want to see their reaction, and we'll speak to him about this historic day.

In fact, here's a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think tomorrow, January 20th, could very well be called V-Day. Not just for victory, but vindication.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: My conversation with Congressman Clyburn is coming up.

Also, Anderson Cooper, he's down there on the National Mall. We're going to be -- he's going to be joining us. He's speaking to folks.

Anderson, get ready. We're dying to hear what they're saying to you on the Mall here in Washington.

Our coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama continues right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: From the shadow of the old state capitol where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That was almost exactly two years ago when he made that announcement in Springfield, Illinois. It's amazing how fast he came up, and it's amazing to think that tomorrow, he will be the next president of the United States.

I think Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in the United States House of Representatives, is as amazed as any of us that our country has reached this point and that Barack Obama personally reached this point.

CLYBURN: Absolutely. I've been saying all week that this is really V-Day tomorrow. I guess maybe November 4th was. "V" for vindication.

I think those of who were challenged by Dr. King, back when I first met him in 1960, sort of feel that we now have been vindicated by this. And all of this even validates that dream that he annunciated so well 45 years ago last August. So I think that when we watch this ceremony tomorrow, many of us would probably shedding tears, except I'll probably be too cold for it to be water. BLITZER: We had cameras earlier today when we replayed Dr. King's so- called "I have a dream" speech. It's called that because that was the most memorable segment of that speech.

CLYBURN: Right.

BLITZER: You were there with your family. You were listening to Dr. King. And explain what the reaction was not only from you, but from the rest of your family. And we have some pictures of what was going on.

CLYBURN: We were all crying. We were all crying. My grandchildren -- you see me just wiping my eye.

And you know what was so interesting about it? To hear him talk about -- hearing his speech in its entirety for the first time. And they felt a little bit cheated by history because they had always heard "I have a dream," "I have a dream."

All of them today were more taken with other parts of that speech. They just thought that there was so much there for them to learn from, they should hear it more often and we should talk about it more often. So we made a pact today that we're going to get together periodically, all the grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews, and we are going to periodically help them live -- for us to relive and them to experience some of that.

BORGER: Barack Obama was 2 years old when Martin Luther King gave his speech, yet he stands on his shoulders.

CLYBURN: Sure.

BORGER: But what would the two of them be like together?

CLYBURN: You know, I would love to be in the room.

I remember the night I met Dr. King. We got together for what was supposed to be a short meeting around 9:30, 10:00 at night. It was 4:00 a.m. the next morning when we all walked out of that room.

I would love to be sitting in a room and listening to Dr. King and Barack Obama talk about their dreams and just for him to reflect on his book, "Dreams From My Father," all about the dreams. I think it would be a great...

BORGER: Are they similar?

CLYBURN: They're very similar. Very thoughtful.

A lot of people -- in fact, I used to see letters all the time about Dr. King's honorary degree. That was an earned doctorate from Boston University. And when he went back to Montgomery, he could have gone to some of the biggest pulpits in the country.

He went to Montgomery, Alabama, to a rather small church. The same kind of thing -- Barack Obama, given a very prestigious degree from a prestigious university, but going back to Chicago to work in the community.

LEMON: And not just similar professionally, but also personally. When you look at them, both of them family men, both of them very close to their children.

CLYBURN: Yes.

LEMON: And both of them talked about -- Dr. King talked about regretting not spending enough time with his children because he was out on the road a lot. And I talked to Bernice King this summer, sat down and talked to her for a long time, over a week or so, and she talked and how her dad was on the road a lot. And the same thing -- Barack Obama expresses the same regrets, at least over the course of this campaign, about not getting to spend a lot of time with his children.

BLITZER: I know you're wiping away tears out of happiness and joy because you've reached this moment. Is that right?

CLYBURN: Absolutely. And to really share this day with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, this is more than I ever thought I would ever get out of politics or maybe even out of life. This is a great day for me.

BLITZER: Well, we're happy you're spending at least part of it with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A really historic moment.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me.

BORGER: I just have one quick question. Where are you going to be sitting? Power has its privileges, Congressman.

CLYBURN: Well, I will be leading the delegation to the stage, so I will have a very choice seat. And that, in and of itself, will be sort of the exclamation point on the day.

BLITZER: And if you think the tears are coming right now, just wait until tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We'll be with you.

Congressman Clyburn, thanks very much for joining us.

CLYBURN: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. We're going take another quick break. We have lots more coming up.

Barack Obama spoke about the importance today of being a volunteer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I am not going to make a long speech. I've got to save all my best lines for tomorrow. The main reason Michelle and I wanted to come here today is just to say thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's coming up a little bit later, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Anderson Cooper, though, is standing by. He's on the National Mall. He's got some folks with him.

And Anderson, we're going to be hearing from you and your guests.

Lots more coming up on this, the day before Barack Obama comes president of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back down to the Mall right now. Anderson Cooper is there, and he's got some special guests.

These are all special guests, Anderson, because they've made the trek to the nation's capital.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, people have come literally from all around. Just want to introduce you to some of them.

What is your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terry (ph).

COOPER: And you've come from Harrisburg?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

COOPER: And you actually brought Barack Obama with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I brought him with me. And I came to celebrate history. And of course to see you. I was really hoping to see you.

COOPER: Ah, yes, I'm sure you say that to all the correspondents.

You came from South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came from Charleston, South Carolina.

COOPER: And you said you wanted to come and be here in memory of your mom and your grandmother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom, my dad, my grandparents. They fought so hard for this, and this is history-making.

COOPER: When you think of all that they went through and all that happened in South Carolina throughout the civil rights movement, what is this day and what is tomorrow -- what is it going to mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This day means that we have hope. My grandchildren are here me. I'm glad that they're here so they could see this, that they can achieve whatever they want, whatever they can be, whatever they want to be. That what -- we are instilling in them what their parents are instilling in them, they need to listen so that this day can happen for them as well.

COOPER: And you're -- this is your grandma? What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mahogany (ph).

COOPER: And what does it mean to you to be here? Exciting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

COOPER: Yes? Well, your button says "America's New First Family." Have you ever seen Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On TV.

COOPER: On TV? Do you hope to get to see him here in the next couple days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

COOPER: What would you say to him if you saw him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Hi, Mr. President."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

COOPER: "Hi, Mr. President." Well, that's a good start.

All right.

And where did you come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Milton, New York.

COOPER: And why did you want to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to be here just to experience the history, the electricity, you know, of this moment. You know, I was 10 years old when my mother got the right to vote. And to be here -- I have two sons in the military academy, and to be here for the freedom and just to see this happen is just amazing.

COOPER: What's it like being out on the Mall today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's electrifying. You know, all the people -- first of all, everybody's energized, and it's like one huge family. You know? Nobody's getting too overwhelmed in a negative way. Everything's very positive.

COOPER: There is an amazing sense of community and kind of strangers talking and talking to one another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. It's one large community. It's amazing how everybody's been brought together. It's like a jigsaw puzzle from all over the world, and everybody's found the pieces to put together.

COOPER: All right.

I want to ask people -- how many people are from somewhere else other than Washington?

(CHEERING)

COOPER: All right. Just about everyone is from somewhere else.

Everyone just wanted to be here, and it's only going to grow here, the crowds on this Mall. You can look down to the west front of the Capitol, all the way down there. It's about a mile away from here. By tomorrow -- this is a whole two-mile stretch on the Mall -- all the way from the west front of the Capitol, the people are going to be basically stretched all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, which is two miles away. It's probably going to be jam-packed.

The excitement is building toward it, Wolf. And we're going to be covering it all.

Back to you.

BLITZER: I know you're going to have a lot more later tonight, a special "AC 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right. Thanks, Anderson, for that.

John King is looking at something unique that we're going to be doing here at CNN when that moment occurs at noon Eastern tomorrow.

All right, John. Set the scene.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's remember, you just said the moment. We need our viewers out there, anyone who's going to be here in Washington, to remember that, themoment@cnn.com.

Let's start with that e-mail address, themoment@cnn.com. Why? Let me show you why.

This looks just like a snapshot of the Capitol dome; right? Like you might take on any tourist trip to Washington, D.C. It's well framed, it looks great. But it's part of something more than that, and we need your help with this tomorrow.

Look as I pull out a little bit, a little bit more of the Capitol. Let's pull out some more. You see some tourists, you see some buses.

Let's come out some more. Now we're coming down Pennsylvania Avenue. This is the parade route of the inaugural parade. Well, guess what? We will come out even some more. Look how multidimensional this gets. You can come over here and see what's over here.

That's the Newseum, Wolf. You're right up on the roof, right up here in this building. And we can come back over here and take a closer look at the Capitol and move closer.

How do we do all this and what does it matter tomorrow? Here's how we do all this.

This is a multidimensional collage made up of hundreds of photographs of the scene around the Capitol. And using Microsoft Photosynth technology, it finds the common points of reference.

So it takes the dome in this photograph, the dome in this photograph, and the bottom of the dome in this photograph, and it brings them all together. You start here and you come on in. And you can come out and come out and come out, and you can go to the right and see what it looks like from there. You can come back to the left and see what it looks like from here. And keep moving around.

Now, why does this matter heading into tomorrow? Because at the moment when Barack Obama has his hand on the bible and his hand up taking the oath of office, no matter where you are, close, far, to the right, to the left, all the way back from the Washington Monument, if you think you have a perspective, take a snapshot. Send it to themoment@cnn.com.

And we are going to build a multidimensional collage just like this one and bring it to our viewers. And we will update it throughout the day, Wolf. We're hoping those photos come in by the dozens and the hundreds. If they're 1,000, we'll take them and we'll run them through the system, and we'll build something unique and extraordinary to share with our viewers that is from our viewers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be amazing, I have no doubt.

Thanks very much, John. We'll get back to you.

We're also going to show you something unique. They've just finished sprucing up Air Force One for the next president of the United States. And guess what? They gave us a unique, rare look inside. We're going to take you aboard Air Force One. This is the plane that's going to be flying Barack Obama around for at least the next four years.

Also, we're going to go back to the National Mall. The Kenyan Boys Choir, they're getting ready to perform. Stand by for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier today, Barack Obama went to a local area high school, and he spoke about the importance of volunteer service, community service.

I want to play for you his entire remarks from earlier in the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I am not going to make a long speech. I have got to save all my best lines for tomorrow.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: The main reason Michelle and I wanted to come here today is just to say thank you.

You know, both of us participated in service this morning. And on a day where we remember not just a dreamer, but a doer, on actor, somebody who dedicated his life to working at the grassroots level on behalf of change, on behalf of making communities better, on behalf of bringing about justice and equality, it is fitting that all of you and hundreds of thousands, maybe more than a million people, through 11,000 service projects all across the country, today commemorated Dr. King and got involved in this process of remaking America.

Now, I am making a commitment to you as your next president that we are going to make government work. And...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And we're going to make sure that government is listening to you and focused on you and making sure that people have health care and that kids can go to college and that people can pay their bills and folks are able to stay in their homes and get good jobs that pay a living wage.

That's my job.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: But I can't do it by myself.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got your back.

OBAMA: Michelle can't do it by herself.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got your back.

OBAMA: Government can only do so much. And if we're just waiting around for somebody else to do it for us, if we're waiting around for somebody else to clean up the vacant lot or waiting for somebody else to get involved in tutoring a child, if we're waiting for somebody else to do something, it never gets done.

We're going to have to take responsibility -- all of us.

And so, this is not just a one-day affair. Through USAservice.org, www. service...

AUDIENCE MEMBER: USA. OBAMA: USAservice -- USAservice. org, we are going to make sure that there are service opportunities for people all throughout the year. And I hope that you were sufficiently inspired and had enough fun and made some friends that you decide you want to keep on doing this for many years to come.

We're going to be doing it right alongside with you.

So thank you, everybody, for your great work.

Michelle, anything you want to add?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We are going to come around and just shake just about everybody's hand. But we need you to stay in your seat.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Because, if you don't stay in your seat, we'll end up missing somebody. OK?

All right.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. God bless you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's clearly a take-charge kind of guy, Barack Obama. He's giving instructions to the students at that high school earlier today, on this day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remembered.

Bill Schneider is here, our senior political analyst.

Bill, he had a dream. And the question you asked in our latest poll, has that dream been fulfilled?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the answer is, not entirely, but more and more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Has Dr. King's dream been fulfilled? With the election of Barack Obama, more than two-thirds of African- Americans believe it has, double the number who felt that way last spring. More white Americans think so, too. Nearly nine in 10 African-Americans call Obama's election a dream come true.

A poet once wrote, in dreams begin responsibilities.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Perhaps now that we have witnessed the dream, it is important that we begin to build that promised land together as Americans. SCHNEIDER: Is this the start of a new era of better race relations? Right after the election, half of African-Americans and nearly a third of whites said it is. The initial excitement has cooled a bit, but most blacks and whites still foresee at least some improvement.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle or with a single candidate.

SCHNEIDER: Slowly, cautiously, African-Americans have been coming around to the view that a solution to America's race problems can be worked out. Whites already believe it can.

President-elect Obama believes the country's civil rights experience carries a bigger message, his message, about change.

OBAMA: What we have seen is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation.

SCHNEIDER: Most blacks and whites went to bed on election night saying, I never thought I would live to see the day.

That's what the nation is celebrating on this King holiday. We have lived to see the day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Dr. King liked to quote an old slave preacher who said, "Lord, we ain't what we want to be, and we ain't what we ought to be, and we ain't what we going to be, but thank God we ain't what we was."

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: Wolf,

BLITZER: Good quote for that.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Amen, brother.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

We're going to do something very exciting when we come back. We're going to go back down to the National Mall. Look at this, the Kenyan Boys Choir. They have come from Kenya. Barack Obama's father was from Kenya. And they're going to entertain not only the president-elect, but first us.

Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Kenyan Boys Choir, they're singing and dancing down there on the National Mall.

Zain Verjee is there as well.

Zain, tell us about it. And our viewers should know you're from Kenya yourself. This must be so exciting for you and for all of these guys in this choir.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

If you come to Kenya, this is one of the most popular songs you will here (SPEAKING KENYAN) And they're saying hakuna matata, no problem.

This is really the manifestation, Wolf, of the link between the United States and Kenya. All Kenyans both in this country and in Kenya are so proud and so excited for this moment.

This is the Kenyan Boys Choir From my hometown, Nairobi. And they're going to perform for you, Wolf, a song from western Kenya, which is where Barack Obama's father was from.

Ready? (SPEAKING KENYAN) One, two, three.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: All right, so there it is, the Kenyan Boys Choir. Wow, pretty exciting stuff.

Donna Brazile has just come by, Alex Castellanos.

This is a full-service show. We have got a lot of entertainment. I was thrilled to see Zain Verjee down there with there with her fellow Kenyans, a little entertainment.

All right, we're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, one member of the incoming Barack Obama team will not -- repeat, not -- be present tomorrow when he is sworn in as the next president of the United States. We will explain what's going on -- that and a lot more as we continue our coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos, they're here, joining us.

Donna, this is a moment that you have been waiting for, should I say your whole life?

BRAZILE: Yes, you -- you can say that, Wolf, because, clearly, this is a moment that so many have waited for, so many prayed for, marched for, and many also died for.

So, this is a tremendous moment. And I was thinking earlier this morning about Fannie Lou Hamer, because I often talk about Rosa Parks and of course John Lewis. But Fannie Lou Hamer, who clearly led the movement in Mississippi for voting rights, was the first African- American to really force the Democratic Party to open up its doors back in 1964. So, this is a moment of history, a moment of jubilation for all Americans.

BLITZER: And, Alex, you're a son of immigrants to the United States from Cuba. It underscores that, in our country, anything is still possible.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: And, if you don't believe it, look around at this magical week.

We came here with 11 bucks and a suitcase, my parents did, and two kids. And -- and this country renews itself constantly as the land of endless frontiers. And it's doing so again this week. It's a marvelous thing to see.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, as we watch this unfold, what -- so many people just coming up to me saying, I'm speechless.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, they don't know what to say.

BORGER: Yes, but you can't be speechless, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm not speechless.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm not speechless. They're speechless.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: People are saying they're speechless. And I know Donna and Alex are never speechless.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: But it's a moment that -- that people relish.

BORGER: It is.

And, you know, speaking of the moment, we're all talking about, what -- what can Barack Obama say that's going to just rise to this occasion?

It's almost as if he doesn't have to say anything. He could just stand there and...

CASTELLANOS: Just be.

BORGER: ... just be. CASTELLANOS: Yes.

BORGER: And people would...

BLITZER: What do you want to hear, Donna, tomorrow, from him?

BRAZILE: I would like the president tomorrow to reignite the spirit of -- of America, to -- to help us come together, to talk about our shared purposes, our shared values, our common purpose, and to continue to stir the seeds of hope, so that we can leave tomorrow prepared to do the hard work ahead.

BLITZER: And, Alex, what do you want to hear?

CASTELLANOS: I think I want to hear much the same thing, what he said during the campaign that hit home to Democrats and Republicans, which is that change in this country begins with the people from the bottom up, that we are the change that we have been waiting for.

Call us to help. Call us to lift this country up. Each of us has -- is the economic engine that can get this country going again. I want to hear him say, we can do this.

LEMON: You know, Gloria and I have been sitting here talking about this.

You know, it starts with a person of color, a brown person, but it's really also, too, about a certain generation, people who marched, of all colors and creeds and backgrounds.

BORGER: My generation. You can say it.

LEMON: Your generation, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Who marched, of all colors.

And I mentioned my mom last night and what she said right after the election. And I -- you know, people talked about that.

She said, you know, I -- you didn't mention the cattle prods and the hoses, you know, and the other things. And she said, I'm glad you didn't mention that on television, but that's part -- that's part of our history and that's part our past. And, right now, we are sort of reaping the benefits from that. So...

BLITZER: As I re-heard Dr. King's speech today -- we replayed the whole 17-minute address, Donna -- you know, parts of it, I was thinking of you, because I was wondering, if you were listening, were you weeping, just as Jim Clyburn was weeping when he re-heard it earlier today with his family?

BRAZILE: Every time I -- I hear that speech, I not only cry, Wolf, but I -- it also calls upon us to help make that dream a reality. After all, it was 23 years ago that, you know, this birth -- his birthday became an official national holiday. And it was a Republican, Ronald Reagan, who signed that bill into law. I was one of those kids who, every year of my life, starting in 1981, we organized people to come here to believe in a dream. And now, today, we will see one part of that dream come to fruition.

BLITZER: And, pretty soon, he's going to be flying aboard Air Force One. It's going to be taking him wherever he wants to go.

And, Donna, Alex, we had a chance in the past few days -- they were cleaning it up, getting it ready. We got an inside look at Air Force One as it gets ready for the next president of the United States. And we're going to take our viewers right inside. I think you're going to all want to see that.

And Jeanne Moos, she also has a "Moost Unusual" way at looking at all of the inaugural festivities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The question: What makes president-elect Obama bop? Did he just feel obliged to bop to Mary J. Blige?

It seemed genuine to us. He went from a medium on the bop-o- meter to low when Betty Lavette and Bon Jovi provoked some reflective savoring.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: He even did a little sing-along, joining Garth Brooks singing "American Pie."

(MUSIC)

MOOS: The Barack Obama bop-o-meter inched up to medium when Sheryl Crow and Will.i.am got together.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: But the bop-o-meter peaked during a Stevie Wonder number. Note the lip bite.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Don't we know someone else who does that?

I'm Jeanne Moos with inaugural antics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lots of people are going to be looking at Michelle Obama, the next first lady of the United States, and they're going to be asking this question: What is she going to wear? You know what we did?

We sent CNN's Amy Holmes out to try to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Since first hitting the campaign catwalk, Mrs. Obama been often compared to another famously fashionable famous first lady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no doubt that she is going to have the most profound influence on fashion designers in this nation since Jackie Kennedy.

HOLMES: And, like her predecessor, Mrs. Obama projects youth, confidence, and sartorial savvy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would call her a classicist. For me, the clothes that we wear send a message about how we want the world to perceive us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's the first first lady that we -- we see on TV, and we say -- at least I do and my friends do -- we say, I wonder what she's wearing? I wonder where she got that?

HOLMES: Of course, there have been moments. The Narciso Rodriguez dress she chose for election night received decidedly mixed reviews. But, mostly, she's been a fashion do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She dresses in a way that most women dress, which is high and low, taking something that may be the incredible splurge, that is a designer piece, and mixing it with something from famously, as she said, J.Crew, or wearing something from H&M.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you go to an interview or something along that sort, you want to dress like Michelle Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Classy, conservative. She always looks good.

HOLMES: And who she wears can set off a shopping frenzy. Women went wild for this inexpensive White House/Black Market frock when she wore it on "The View."

And when she appeared on "Jay Leno" in this J.Crew cardigan, it sold out in less than two days. So, it's no wonder that a flagging fashion industry is taking note. Clothes, shoes, hair, jewelry, bare legs, going sleeveless, no detail is too small.

KEITH LIPERT, KEITH LIPERT GALLERY: She likes dramatic earrings. And she wears them. So, an earring that I think could be very stunning and very exciting would be something like this.

HOLMES (on camera): Those are gorgeous.

(voice-over): So, like every first lady before her, the world is watching and waiting for the big reveal. But the only thing Michelle Obama really needs to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make it work.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Michelle Obama makes it work every day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Yes, she certainly does.

Amy Holmes is here with us.

It's amazing that people are going to be paying that kind of attention to what this next first lady wears.

HOLMES: Oh, she is under a microscope, intense scrutiny.

But one of the things we found, Wolf, was how much women relate to her, women of all generations, women of all races. And they feel really liberated that here's a woman, as Rachel (ph) said in the piece, that you look at her, you think, I wonder where she got that?

And the fashion industry, let me tell you, they're also taking notes, because they see that, if Michelle wears something that is popular, it spikes sells. And, right now, they're not doing so well in this economy, so the first lady could be a real help.

They're loving at the fashion industry.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: And we just wish her the best, because we know the pressure is going to be intense.

Guys, stand by for a moment.

Jack Cafferty is with us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, what would Dr. Martin Luther King say if he was alive today? He would have been 80 years old, by the way.

John in Alabama: "Martin Luther King would say, thank God Almighty, because something that years ago would have been a miracle, tomorrow, it will come to pass. To many African-Americans, it is a miracle, but to the young, it is a rite of passage that is long overdue. I am an old white man who was raised in the South, and I got to vote for Barack Obama."

EL writes: "Hi, Jack. I think Martin Luther King Jr. would say nothing, but he would cry tears of joy, instead of pain, in the realization that, regardless of the color of one's skin, anything is possible. The sad part is, it took too long, too many innocent lives were lost. Let's hope for a better society, where racism isn't so rampant. Martin Luther King Jr. hoped and prayed for that. We all should."

Joyce in Florida writes: "I think Dr. King would be proud of president-elect Obama, cheer the possibilities for the future, but he would also be wise enough to know we have just begun. Miracles won't happen overnight. And too many Americans would be thrilled to see him fail."

Patti writes: "We stand on the mountaintop. It has been a long, hard walk. Let us go forward to our future that lies ahead, black hand in white, white hand in Asian, Asian hand in gay, gay hand in straight, straight hand in disabled, disabled hand in able hand. Let us walk as one people, united in our hope for our future."

Bude in Mississippi says: "I think he would say what most black people are thinking about Obama: He better not screw this up."

And Jenny in New York writes, "I can't believe you beat the Clintons."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, good letters. Thanks very much for that, lots of strong e-mail.

Abbi Tatton is joining us now. She's taking a closer look at what some folks are doing simply to get a date to attend these inaugural balls. What are you picking up, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, for the people that actually have tickets to one of the 10 official inaugural balls, they can afford to be picky online when they're looking for dates on the site craigslist.

We have been following this online marketplace for days, but look at some of the posts that are out there right now. This person who is saying he's a former Obama staffer saying, "My stipulations are simple." He says he has got two tickets for the ball. "You have to be stunning. You have got to have worked or voted for Obama/Biden. And we have to meet face to face for a drink prior."

There are other people saying: "It's not enough to be tall, dark and handsome. Extra points if you're participating in the national day of service today on Martin Luther King Day."

There are dozens of these posts cropping up on the site craigslist with people who have these tickets. But, more than anything, there are people still looking for a date or a ticket to the inaugural ball. We have been following this for weeks, Wolf. It's no wonder that people are getting desperate and resorting to these kind of measures, because some of these tickets are going for about $1,000 a pop on craigslist right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. People are anxious, and they're excited and they're happy. They want to do what they want to do. All right, Abbi, thanks very much.

We want to let you know that we're not stopping our coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama. We're setting the scene for the oath of office. He will be taking it tomorrow. Stand by. We have some information you will want to know.