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Preparing for Obama's Inauguration

Aired January 18, 2009 - 18:00   ET


LEMON: All right, good evening, everyone. From Washington, D.C., I'm Don Lemon, reporting live from the National Mall in the heart of the nation's capital.
You know what, less than two days now until Barack Obama is sworn in as America's 44th president. And boy oh, boy, these people are excited and they are ready.

But even in all that excitement, it has also 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 Unknown. Now from there, Obama's services at Washington's historic 19th Street Baptist Church. We're told they planned to visit more D.C. churches as they look for their church home.

This afternoon right here on the Mall, the party really got started. The Obamas and the Bidens attended a concert featuring everyone from Beyonce, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, all right, and much, much more. Last hour -- actually two hours ago, the president-elect spoke to the crowd about the serious challenges facing our country.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Along the way, there will be setbacks and false starts. Today, the tests are resolved 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.

BONO, PERFORMER: On this spot, where we're standing, 43 years ago -- 46 years ago, Dr. King had a dream. On Tuesday, that dream comes to pass.


LEMON: That was happening at the Lincoln Memorial. But guess what? Our Chris Lawrence, he's got the best job in television, because all those crowds came over here on the Mall right here to where CNN is and Chris Lawrence is out talking to them. Why are you guys so quiet now? What do they say, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forget about Bono and Beyonce, all you need is Don Lemon to whip up a crowd around here. I've got to ask you guys, why did you come out in the cold? Why was it so important to come out and be part of this in person?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's history. It's a great experience. I'm ready for a new America. I worked on the campaign. I'm so excited that Obama is going to be the president here in two days and then the next eight years, for the new generation.

LAWRENCE: And let me ask you, what was it like walking and seeing people today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was surreal. I'm here from Chicago's South Side representing. It was amazing to walk, it was surreal. History, yes.

LAWRENCE: Let me ask you, what was it like to walk the Mall today and to see so many different people from so many different places around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the positive energy from all these people from different places and different backgrounds, different races all coming together to celebrate this opportunity for the first black president of the United States, it's just overwhelming -- overwhelming.

LAWRENCE: Thank you very much. You know, Don, I talked to one woman who was 62-years-old who said she could remember a time when white people and black people couldn't walk together like they did today on the Mall. And she said that really struck her how amazing it was to see all these different faces walking together here today here on the National Mall.

LEMON: Chris, that is amazing. You said one woman was on the South Side of Chicago. I wonder if she was anywhere near -- were you anywhere near Grant Park?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in Grant Park. I was there.

LEMON: You guys were going crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was amazing.

LAWRENCE: Now you're here.


LAWRENCE: Wouldn't miss it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wouldn't miss it for nothing. Brings tears to my eyes.

LEMON: That's Chicago for you, Chris. South Side, right?


LEMON: You know what, thank you very much for that, Chris, and South Side of Chicago. And there are just so many great inspiring stories this weekend to tell you about. But one is about these kids, students at the Ron Clark Academy located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta.

This song, "Vote However You Like," started a musical civics lesson. Academy founder Ron Clark says it grew out of a classroom political discussion.


RON CLARK, FOUNDER, RON CLARK ACADEMY: They wanted to pick their candidate based on the issues. And we had students here who really were diehard McCain fans and some were diehard Obama fans, and they started debating each other. They said, oh, Mr. Clark, why don't we sing and debate at the same time? So they started rapping and singing back and forth. Then they wrote a song, where they were going, Obama on the left, McCain on the right, we can talk politics all night and you can vote however you like. And I loved it and I said, great. And we started singing it and performing it and it grew into the huge thing it is now.


LEMON: You know, when the video landed on YouTube, it turned into a national Internet craze. Well soon, the kids were performing on CNN and other networks. And after Barack Obama was elected president, well they decided they wanted to write something about him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for showing me that I can be proud of who I am. You have give us strength, courage and hope. And for that we all say thank you.

CROWD: Dear Obama here us sing. We're ready for the change that you will bring. Let's shine the light for the world to bring.


LEMON: Well this song is the result, "Dear Obama." Now the Ron Clark Academy kids are on the field trip of a lifetime. They are invited to perform at the inauguration. And you know what, CNN went along with them on their trip up here to Washington. We'll be talking with them about their historic trip coming up in the next half hour right here on CNN. So make sure you join us. All right, so those are the Ron Clark kids.

But in addition to all of these crowds that are here today on the National Mall, on Tuesday, millions of Americans will be glued to their TV sets watching from home or at work. There are so many reasons why this inauguration is so historic to them. Do we still say TV sets? I guess it's a TV set -- I guess it's a set. Flat screen set, plasma set. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us here to talk about some of the polling numbers, about why it's so important to watch.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well you know, in his farewell address last week, President Bush said this is a moment of hope and pride for all Americans. Indeed it is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This inauguration is historic not only because Barack Obama is the first African-American president, it's also because of his message of unity.

OBAMA: I'm calling on all Americans, Democrats and Republicans and Independents to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles.

SCHNEIDER: Sixty percent call it a celebration of democracy by all Americans rather than a celebration by supporters of the winning candidate. When George Bush was inaugurated in 2001, after the bitter Florida recount, only 26 percent called it a celebration by all Americans.

President Bush leaves office with the second lowest final approval rating of any of the 11 post World War II presidents. Only Richard Nixon's was lower and Nixon resigned. Obama faced some bumps over the transition over things like poorly screened cabinet appointees. Any damage? No -- 84 percent of the country approves of the way he handled the transition. That number has been going up.

For African-Americans, of course, the inauguration has deep personal significance. Nearly nine in 10 say it's a dream come true. But there is a note of caution. Most African-Americans think Obama will be held to a higher standard than past presidents because he's black. Most whites say Obama's race will not matter. More than eight in 10 Americans expect him to give an inspiring inaugural address. Can he? Yes, he can.

OBAMA: It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier and a king who took us to the mountain top and pointed the way to the promise land. Yes, we can.


SCHNEIDER: Now, those high expectations really do present a challenge for Mr. Obama. Can he meet them? He's not really a miracle worker. The new president has been urging caution. That poll suggests that the American people really do have a lot of patience.

LEMON: A lot of patience. And we heard earlier, Paul Steinhauser saying he has the highest approval rating of anyone going into office. But here is a caveat. Last week he said, we may not be able to get what we thought we would get done at the pace we wanted to do it. So he's sort of saying you know what, you've got to be patient, you've got to be patient.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, because those high expectations, he looks at them and he's got to say, how am I going to meet those expectations? Things are not going to change overnight.

LEMON: Bill Schneider. You guys like Bill Schneider's hat? I've got to tell you, the crowds out there were saying Bill Schneider was pimping that hat, so there you go.

SCHNEIDER: Mine is better than yours.

LEMON: I'm not going there, Bill. All right, well mine is black. So we want to know what's on your mind tonight. And you can be a part of our conversation here on CNN.

We want you to log on to Twitter, to Facebook, to iReport and to MySpace. You've got me blushing, Bill Schneider. Tell us what you're thinking. I'm not logged in now, but the folks back in the studio are and they can tell us what you're saying and hopefully there's something good.

And also, you know what, you too can be a part of history. You know how? 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

And Tuesday, watch the historic swearing of Barack Obama right here on CNN. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien, Roland Martin Donna Brazile, all of our political team, Bill Schneider will be here, Don Lemon, best political team on television. Make sure you tune in to that.

And be sure to tune in tomorrow when CNN's Soledad O'Brien takes us on a special journey from "MLK To Today," including a rare rebroadcast of Dr. King's entire "I Have A Dream" speech at noon Eastern. Bill, that's going to be very interesting, the entire speech, from "MLK To Today." I'd like to say from Martin Luther King to today begins at 9 a.m. Eastern Monday only here on CNN. Some people say that's disrespectful just to say his initials, you should say his whole name.

Then and now, a filmmaker's attempt to connect with the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to this historic inaugural weekend. And he knew the president-elect in the dawn of his political career. We talked to a man Barack Obama once called his political godfather straight ahead.


LEMON: Nothing like a little music along a whistle stop tour for the Obama Express. The Morgan State University Choir performing yesterday in Baltimore for President-elect Barack Obama as he made his way from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. where he'll be hanging out with these guys for the next couple of years.

Well he's been hanging out with you guys for at least two or three years now, almost four years, right? Lynn Sweet is the bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times" and political editor, Mark Preston from CNN, both join us. This is amazing. I think two other inaugurations besides this one. But this one has quite a different feel. And it's good to see you, by the way.


LEMON: This one has a different feel. Do you feel that?

SWEET: Absolutely because you have, it's generational. It is racial, because the first inauguration of the first African-American president. And it is coming at a time where the incoming president- elect has encouraged people to come to Washington whether or not they have tickets. Usually it's the opposite, if you don't have a ticket, don't come. Here because its, the mall is opened up all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, people are set, as shown by all the people around us. Come on, it's OK.

LEMON: So be honest, your city. Are you like just go home so I can get to the supermarket?

SWEET: You know, I understand that you share in a communal experience like this, and this isn't my city. I must say I'm lucky I got here on time because it is gridlock out there.

LEMON: I know, I kept getting the e-mails, Lynn Sweet, 30 minutes away. Lynn Sweet, eight minutes away, two minutes.

SWEET: And I tell you, we were blocked a few minutes by the Obama motorcade from to the Lincoln Memorial.

LEMON: Going to Blair House.

Mark Preston, I want to ask you, politics aside, no matter how you feel about it, Republican, Democrat, Independent, no matter what, I was watching a story on the BBC this morning, and it said Barack Obama is a cultural icon around the world, not just a political figure here in the United States. That's showing up here.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Look around us right now, Don. Look at all these faces out here in this frigid cold weather. We have to be here. These folks don't have to be here. They're out there in the screaming, there's a bit of excitement. But look, this goes back to the campaign. If you remember, he went over to Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up in Germany to hear him speak.

LEMON: All right but reality check, though. Reality check, though. He's liked across the world, Europe or what have you, a cultural icon. But on Wednesday, he's got to get to work. He's got a lot to deal with, so that's a reality check for him and for the country.

PRESTON: Absolutely. And here is the deal. We can all revel in this for the next 24, 48 hours. But the fact of the matter is, he has to get right to work Wednesday. He is going to be meeting with his military advisors, Don. He has to deal with Guantanamo and he also has to deal with the financial crisis we're in. There's a lot on his plate.

SWEET: I think you can't stress enough how much the economy is going to figure in the first 100 days. It's at the top of the top of the list, The front of the front burners. Because in the end, and this is what brings people together and what's an interesting time as the country is kind of unified, we're all unified in this sinking economic ship that everybody is in, and that crosses race, sex, religious ground. So the Obama team has to show something. Now they are in pretty good shape because they have been working on this economic recovery or stimulus plan for a long time. Congress probably, pundits will have it done, they hope by President's Day.

LEMON: And it's very interesting, this morning on the Sunday show on "Meet the Press," Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff, talked about how they were going to attack the economy. He says we haven't attacked the economy, I think he said it a two-pronged way. He talked about stimulus versus another way, I don't exactly remember. But it appears that they are -- at least have things in motion coming to Washington two weeks earlier than they are supposed to.

SWEET: Oh, they do. They have been working on this. I'm going to write about this in my column tomorrow. This transition has been put in place in early August. They have been working for weeks and weeks on this recovery plan. So they knew. And as the situation worsens, as the weeks went on, they knew this would have to be a priority. They would have to have a plan in place and they do.

LEMON: You guys are two of my favorite people to talk to on the air. I can talk to you all evening. Unfortunately we have to go because we have to get a lot of these folks on the air as well. They need some air time, don't you think?

SWEET: No, I do, I think they're here for that.

LEMON: You're going to be back next hour to talk to us, so you'll get another shot. Thank you, Lynn Sweet, thank you, Mark Preston. Certainly appreciate it.

And you know what, parts of the nation too, it is cold out here, not quite as cold as last night. They are chattering under subzero, freezing temperatures, getting a little relief today, sort of. Plus this.

You know what, they hit the national spotlight with a song for the president-elect. You saw and heard them right here on CNN tonight. An update on their hopes to bring their voices right here to the Capitol. You don't want to miss that, just seconds away.



OBAMA: As I stand in here today, 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.


LEMON: That was the president-elect, Barack Obama, speaking this afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial, site of a star-studded concert. Really some very heavy hitters out here. But we also have some other news I should say going on in the country. This one is about flight 1549. It is out of the Hudson River and slowly drying out. The US Airways jet was hoisted to a barge last night, revealing places where the impact peeled away parts of the skin. Both data recorders were also recovered. All of the luggage is still on the plane, which crash landed in the Hudson on Thursday afternoon. Everyone survived. Just a short time ago, the NTSB said the entire crew jumped into action when the plane lost power.


KITTY HIGGINS, NTSB MEMBER: The miracle, miracles happen because a lot of everyday things happen for years and years and years. And these people did their jobs. And they were trained to do their jobs.


LEMON: The NTSB says the fuel will be taken off the plane before it is towed to New Jersey for investigation possibly tonight. Let's go now to Gaza and the story that's happening there. There is a relative lull in the fighting after three weeks. And there are reports that some Israeli troops have started pulling out. Palestinian authorities announced a week long cease-fire although at least two rockets were launched into Israel after that announcement. That provoked an Israeli air strike. The Palestinian move follows the Israeli announcement of a unilateral cease-fire.

Check out these pictures taken last Thursday by i-Reporter Francois Chouinard in Montreal. Freezing temperatures caused a water main break, encased cars in ice. Check that out. Boy, oh boy. Crews quickly fixed the break and freed the cars, I should say. Our Jacqui Jeras, our meteorologist standing by in the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta. It's warm and cozy there. If your car gets frozen to the ground, Jacqui, you're in trouble.


LEMON: They just called this shot. Some guy said we want to see a side shot. Well, celebrities join ordinary Americans to mark an historic moment from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And at the White House, it wasn't your usual welcome back for the current president. Check him out, they're screaming behind me.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama!


LEMON: Less than two days before Barack Obama becomes the nation's 44th president. It has been a day of both solemn remembrance and celebration. This morning, the president and vice president-elect honored America's war dead. Barack Obama and Joe Biden traveled across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery where they placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

And this afternoon here on the Mall, the focus was on the future. The Obamas and the Bidens attended a concert featuring everyone from Beyonce to U2 to Bruce Springsteen. The president-elect stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and talked about the common hopes shared by all Americans.


OBAMA: As I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day when I walk into that Oval Office. The voices of men and women who have different stories, but hold common hopes, who ask only for what was promised Americans, that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.


LEMON: No doubt these are bittersweet moments for President Bush. This is the last Sunday he'll spend at the White House. And he and Mrs. Bush arrived there this afternoon after making one final visit to Camp David this weekend. They were greeted by a small crowd of well wishers.

Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry joins us now from the White House.

Ed, it is really the final moments for this administration.


Good evening, Don. You can see the president getting more and more emotional in these final days after his farewell speech last week, of course, his final press conference as well. Because he's not just leaving office, he's leaving a house that he's been around for many years, since his father was here before, obviously, as president, around this place as vice president as well.

Nevertheless he's not trying to cling to the White House. In fact, an interesting bit of new information we've just gotten this evening, is that it turns out -- senior White House officials say that the Bushes have pretty much moved all of their stuff out of the White House already.

Normally, on the morning of the inauguration there's a moving truck that pulls up -- during the inaugural festivities with the incoming president and first family's belongings and another moving truck leaves with the outgoing administration's stuff.

But senior officials say that Mrs. Bush specifically wanted to get this process going more quickly and, in fact, the first lady's chief of staff told my colleague Elaine Quijano a short time ago that she wanted to get this moving quickly.


ANITA MCBRIDE, FIRST LADY'S CHIEF OF STAFF: The moving trucks of the new president and his family will pull up here to the White House when the Bushes and the Obamas leave to go to the capital and the resident staff will begin to unpack their belongings and move things in there.

There won't be the same -- the moving trucks from the Bushes coming here because, again, those things have already left. And the only things really left for president and Mrs. Bush are their personal belongings and luggage that they'll take that day.


HENRY: So a change to this ritual and White House officials say the major reason is that Mrs. Bush, as well as Mr. Bush, wanted to make sure their stuff was out so that the resident staff could start the painting, could start all the preparations for the incoming first family's belongings.

This is just another small example of how this transition has gone pretty smoothly and has been very friendly, even though it's changing parties, obviously, from Republican to Democrat -- Don?

LEMON: Yes , Ed, just two days ago I spoke with a former White House Usher Gary Walters, and he said it all takes place in six hours. As a matter of fact, he said Mrs. Bush -- the Bushes knew four years ago that they would be moving out this day, so she started moving some of the stuff out this summer in preparation for this transition so they...

HENRY: Normally a mad dash...

LEMON: They knew, yes.

HENRY: ... but not this time. Yes. Normally it's a mad dash...


HENRY: ... where they've got to move the stuff in and move it out. This time the ritual will be a little different, Don.

LEMON: Yes, all right. Ed Henry, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

LEMON: Well, President Bush talked about his political legacy and reflected on some of his bigger decisions with Larry King. He did that just last week.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Reagan once asked this, so we'll ask it. Are we better off today than we were eight years ago?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing is for certain, today we understand the real dangers that we face. Eight years ago it looked like the world was peaceful and everything was just fine in the economy. And then we had a recession, then we had an attack, now we've had this financial meltdown. Everything looked like on the international front that -- you know radicalism might be, you know, a problem over there but not here. And so one thing is for certain -- there's a lot of clarity now in the threats we face.

KING: Have we stopped a lot of things that we don't know about?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: That you know about?

BUSH: And we've learned a lot of new information about al Qaeda that we didn't know before. And we have stopped some specific threats and we're decimating their leadership.

KING: How -- 9/11, what did it do to you?

BUSH: It made me realize my most important thing is to protect the country for attack. I mean...

KING: Changed you?

BUSH: Yes, it changed me. It changed the country, too. And it's -- you know, I still have images of those days vivid in my mind. And I told the American people I wouldn't tire and wouldn't falter and I haven't.

KING: Do you ever get the feeling -- and everyone has some doubts about some things that, if I was wrong, if Iraq was wrong, and -- then they died in vain and I sent them?

BUSH: Yes, I don't think Iraq was wrong.

KING: No, but do you have a moment of feeling...

BUSH: No, I was - what I was worried about Iraq was going to fail. Not Iraq was wrong. That Iraq is going to fail and why I put 30,000 troops in when a lot of people were saying get out. And the surge has worked and the young democracy in the heart of the Middle East has taken hold.

Obviously, there's more work to be done. But al Qaeda has been denied the -- you know, the base from which they wanted to operate.


LEMON: President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, one of their last interviews as first lady and president of the United States on "LARRY LING" just last week.

You know what, Americans voted for change. But the change in already turbulent times can bring out a wealth of emotions. We're going to talk about what you can do and what's going on in the country emotionally coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will my life change under the new administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully healthcare will become more affordable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect my taxes to go up by a lot and I hope they don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have small children, and kind of how they might look at the world and know that -- you know, in America anything is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's going to get taxed and who isn't going to get taxed. We still have to iron that out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can only get better from here. I think we've hit rock bottom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to be a good president. And everything is going to start changing.


LEMON: You know what, there's a lot of expectations there and a lot of hope and anxiety pinned to them.

You know, the election of Barack Obama doesn't just have a huge political and social impact, it also has a psychological one. So let's talk about that with clinical psychologist Dr. Gloria Morrow.

Thank you for joining us, Doctor.

So, you see everyone there, Doctor, has an expectation from Barack Obama. They want this, they're seeing this, they're feeling that way. Is this about managing expectations so people won't be disappointed. He can't deliver on 100 percent of his promises or 100 -- meet 100 percent of everyone's expectations.

DR. GLORIA MORROW, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, first of all, it's too soon to determine the long-term psychological impact of President-elect Obama and what he's doing to do for us. And the expectations are really, really high right now because of the -- sense of poverty, the sense of losing homes, our economic picture.

But we must know that as soon as the last song has been sung, the last dance has been danced we're going to go back to a very bleak situation. And it's going to take us being able to manage our expectations and to get involved in the process locally to make changes work.

LEMON: And what -- you know -- there in Grant Park, I was in Grant Park when he was elected and all across the country, all across the world, people were screaming and shouting and excited, emotional ups and then downs.

Talk to us about that. What are people dealing with in the country right now as it comes to this?

MORROW: Well, people are, first of all, experiencing probably the toughest time of their life but they're also very hopeful, very excited about the prospect of change, not just for African-Americans but for all Americans. So as they get involved in this wonderful time in history, everybody is up.

But after the last song is sung, as I've said, people are going to go back...

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

MORROW: ... to thinking, wow, this is a terrible time for the country. And it's going to take people really developing a more realistic picture that President-elect Obama cannot do this in a day.

LEMON: You know what, it's -- it's a very -- it's an interesting time in our country when it comes to -- race. A lot of people are talking about it, it's opening up emotions. How do you have people deal with that? Because it's coming to the surface now.

Barack Obama talked about it in his speech about race. He's -- you know, obviously, the first African-American president. How would you suggest to Americans to sort of have this conversation with each other so that it's easier and there aren't any misconceptions about it?

MORROW: Well, people need to talk about their fears openly and honestly, because this will be a great way to get the dialogue started. But I want to caution people to not allow their anxiety to develop into paranoia, because some people are really afraid that something is going to happen to the president-elect.

We have watched the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, we have watched the assassination of black boys and men in our neighborhoods all of our lives and so this is a tough time in terms of being able to manage some of the anxiety that we feel but again...

LEMON: And Doctor, Doctor, is this...


LEMON: Is this in some way -- might this be opening some wounds that are just below the surface that we don't really talk about or that haven't been exposed and are uncomfortable for people? Is this happening here?

MORROW: Absolutely. People are revisiting old fears and old wounds. And so it's so important for us to seize the moment. Right now we're in celebration mode. Let's focus on what we're celebrating and then let's talk to each other about how we're feeling. And then get involved in the process of change. Get off the sidelines and be a part of the solution.

LEMON: All right. Dr. Gloria Morrow, people behind me are agreeing with you. You can you hear them screaming so thank you very much.

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Gloria Morrow, joining me us from the west coast where it's a bit warmer. Thank you.

MORROW: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Also we want to know what's on your mind tonight at home. All of you viewers log on. I don't have my computer out here, but as soon as I get back, I'm going to check it and the folks in Atlanta, they're looking at our Twitters, our MySpace, our iReports.

I can't get them straight. I can't get them straight.

And we want to know what's on your mind. There it is. Facebook, MySpace, or And tell us what you're thinking.

Also, one man opened the door and another walked right through it more than four decades ago. Now a new film pays tribute to two leaders who changed America.

We're going to show you a preview of that.


LEMON: All right. That was Usher and Stevie Wonder performing "Higher Ground" at a star studded concert in the Lincoln Memorial. Man.

That was Shakira, too, also performing.

Usher, I want that coat, man. That was beautiful. The performances are very nice. Nice.

Also tomorrow, of course, is Martin Luther King Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The day after that Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president of the United States.

And tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Tonight, CNN will present a tribute by director Antoine Fuqua from "MLK TO TODAY."

Take a look at this.


BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENT ELECT: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was but 26 years old when he led a bus boycott in Montgomery that mobilize the movement.


LEMON: Startling images not so long ago. Of course again, that's going to premier 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, "FROM MLK TO TODAY." And the director of that, Antoine Fuqua whose movies have included, Denzel Washington's film, "Training Day."

He is in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. I talked with him about "FROM MLK TO TODAY" just a short time ago.


LEMON: Tell us about this tribute film and how you're going about approaching it and what we might see from it once it does actually premier.

ANTOINE FUQUA, DIRECTOR, "FROM MLK TO TODAY": Well, my hopes is that it will be a reminder of our past as a country. Obviously, it's a tribute to MLK, and the sacrifices that he made for the people of this country, the sacrifices that black and white people made for America.

And those people who we've never heard their names before and how that influenced, obviously, the decision that has been made today to have President-elect Barack Obama become the president of the United States.

LEMON: How do you go about picking the images, though, when you -- when you think about? I mean when you think -- usually filmmakers have time to sort of process and think and look at things. But how do you go about picking the images when it happened so quickly? I mean -- but you're inspired as well. I should say that.

FUQUA: Yes, I mean, I think -- you're right. What it was is I started to look for images that were inspiring and that were moving and that got right to the heart of the message. And we used, obviously Mr. Obama's, some of his speeches, actually all of his speech. I tried to find the images that best represented, I believe, what he was talking about.

LEMON: When you look back over your life, in the past 41, 42 years, did you bring any of the elements to the table? Any suffering that you had, any prejudices that you faced, racism, discrimination? Did you bring that to the table in this, in this tribute film?

FUQUA: I brought it to the table in a positive way, I believe. I think all of those things are -- the elements that shape us and make us the person, people that we are today. I believe that we have to be accountable for our mistakes and the mistakes of others in the past.

And when I start looking at this piece, one of the -- one thing I wanted to make clear is that we have to be respectful and accountable of our past and we have to embrace it in order to move forward. And...

LEMON: Do you think Barack Obama does that? Do you feel that he -- that's his message partly?

FUQUA: I believe it is. I believe his message is to be accountable for our own mistakes and our own responsibilities. And if we do that and embrace them and then move forward in a positive way with solutions, then I think we'll be OK as a country.

LEMON: What do you want your children and children like Sasha and Malia Obama to get out of this?

FUQUA: Well, I believe that our history paves the way to our path and I'm hoping that the children will see this and remember how we came to this place today. How their father became the president. Who paved the way and not forget that it wasn't just -- it wasn't jut black people. It was white people, Chinese people, it was all races that came together to make this happen.

And I believe that if they -- and I'm hoping that they'll take this and look at it over and over again as a reminder of how we got here today and who paved the way. We can't forget the people. And -- again, the people whose names we don't even know...

LEMON: Right.

FUQUA: You know? Who -- who were beat and dragged and got back up and kept marching. And I just don't want the children to ever forget the past.

LEMON: Right.

FUQUA: And I'm hoping that's what they get out of it.

LEMON: Antoine Fuqua, we are so happy to have you be a part this process here on CNN. It's called "FROM MLK TO TODAY." And it will premiere this Sunday at 10:00 p.m., we hope.

Are you going to be ready?

FUQUA: I'm ready.

LEMON: All right.

FUQUA: I've been ready for a long time.

LEMON: That's 10:00 p.m. here on CNN. And we thank you for joining us.

FUQUA: Thank you for having me. Thank you.

LEMON: Be sure you stay tuned to CNN to see the debut of Antoine Fuqua's film. It's "FROM MLK TO TODAY." It's tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

And one final thought I asked him. He had a scholarship to the University of West Virginia. I said who's a better basketball player, you or Barack Obama? Fuqua says he is, but since Barack Obama is the president-elect, he'd let him win.

And tomorrow, CNN's Soledad O'Brien takes us on a special journey "FROM MLK TO TODAY" including a rare rebroadcast of Dr. King's entire "I Have a Dream" speech at noon Eastern.

"FROM MLK TO TODAY" begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Monday, that's tomorrow, only here on CNN. You don't want to miss it.

Also Barack Obama taught the world that just about anything is possible right here in America. Up next, the man who played a major role in Obama's journey, his political godfather. We'll take you inside Barack Obama's inner circle.


LEMON: Hey, we always like you to be part of the conversation at home like these people here tonight. We've been asking them what they think. We're going to talk to them a little bit later on as well.

But we're going to talk about the people at home who are logged in. Here's what Spelly50 says. "It's OK, Don. With all this spirit, it feels like 80 degrees." And then Amrockblue says, "Great job, CNN. Today's spirit is so infectious, it's great to see the togetherness and the love. America is beautiful again."

Royjross says, "CNN rocks. My family in the Caribbean are following your coverage and wanted me to say to all Americans, we are with you." Megan1018 says, "You can't feel the magic in the air at the inauguration? That was the question. You can't?"

I don't know. Can you guys?


LEMON: That answers your questions. Make sure you log on to Twitter, to Facebook, MySpace or, tell us what you're thinking and we'll get you on just like these folks here.

And you know what? With the Obama administration, everyone, just two days away, we are taking a closer look at the members of the president-elect's inner circle.

You know, Emil Jones. He is the president of the Illinois state Senate and is also known as Barack Obama's political godfather. Did you know that? You do? OK, well, take a look.


LEMON: You said your relationship went back to 1985. Tell us about that. What was he like? 1985, wet behind the ears, I'm sure.

EMIL JONES (D), ILLINOIS SENATE PRESIDENT: Yes, a little 23- year-old youngster. He was a community organizer with ministers and community leaders and I met them. They were concerned about the dropouts in high school, things in high school.

And they were down the street from my office. So I invited them into my office. And we sat down and discussed the issue and they had some recommendations. So I went to the state board of education. Got funding for dropout prevention program.

Today in Chicago, as a result of those actions way back then, we have alternative high schools for those students who -- cannot fit into the traditional mold, no further dropout. We have schools available for them so they can go ahead and receive their diploma.

LEMON: And he was part of that?

JONES: He was part of that, yes.

LEMON: '85 or '95?

JONES: '85.

LEMON: '85?

JONES: Yes. And when he first came to Chicago.

LEMON: Wow. And then, subsequently, he became a community organizer. Started helping get those things and then you said he came to you about going to law school?

JONES: Yes. We were -- after working with him for about three years, he came to me and said, you know, I enjoy what I'm doing, but I've always -- I always wanted to be a lawyer. And I'm thinking about going to law school. He asked me what did I think about it? I said, Barack, is that something you sincerely want to do? I suggest you go ahead and do it.

So he left and went to law school. I didn't see him anymore until he completed law school and he was working for the registration drive here in Chicago. But we had that relationship. I hated to see him go, but by the same token, I wasn't going to tell him no, if it's something you want to do, just to hang around doing community organization work.

Never -- not knowing that he would end up being the president of the Harvard Law Review, graduate at top of his class. You know, he's very aggressive, but I liked him as a young man. You understand what I'm saying? I didn't push him away.

LEMON: When -- did he ever talk to you about, like I met this girl? And I love...

JONES: No, he never talked about that. As a matter of fact, I knew he had a funny name. I never questioned him about his background, where he came from. I took him at face value, wherever he was. You know?

I didn't find out that he was -- his mother was white, his father from Kenya. I didn't find that out until I read his book. And he was elected to the state Senate at that time. But I took him at face value as to what he was.

LEMON: Do you take any credit for his success?

JONES: Well, he made the statement. He called me his political godfather. He called me -- he made a statement at one of the big rallies, said he wouldn't be standing here if it had not been for me.

LEMON: Do you take the same pride in him or feel like maybe he's sort of your son and you're watching your son grow up and become...

JONES: Oh, yes, I do. As a matter of fact, after he won the Senate primary in that race, some of my same financial supporters ended up being his financial supporters. So he had a little gathering at one of the homes that we were all there. My son was there.

And Barack told my son, you got to move over now because another member of this family, you know, because -- I take a lot of pride in it, no question about it, yes. But the person must have the ability and the talent. All I did was try to open the door so he can show what he's all about.