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Barack Obama's Approval Polls; Racism Divided Michelle Obama and Her White College Roommate; New Film Highlights Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern Congo.

Aired January 18, 2009 - 17:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. From Washington, I'm Don Lemon, live here at the National Mall -- the heart of the nation's capital.
And what a difference a day makes. Check it out. Look at this big crowd. The weather is warmer. We have got thousands and thousands of people lined up here on the National Mall. You are looking at just a beautiful shot of Washington today.

Guess what, everyone? It is just two days until Barack Obama is sworn in as America's 44th president. Are you guys ready?


LEMON: And even with all the excitement, it's already been a day of solemn remembrance and reverent worship, as well as a time for celebration.

This morning, the president and the vice president-elect honored America's war dead. They traveled across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery, where they placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Now from there, the Obamas attended services at Washington's historic 19th Street Baptist Church, and we're told, they plan to visit more D.C. churches as they look for a new church home.

And check that out. This afternoon, right here on the mall, the party really got started. The Obamas and the Bidens attended a concert featuring everyone from Beyonce to Bono to Bruce Springsteen. Oh, everybody was here -- just about every star, every singer, every entertainer. It was magical.

And just last hour, the president-elect spoke about the crowd -- spoke to the crowd about the serious challenges facing our country.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT: Along the way, there will be setbacks and false starts, and days that test our resolve as a nation. But despite all this, despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead, I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure. That it will prevail, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.



LEMON: And while the concert was a "who's who" of the entertainment world, did you guys get to see the concert? Did you like it?

Oh, man, this crowd is fired up. You can only imagine what it's going to be like on Tuesday when Barack Obama is sworn in. Right now, though, let's check in with Suzanne Malveaux, she is at the Lincoln Memorial.

And, Suzanne, I'm sure the folks where you are, are just as excited as the people here.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we got a front row seat, really, at this concert which was really quite incredible. You know, Barack Obama has a lot of challenges ahead. But for this moment and this place, it certainly was a celebration for hundreds of thousands of people who gathered. It was really kind of a "who's who" when you think about it, all of the entertainers.

There were some interesting moments. Garth Brooks, when it was "You Make Me Want to Shout" singing that, and the whole crowd, everybody is just jumping up and down in unison. There was another moment as well when you had Bono singing "In the Name of Love" and talking about Martin Luther King and we saw Barack Obama on his feet at a moment when it was Shakira, Stevie Wonder and Usher all together, this trio singing. And you had him doing a little dance almost there.

A lot of fun and interesting times, but also, a real message to people, to the American people, very similar to the one in the campaign. It was about challenges ahead, but if you believe in yourself, something bigger than yourself, that you can be a part of making this country better, perhaps, even making the world better. But yes, there are big challenges ahead.

Take a listen, Don.


OBAMA: What gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you -- Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.


MALVEAUX: And certainly, Don, you are taking a look here at -- the crowd is really thinning out a bit here, but this was all packed, just packed full of people.

And, obviously, under the Lincoln Memorial, this event steep with a lot of symbolism. Barack Obama is being inspired by Lincoln, coming to the capital yesterday. That whistle-stop tour. Obviously, this speech, this celebration under the Lincoln Memorial. Even addressing his cabinet, actually deciding who is going to be in the cabinet, fashioning that after Lincoln's "Team of Rivals." All of this together to convey a message to the folks here that, look, this is a new day. It's a new age. It is time for unity but also, Don, he talked about it's a time of sacrifice -- Don?

LEMON: Yes, it was really interesting to watch everybody gathered. And all those people really are not over where you are, Suzanne, because they are gathering here, on the mall, where we are for CNN. And they are very excited.

And, what an undertaking. You live here, Suzanne. By the way, I'm glad you are wearing your coat tonight. You weren't wearing one last night. So, kudos to you -- and a hat. So, good. But you live here.

MALVEAUX: I'm warm.

LEMON: It's amazing to see so many people from so many different places. And what an undertaking this is for the city.

MALVEAUX: It really is quite amazing because when we saw these folks here today, it was really a mix. It was such a mix. People from all over the world are here, who descended on the Capitol. There are a lot of folks who are locals who are just taking folks in and they're sleeping on their bed, their cots, whatever doing whatever they can inside the city.

And then, there were celebrities. It was interesting to actually watch. You saw Blair Underwood with his kids taking pictures like everybody else here. I mean, people are doing the same thing.

Some of those cabinet secretaries who've been under fire recently, Tim Geithner and Eric Holder. They were with their kids as well, front row. And everybody kind of dance in and enjoying the moment and what is seen as a celebration. Obviously, this is a moment because the real tough work is going to come in the days ahead.

LEMON: Yes, a real tough work. You couldn't have said it better. And you can kind of stole my last thought.

It's beautiful now. The country sort of needs a little inspiring, but Barack Obama is going to have to get down to work really Wednesday, the day after he takes office.

Suzanne Malveaux, appreciate it. And again, glad you are keeping warm tonight.

All right. So, let's move on now. You heard Suzanne talk about the city and really, what an undertaking this is. The city of Washington often hosts many large events.

But you know what? The inauguration of Barack Obama is probably, probably as big a challenge as any one has ever seen or faced here in the city.

I turn now to Dan Tangherlini. He is the city administrator. He's responsible for the day-to-day operations of D.C. government. Dan, there are four things that everyone is talking about: security, crowds, traffic and, of course, the weather. It is cold. Not quite as bad as yesterday, though.

DAN TANGERLINI, CITY ADMINISTRATOR, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: No. Now, we're really happy that the weather has warmed up and it looks like it should be staying around, this temperature right through to the inaugural. So, that will help us out a lot.

LEMON: OK. And there was a chance of some precipitation today. Rain, snow, but it looks like -- I'm not a meteorologist, but I'm sure you've been paying attention.

TANGHERLINI: A very close attention to it. Of course, I'm not counting anything out. We're ready for anything that comes at us. The mayor has told, Mayor Fenty has told us to pull out every stop and make sure that everyone has a great time, and that the city is safe and taken care of.

LEMON: And safety, that's the most important thing.

Let's talk about security here. You know, and we don't mean security for the president, although that's a huge undertaking.


LEMON: But you are also talking about for the people as well, keeping all of these people safe ...


LEMON: ... and make sure that they can get about easily -- as easily as they can with all these crowds.

TANGHERLINI: As easily as you can with all these crowds. And everyone has been so patient, an incredibly positive crowd. We've had hundreds of thousands of people here today. We could see millions on Tuesday.

And so, we've been working very hard with our police department, fire department, and transportation department. Do whatever we have to do working with the region to make sure that people can move in and out, and that they do that safely and securely.

LEMON: I saw on the local news here that the FBI, Dan, was showing off the equipment that they had to keep safe, not only the president but also the crowds.


LEMON: You know, armored tanks and what have you. What has been the biggest challenge when it comes to the city locally -- is it crowd control?

TANGHERLINI: Well, you're going to see that. It's just making sure that everyone has the right expectation, everyone brings a little bit of patience with them, and just dealing with the crowds as they come in and out.

LEMON: It sounds weird, but the real thing, toilets. I have seen porta potties everywhere. I'm sure that was that's probably a big challenge as well.

TANGHERLINI: Yes. Things -- details like that just trying to figure out how people get in and out, how you manage them. These are all the details that make it most exciting and interesting and fun.

LEMON: All right. Dan, city administrator, thank you very much.

TANGHERLINI: Thanks a lot.

LEMON: And what do you think -- look at all these people? How are they doing? Are they doing a good job here?


LEMON: Yes, there you go. Confirmation on national television.

Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate it.

We're going to go now to the other end of the mall, the opposite end of the mall. There's the Lincoln Memorial. And our Dana Bash is standing by on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building, that's where Barack Obama will be sworn in to the nation as the nation's 44th president come Tuesday.

Dana, what it's looking like there? Give us a preview of what's to happen as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, it is a lot quieter here, Don, because this is a very secure location, as you can imagine -- this place where, as you said, Barack Obama will put his hand in the air and become the 44th president of the United States. And I'll just kind of give you a little bit of a sense of what it looks like.

First of all, this, obviously is, as you said, the west front of the Capitol. And it's already set up. It's set up where the podium will be and the chairs that will -- you will have the United States Supreme Court. You will have members of Congress. You will have, of course, not only Barack Obama and Joe Biden and their families but also George Bush and Dick Cheney and their families as well.

Now, what is going to happen here is very, very carefully scripted, Don. We are going to see Barack Obama and others walk in at about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, shortly after. You know, and I'm sure we don't need to give a civics lesson to our viewers, but it certainly is very specific now, as part of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, that the president takes the oath of office at noon on January 20th.

So, there are some really specific timelines to lead up to that. And that is basically, we will see at 11:46, again, right behind me, you will see John Paul Stevens, Justice Stevens administer the oath first to Joe Biden, and he will become the vice president. And then, at 11:56, you will see Barack Obama put his hand up and he will be administered the oath by the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts.

And that will all take place and, of course, we will see John Roberts -- excuse me -- we will see Barack Obama give his big inaugural address. But before that, you'll hear something for the first time, Don, and that is "Hail to the Chief." We are going to hear the U.S. Marine Corps band which also has basically an orchestra pit underneath where Barack Obama will be. They will begin to play "Hail to the Chief" and then, there will be a 21-gun salute before Barack Obama actually gives that much-anticipated address.

Actually, before I let you go or go back to you, I want to show you some of the view that Barack Obama and that we right here are seeing and that he'll see of the mall. It is really extraordinary, especially now with that beautiful sky. He is going to see from the west front clear down, possibly all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, a sea of people who are expected to be coming.

Obviously, you are already in the middle of that sea there, Don, in the mall. But he is going to really have a view, quite a view of all of the people -- probably, possibly, millions of people who will come out and be able to witness this moment in history, Don.

LEMON: All right, Dana Bash, thank you very much.

Speaking of views -- people who are watching from home will have an amazing view if they watch it here on CNN. And let's get a shot. Roger, give me a shot of the Capitol. The Capitol is beautiful right now. The sun is setting on our nation's Capitol and it just looks amazing.

I'm going to grab this microphone and talk to folks. There are people here from Argentina, all over, literally all over the world.

Did you say you are from Argentina?


LEMON: How long have you been in town?


LEMON: Oh, I thought you came here just for the inauguration. No?


LEMON: Everybody scream out, where you are from and what time?


LEMON: We heard every single one of them, too. We always want to know what's on your mind here at CNN. Make sure logon to Twitter to Facebook to MySpace and iReport. Tell us what you're thinking and we will get your response on the air. Also, parts of the nation are chattering under the subfreezing temperatures. And they get a little relief for that. Well, sort of.

Plus, this is for you.




LEMON: Well, they hit the national spotlight with a song for the president-elect, and you saw and heard them right here on CNN. Tonight, an update on their hopes to bring their voices to the nation's Capitol. It's all happening right here. Make sure you stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advice for the new president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To remember how he got elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay motivated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep an open mind and take your time and don't make hasty decisions based on other people's, like, you know, yammering on your ears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to keep doing what he's doing, you know, connecting with the communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Follow your heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To stick together as a family and try not to get pulled apart by all of the pressures that they are going to face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think really carefully about what your objectives are and what issues you're going to focus on because we can't accomplish everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have fun living in the White House.



LEMON: All right. What a difference a day makes here in Washington, D.C. It's supposed to be colder and snowing possibly, some rain.

Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN severe weather center.

Jacqui, no gloves yet. It's getting a little colder. And I took my scarf off. JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right.

LEMON: And so, we're doing a little better tonight than we were last night.

JERAS: You look a lot more comfortable, my friend. I will say that.


JERAS: Definitely.

Well, you got about 10 degrees today compared to what you had yesterday. And, yes, that 10 degrees is certainly making a difference. So, that's nice.

A beautiful picture. Look at that -- looking a little bit of a sunset going on there. Now, you might see a little bit of snow flurry activity or maybe a little rain mixing with that snow. But it's not going to amount too much.

The real action is really offshore here, across the Northeast and then, also, into northern New England. Some really heavy snow. Down east Maine could see anywhere between about six and 14 inches of snow so far.

And what you see moving through the D.C. area there, that's virga; it's precipitation that evaporates before it ever reaches the ground. So, there's really not a lot going on. Now, there had been some volume delays in the Washington Dulles, but we're looking at more significant delays out of Boston Logan, Newark, and then, a ground stop for you at this time in Toronto.

Temperatures are not too shabby, pushing 40 degrees. But your windchill still around the freezing mark in D.C. So, you still do want to bundle up a little bit. Colder weather on the way for you, Don, as you mentioned, with a chance of snow showers. But we're really only looking at maybe an inch at best of accumulation. Real cold on inauguration, only 31 degrees.

LEMON: All right. We're looking at a chance. We hope that chance doesn't happen.

All right. Thank you very, Jacqui Jeras.

This is a very special story that I'm going to tell you about. They were inspired by the election of Barack Obama. Some inner city children have turned a civics lesson into a national Internet phenomenon. They are students from the Ron Clark Academy, a very special school in one of Atlanta's poorest neighborhoods.



LEMON (voice-over): Like the man who inspires them ...

OBAMA: Yes, we can.


LEMON: ... they, too, were underdogs who beat back the odds with the help from a man with a dream.

RON CLARK, FOUNDER RON CLARK ACADEMY: The focus is on the kids and that's where it should be. These kids worked really hard and they deserve this.

LEMON: Today, the Ron Clark Academy sets the standard for educating young people from troubled neighborhoods, encouraging them to be creative. It all came together after Clark won the Educator of the Year Award, wrote a book and went on the "Oprah" show.

CLARK: Oprah focused my book, "The Essential 55" on her show. She held it up to the camera and said, "Everybody, go out right now and buy this book." And one hour after her show, it was number two in the nation right behind "Harry Potter" and we used the proceeds from that book to start this amazing school.

LEMON: Clark says he searched for the right place for months. Everyone thought he was crazy when he decided on a 100-year-old factory in one of Atlanta's roughest neighborhoods. But it wasn't easy. He says the neighborhood crack and cocaine addicts would steal supplies during the renovation. Yet, he was determined.

CLARK: I took my backpack and went to every house and I showed them the book and movie. And I'd see some houses that had crackheads sitting on the front porch, and I'd be scared to go up there, I'd walked up there and I'd say, "Hello." And they'd say, "Are you Mormon?" I said, "No, I'm not Mormon. I'm a schoolteacher." And I show them the book and the movie, and I tell them all about it.

And I got the same reaction every where I went. They said, "You know what? If this school had been here when I was growing up, I could have been something. I'd have been something."

LEMON: Now, two years later, it's paid off. With some of the best students in Atlanta and the country, students have used this creative freedom of rap music to express their feelings about an historic election.


LEMON: A parent put the video called "You Can Vote However You Like" on YouTube. It went viral. TV news producers came calling, and the students became overnight sensations, a symbol of Barack Obama's message.

Their story spread like wildfire. Oprah sent them $365 as a Christmas present. Then just last week, a message from the Obama campaign.

CLARK: We're going to the inauguration.

LEMON: Their hard work had paid off. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Their hard work paid off. And guess what? We're going to show them again later tonight.

The kids from Ron Clark Academy will join us live to talk about their inaugural plans and what's going on with them today. Did they make it? Are they performing? What's going on?

Also, a school in Chicago that we visited right after the election, they were called the "Little Obamas." They are in town, too. What are they up to? They're going to join us in just a little bit.

And all these folks who have come to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration, and they are excited to be on CNN. And we're happy they are here. Our live coverage from Washington, from the Washington Mall, continues in just moments.



OBAMA: Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character's content.


LEMON: That was Barack Obama speaking about an hour ago from the Lincoln Memorial where they had a star-studded concert. It was an amazing concert. If you missed it, man, you missed something good.

All right. Joining us here now, on the mall, these guys -- we visited them in Chicago just a day after the election. They are the young men of Urban Prep. And you might remember them from their creed that they -- or their motto that they say every morning.

It's a creed, right? Can you guys recite your creed for me?


LEMON: All right. Let's go.

YOUNG MEN OF URBAN PREP: We are young men of Urban Prep. We are college bound. We are exceptional -- not because we say it, but because we work hard at it. We will not falter in the face of any obstacle placed before us. We are dedicated, committed and focused. We never succumb to mediocrity, uncertainty or fear.

We never fail because we never give up. We make no excuses. We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and honestly.

We respect ourselves and, in doing, so respect all people. We have a future for which we are accountable. We have a responsibility to our families, community and the world.

We are our brother's keepers. We believe in ourselves, we believe in each other, we believe in Urban Prep. We believe.

LEMON: Every morning.

Tim King is the founder of Urban Prep. They say that creed every single morning at school.

TIM KING, FOUNDER, URBAN PREP: Right. Every morning, that's how we start out every day at the school. It's word -- they are words of inspiration and they set the tone for the whole day.

LEMON: Yes. We've been calling them "Little Obamas" because people have been comparing them, because they want to excel and set themselves apart from the statistics that we hear about black men.

KING: That's right. And we take that "Little Obama" thing very seriously and we called them that. As a matter of fact, we call the bus we came out here on the "Little Obama Express" from Urban Prep.

The stats and data facing young black men in particular are really harrowing when it comes to education. Only one in 40 black boys in Chicago public schools will make it through college. And we're going to set the record straight, we want to get all these guys through college.

LEMON: Yes. And Tim King set out to years ago to change that and started Urban Prep. And, you know, if you're interested, you can go online. What's the Web site?


LEMON: All right. Let's talk about your experience. How did you get here?

KING: So, the students came on a bus. They took a 14-hour bus trip from Chicago. This morning, they arrived and got some breakfast, and then came out here to the mall to watch the kickoff concert.

LEMON: Did you get invites?

KING: We did get invitations to a bunch of different events. So, the guys have a packed schedule between today and Wednesday. They're going to be going to a bunch of different events.

LEMON: Yes , the "Little Obamas."

KING: The "Little Obamas" are going to be hanging out with the big Obama.


LEMON: You guys are awesome. Thank you so much.

We went to visit these guys one day after the election and they just won our hearts over.

So, we appreciate you guys joining us. Have a great time. Keep it up. I want to see one of you be a president, OK?

KING: At least one.

LEMON: All right. At least one of you. Thank you very much, guys.

KING: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: All right. Celebrities join average Americans today and they're doing that because they are marking an historic moment from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

And, check this out. At the White House, it wasn't your usual welcome back for the current president.


LEMON: All right. You may be at home watching this. But guess what? It's just like you are here. You can see it all on CNN. Look at the crowds gathering on our National Mall.

And you know what? Someone has been out talking to those crowds. Our very own Chris Lawrence is taking in the folks here on the National Mall.

Chris, we've been talking to people from all over the world. What are you hearing?


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we are here in the crowd with some of our very best -- new best friends. And, you know, I think one of the most fascinating things about actually being here as opposed to watching it on television is interact with so many different people. What has it been like to actually walk the Mall today with people from all over the country, all over the world and talk to them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been really exciting. Yeah it's like you know you are a part of history. You know what I mean? It's really exciting.

LAWRENCE: Let me ask you as well. What has it been like to just talk to so many people not through text messages or e-mails but to get up close and personal with so many people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really, really amazing. You know, it's one thing to watch it on TV, but to be here is really special.

LAWRENCE: And that's the feeling we've been getting from so many people here. That feeling that -- a feeling of biting cold, wind in their face, to hear the shouts of the people around them, just an incredible experience of being part of something greater than themselves.


LAWRENCE: Don? DON LEMON, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We've been talking, Chris, to a lot of people, people walking up to us saying, I came here a week ago, two weeks ago just to be in Washington, just to get used to it so I can be comfortable when the inauguration does happen. This is really a world event here.

Speaking of that, some very interesting numbers, very interesting political polls out today.

Paul Steinhauser joins us -- he is our political director here -- to tell us about those numbers.

Has anyone had, except maybe Ronald Reagan, in recent history, this high of an approval rating as they were about to become president.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CCN NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He's got the highest. Barack Obama has the highest. And it just keeps getting higher. We have brand new numbers today, CNN, the Opinion Research Corporation out today. We polled people across the country, including many of the people right behind us. 84 percent approve of the way he's handling his transition. That's up five points from last months, even after some speed bumps the last couple of weeks.

LEMON: Do you think that will remain the same? He has to tackle the economy, Gaza, Afghanistan, Iran, some big challenges ahead of him. Those are bound to go down.

STEINHAUSER: These are high numbers. It will be hard to keep them up, I assume.

LEMON: We've been talking to people from all over. We see Americans, white, black, Puerto Rican, everybody. We see all different ethnicities and religions out here. But there is a racial divide in the country. What are the polling numbers saying about that?

STEINHAUSER: You know, black and whites agree on a lot of different things. We do find a racial divide in our poll. We asked, is Barack Obama's election a dream come true. Nine out of 10 African-Americans who respond to our poll say yes. That's not surprising. Only 3 in 10 white respondents said yes. So there is a divide.

LEMON: There is a divide. Let's talk about George Bush. His approval rating as he leaves office not very good. It's not the lowest, though, is it?

STEINHAUSER: It's bumped up in the last couple of weeks but still the lowest of anyone that's departed office. We also asked a different thing, Don.

LEMON: Interesting. Before that, the highest and the lowest at the same time.

The highest for a person interesting office and the lowest for a person leaving office. Kind of says about where we are in this country right now.

STEINHAUSER: People ready for a change. No doubt about it.

LEMON: I'm sorry to cut you off. What were you saying?

STEINHAUSSER: We also asked another question about George Bush. We asked, let's go back eight years. Do you think the country would be better off if Al Gore won that election eight years ago, that very controversial election? And half of our respondents said, yes, the country would be better off. A quarter said, no, it's better that Bush won.

LEMON: Whatever it is, whoever you support, it's very interesting to see people, and it's nice see people getting involved politically and really taking control of their own country and their own people as well.

Paul Steinhauser, political director. We appreciate it, sir.

It was the early 1980s, fall, Princeton University, and she had no idea her roommate was going to be the first lady. We're going to talk to her.


LEMON: A huge crowd yesterday greeting the president -- the president-elect and the first lady-to-be. They were greeted by like 40,000 people in Baltimore. Also, they had a choir there singing for them. It was one of the stops on their historic train ride, a whistle-stop tour from Philadelphia all the way here to Washington, D.C., the final stop, union station.

Let's go to New York now. We've been talking about those huge crowds. There's one in Baltimore. Here today, here's one here, too.

Tom Foreman has all kinds of images to share with us and a look at some of the security issues.

Tom, what are you finding?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This is really where we'll be tracking these crowds throughout this inauguration. I want you to look first at the capitol today. It's dark down there now. This is what it looks like during the day. This is how many roads are going to be closed when it becomes inauguration day. You can see the entire downtown is being shut off and this is utterly going to change the fabric of how everything is done here. Even D.C. has never seen anything like this. This is the Lincoln Memorial where the big event happened.

But I want you to see what's happening on the streets of D.C. We're looking at what these crowds really may be like. This is from Traffic Land, a great source for showing you what's actually happening on the streets. We will be using this throughout this inauguration. And security forces in D.C. will also be using it.

There is Lincoln Memorial. Look at some of the details of the people moving on the street there. These are huge crowds for this time on a Sunday night in Washington, D.C. And as you scroll through various intersections, you can see how many people are on foot and how many streets are already being closed down by barricades in here.

This is how we're going to be watching it throughout the inauguration. It's how security is going to watch it and you know they are watching this right now watching that traffic right now, watching that traffic right now, and saying it's a good thing we're closing the roads, but we're going to have to watch how many people show up because that's a lot of folks out there.

LEMON: Tom Foreman, hey, I can tell you first hand. A lot of people are right here with me. Thank you, sir, in the warm studio in New York. We appreciate it.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room, so to speak, for America, for hundreds of years now. We've been talking about race relations. Barack Obama's election has brought that out. Many believe this inauguration of Barack Obama will help improve race relations here in the United States. But the stereotypes still divide us and they really are hard to die.

Catherine Donnelly joins us now. She's in Atlanta. She was assigned as a roommate, a black roommate when she was an undergraduate at Princeton in the early 1980s. Her mother complained loudly to the administration that it wasn't right for blacks and whites to live together. Well, some family members even wanted Catherine to leave Princeton. And the roommate turned out to be none other than the first -- the future first lady, Michelle Obama.

Catherine Donnelly joins us now to talk about her experience and how racial attitudes have slowly changed since then.

Catherine, thank you so much. I know that was a long introduction. I know you were a little nervous about talking. I have to commend you and your mother, and your mother, for being so candid the article I read about you. Do you think this will make a difference in the country?

CATHERINE DONNELLY, MICHELLE OBAM'S FORMER ROOMATE: Don, I hope so. It's a conversation that is long overdue. It's a conversation we, especially now, on the eve of an historic event, have to have. It's the only way to get past it. to know people, to understand the other is exactly what it's going to take to take us to the next level.

LEMON: Looking back now, some 20 years later, or so later, obviously, you said in the article that I read about you that you are a little embarrassed about it and you didn't feel that way, but it was your family members. What's your regret in all of this?

DONNELLY: You know, Don, I loved Michelle. She was an amazing roommate, one of the funniest people I've ever known, caring, studious individual. I regret that I didn't immediate say to my mother, mom, you're wrong. You are wrong to worry about someone's influencing me just based on the color of their skin.

And I regret, quite honestly, that we went our separate ways. I think it was a lost opportunity for me to count her among my dear friends because I think she's inspirational and would have been a dear friend.

LEMON: There are people watching this -- just being honest -- I told you we'd have an honest, real conversation. Some people are saying, you know what, the only people you are doing this, the only reason you have a regret is because she's the first lady of the united states. Had she not been, you might not feel this way.

DONNELLY: And I completely understand that. I think -- I've tried to be -- evaluate that myself, and I agree. You could see it as an opportunistic thing I'm doing, but, quite honestly, it's just a conversation that I think needs to happen. And she -- Michelle herself has inspired me to face those sorts of demons and fears and to try to bring this conversation out. So regardless of how long...

LEMON: Have you...


LEMON: Go ahead. I'm sorry. Finish your thought.

DONNELLY: Regardless of how I'm viewed, at least I am hoping to spark the conversation and whatever comes of it will come of it. Hopefully, something good.

LEMON: Have you spoken to her?

DONNELLY: I haven't. I haven't. I have been in touch with the campaign during the election. And they couldn't have been nicer and more positive.

LEMON: Well, I hope that you two speak. and I hope people from this conversation that we're having find it a little bit easier, Catherine, to have those conversations and not to castigate each other and call each other names when you have differences about race. It's the only way that we learn. I'm sure you agree with that.

DONNELLY: I couldn't agree more. I think we're getting an amazing first lady and I hope we can have this conversation on an o ongoing basis. Thank you for bringing this story out into the open.

LEMON: Catherine, thanks. We appreciate it.

DONNELLY: You're welcome.

LEMON: Let's talk about anticipation, hope, concern. The emotions Americans experience on the dawn of a new administration.

Plus, excitement builds for a group of kids that turned a civic lesson into a lofty goal and a national sensation.

Let's go to this live. We're going to go to Michelle Obama and her husband's motorcade. They are on their way to the Blair House. Live pictures from Washington, D.C. You see the motorcade there winding their way to -- through the streets of Washington, D.C. They were at the Lincoln Memorial earlier. They were there for that concert. And you heard all of the folks there who were speaking and singing and performing and entertaining. And you are going to be seeing a lot of this, a lot of the Obama motorcade, the official presidential motorcade come Tuesday after he is sworn into office.

We're live right here in Washington on CNN. You are seeing the president's motorcade and you are seeing live crowds here as we join you for our special inaugural coverage from Washington.



BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union. Let's build a government that's responsible to the people. Let's accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable. Let all of us do our part to rebuild this country. Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America but just the beginning.


LEMON: That was Barack Obama speaking in Philadelphia yesterday as he embarked on his historic train ride to Washington. It was his whistle stop tour, the whistle-stop tour for the president-elect.

One of the films generating a lot of attention at this year's Sundance Film Festival is a documentary about civil unrest in the Congo. It's called "Reporter" and follows "New York Times" reporter, Nicholas Kristof as he covers the humanitarian crisis. But it also talks about the challenges facing reporters during election and during presidential administrations.


FILM NARRATOR: We're so used to government and to rule and order that it is a very strange equilibrium to go in a place like eastern Congo where there is no order and no rule and no government.


LEMON: Actor Ben Affleck is the executive producer of the film. Recently, we both spoke to -- I spoke to him and to Christophe about whether the film can make a difference. Take a look.


NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES: Can it make a difference? Absolutely. The reason that you have had five million people die in the Congo is that it doesn't get attention. And now through this vehicle, it is going to get a little bit more. Here we are on CNN talking about five million people dying in Congo.

LEMON: Most of the people who are talking about this and responding to it is saying what they are seeing is a talking about a crisis in journalism and this film in some way addresses that issue. Let's talk about -- we're right now in the middle of an inauguration and the last five years in the White House have really been -- sort of stifled reporters and journalism. At least that's the perception. Do you feel it's going to be different? What do we need to do as a country and as journalists to make it different for the next administration so that doesn't happen.

KRISTOF: We, as journalists, certainly let the cub down at times partly because of pressure from the administration and run up to the Iraq war. And WMD is an example of that. I think that real pressure on us for missing important stories are really financial. In journalism, we are desperately searching fore a better financial model, a better business model. It is really expensive to send journalists to Darfur, Congo, to cover important global issues. It's so much easier and cheaper to throw a Democrat and Republican in the studio and have them yell at each other.

I hope we can figure out ways of covering more of these important stories. We have tremendous power. With that power, comes responsibility.

LEMON: Ben, let's talk about this. Let's bring it back to Africa and bring it back to Congo. The president, his dad is from Kenya. We have an African-American president here. Do you think these issues, as it relates to Africa -- and Nicholas, either one of you answer -- as it relates to what's happened in Congo or Darfur? Do you think they will be addressed now in the U.S. and people will pay attention because of that?

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR & PRODUCER: You know, it's hard to say. I am very optimistic that, you know, we'll see people, you know, continue to be involved and maybe even become more involved again. Part of what this movie talks about is the way in which you can make people be more involved and be more compassionate.

I think Obama is extremely popular in Africa. And we have an opportunity now to use some political leverage to affect change in Africa that doesn't even need to be aid driven. It doesn't need to cost our country any money. We have an opportunity to affect real change through just making it a priority in this country.

LEMON: Nicholas Kristof, Ben Affleck, thank you very much. Enjoy.

KIRSTOF: Thank you.

AFFLECK: Thanks.

LEMON: All right. Should be very interesting, the "Reporter."

We are live here on the Mall.

Should I shout it out?

They have been asking me to give them shout-outs from places all over. So now is their time.

Our coverage from the Washington Mall continues right her on CNN in just a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the inauguration is important because it's a day of celebration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inauguration itself is not so important. It's really what happens in the next four years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me this is the biggest deal in the African- American history of these United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children that are out there now that thought they could not be an astronaut can be a president now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not important to me, because it's already done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thrilled to see that my children will grow up in the world where they will always know this is possible.


LEMON: This is a big deal, as we said.

We want to talk to these people.

Chris Lawrence, come in here. Where are you, Chris?

Can you just say hi to these folks? Say hi to these guys.

Where is she from in the green hat?


LEMON: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From Marlboro, Maryland.

LEMON: Marlboro, Maryland. So you didn't come very far to get out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we didn't. But we can still get interviewed.

LEMON: Are you guys happy to be here?

CROWD: Yeah.

LEMON: Yeah? Are you loving CNN?

CROWD: Yeah. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President-elect Obama, hello.

LEMON: You did have very far to go at all, did you?



LEMON: Hey, Chris, I was talking to these guys earlier. They are naming every single show on CNN. They were like, no bias, no bull.

What's the other one? Keeping them honest, the best political team on television. Where are you watching your politics?


LEMON: There you go. Of course, check it out.

I'm Don Lemon. Thank you very much.

One smart lady back there.

If you go online, you can watch, too. Can you be a part of history with all of this? CNN is teaming up with Facebook to bring you complete coverage of the inauguration online. You can connect with and engage with other users while watching live inaugural events on

On Tuesday, make sure you watch the historic swearing in of Barack Obama right here on CNN. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien, Don Lemon, Roland Martin, everybody -- the best political team on television will be covering the entire event. You're not going to miss any of it.

We're back with the live inaugural coverage and these crowds on the Mall in just a second.