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Rev. Campbell: Connection Between Elian Gonzalez, Father 'Profound and Moving to Watch'

Aired April 24, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET

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

CNN ANCHOR: Someone else who has spent time with Elian since his reunion Saturday with his father is the Reverend Joan Brown Campbell. She's the former general-secretary of the National Council of Churches. You may recall, she became involved early on, even traveling to Cuba in January trying to mediate a resolution of this matter. She joins us from New York and we appreciate that.

Reverend Campbell, earlier today we heard an attorney say, as this legal process now goes forward in the Gonzalez case, that the INS needs to determine: Is this a loving relationship? And I think that's something that everyone who's watching this drama unfold want to know about. What light can you shed on that?

JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, ADVISER TO ELIAN'S FATHER: Well, as -- and I speak, really, as a mother and a grandmother. And I must say, I spent about three hours with the family there at the air force base, and there's not much question but what -- not only is it a loving relationship, but there's a strong bond to build on.

You could feel the deep connection between -- not only between father and child, which was profound and moving to watch, but with the little brother. Elian was quite fascinated with his little brother and kept commenting how he'd grown since he saw him last. He kept saying, he was so little and he's so big now -- and his stepmother, who is a wonderfully loving woman. I think watching that little family grow together is quite heartening.

WATERS: Can you give us a more specific example of what was profound and moving to watch?

CAMPBELL: I think, you know, in a way it was the ordinary way in which they reacted to one another. The only way I know to say it is, it's like if you have a very good friend and you haven't seen them for a long time, and when you see them it's as though they were never gone. And it was that kind of relationship: the words they spoke to each other, the freedom they had. Elian would go and crawl up next to his father, put his arms around him. Juan Miguel would reach down rather tenderly, give him a kiss, straightened out his pant leg at one time.

Someone delivered a little truck for him and there was a very cute scene in which Juan Miguel was trying to put the truck together and Elian rather impishly kind of took the battery from him and figured out how do it rather quickly.

Just, you know, for all of us who have sat with our children or our grandchildren, these are typical family scenes. At one point, it was very beautiful when he crawled up on the bed beside his stepmother. She was nursing the baby and he just put his hand on her shoulder and put his hand on the baby and patted him. And it was -- he just seemed deeply satisfied. And Juan Miguel is very, very joyful.

And for those of us who have worked with this family this very long time, the reunion was very, very moving.

WATERS: What happens now, do you think, Reverend Campbell, with the Miami relatives? They'll be at the front door of Andrews Air Force Base again today. They are demanding to get in to see Elian. Do you think that's going to happen? Would you advise that to happen?

CAMPBELL: Well, in the first place, I don't think demanding is the way to do it. I think -- you know, one thing I really don't quite understand is the fact that -- this little family is close, that the bonding is taking place is a victory for all of us, and for the Miami family as well. I don't quite understand why they are not grateful beyond belief that this child is adjusting to this environment. I understand it on one level, but if they want this child to be a happy child and his self -- his interest is what they have at heart, then they should be very pleased with this family scene and give them a little space.

Juan Miguel has always said, just give me a little time to bond this family, to be alone with my son, to take him away from the Kleege lights of everything that has followed him, and then it's time for the adults to talk. But this is the child's moment. This is the moment for us to give this child space with his father and to rebuild what is obviously a very deep and strong relationship.

WATERS: Have you had a chance to reflect much since Elian was plucked from the water last Thanksgiving? This has become a political story. It's become a family story, a legal story. Have you had a chance to make sense of any of this?

CAMPBELL: You know, it -- that's a very good question. I have asked myself that kind of question. I'm a Christian minister and I talked about it in my Easter sermon. I think there's much in it that is not just political but also spiritual. I mean, we're dealing with the bonds between human beings and I think we're seeing them knitted together here. We're also seeing all of the difficulties that human beings have with one another.

This little boy has had to bear 41 years of Cuba-U.S. relations on his shoulders, and maybe this little child will lead us to examine the relationship between the nations, which I think is at the root of a lot of the political conflict here.

WATERS: Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, we thank you so much.

CAMPBELL: Thank you. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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