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MLK Day of Service; Kenyan Boys Choir Will Perform for Obama

Aired January 19, 2009 - 11:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The historic inauguration of Barack Obama, an hour away from being president paying, tribute to a king, literally. Obama honoring the civil rights icon by volunteering.
Remember how important service was to Martin Luther King. Also important to the incoming president.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien, coming to you live from Washington, D.C.


O'BRIEN: A very excited crowd behind us. Welcome back to our special coverage of the Martin Luther King holiday, as we mark the journey from "MLK to Today."

That is an enthusiastic crowd. And this is a beautiful shot.

You're really seeing the vantage point that Roland and I both have. We're looking right at that Washington Monument, quite remarkable.

And actually, I hate to say it, maybe it's warming up a degree or two, or maybe it's that we have a big crowd out here. It is such a beautiful sight, and the feeling out here is one of excitement as people just start streaming on to the Mall.

There are no official events happening out here this morning.


O'BRIEN: But people want to come out and just be part of it.

MARTIN: I'll tell you, this reminds me of the Million Man March, Soledad, when the day before, people were just coming out...

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly.

MARTIN: ... hanging out and talking, hugging. Yes.

O'BRIEN: The theme today, of course, it's day of service. And there you see the president-elect the day before he was sworn into office. He's been put to work. He's painting...

MARTIN: Uh-oh. Uh-oh.

O'BRIEN: ... at the Sasha Bruce House. It's a nonprofit that helps young people who are homeless. So it really reaches out to a number in Washington, D.C. On the right side of your screen, that's Michelle Obama at RFK Stadium, and at that service event, they're putting together these goody bags to send off to servicemen, women around the nation, and also some of those who are serving in Iraq, as well.

So, you know, imagine the number of cameras that have followed them. So to underscore service, doing your part for an organization that serves 15 people, and doing your part for an organization that is really helping all the thousands of people in the armed services and beyond that, really underscoring I think an important message, and a message that was, we should note, on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, really important to Dr. King, as well.

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. And he was someone who put his money and his time where his mouth was. And people think back, many of his resources went back.

In fact, Coretta Scott King, folks didn't realize she was an accomplished singer. And she gave any number of concerts across the country to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And so she wasn't just somebody who was just there. They were active and involved, and they were driving home that message that if you want message, diligent crow, you have to be a participant in this, as well.

O'BRIEN: The pressure, if you can imagine, on the president- elect is he has to paint well with all of the cameras that are following.

MARTIN: Very true. But you know, I also know Michelle very well. Trust me, she's probably saying, tape record that because I can put him to work.


O'BRIEN: Yes, see how he does.

MARTIN: Oh yes.

O'BRIEN: It can happen to a few rooms at the White House, too, if we need to.

MARTIN: Oh yes.

O'BRIEN: There are other service projects going on around the city today, as well.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is at Coolidge High School, a luncheon for volunteers that's going to be held in the next hour.

Let's check in with her there to see what's going on.

Hey, Elaine.


Well, we've just had in the last few moments a VIP unexpected visit for the volunteers here. We did not know that Vice President- elect Joe Biden would be coming bearing gifts. You probably can't see in the shot there, but he is delivering doughnuts to the volunteers who have gathered here, about 300 or so volunteers from various organizations.

They are here at a D.C.-area school working on projects for U.S. troops. Among those projects, writing letters to the troops, writing cards for the troops, also gathering up blankets to be delivered to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

You probably see the crush of people now that have gone over to surround the vice president-elect. But a tremendous amount of energy here in the room, Soledad.

I can tell you just a few minutes ago, I talked to a little 9- year-old boy. His name was Amani Haskell (ph). He's a fourth grader at a D.C.-area school. And I asked him the question, "What does this mean to you? What do you feel in your heart at this moment as you think about President-elect Barack Obama?"

And he said, "Well, I feel full. I feel full of myself. And I feel full." And this was a young African-American boy who was clearly very excited to be here, very much wanting to heed the call to service.

He said, "I'm so excited to be here and to be doing these things, and to be helping. It just makes me feel full" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that's so wonderful. And it's one of those comments, I think it's fair to say, Elaine, that is being repeated and felt by so many people.

I mean, the excitement out here where we are -- and there's nothing going on on the Mall today. There are no official events, but people have been coming out.

As you know, the focus is a day of service. And so that's some of the pictures that you're seeing there.

Barack Obama in the top left of your screen, Michelle Obama at her service project where they're trying to send off baskets, care baskets off to the people in the armed services. And then Joe Biden showing up with doughnuts, which, by the way, Mr. Vice President- elect, we are also cold and would love doughnuts.

MARTIN: Yes. I mean, you know, Joe, feel free to drop on by.

O'BRIEN: Feel free to drop by with the doughnuts.

But truly, in all seriousness, it's a way to focus the nation's attention on this Martin Luther King Day on something very important. And also, I think, Roland, underscores the idea of, it's about "we," as he likes to say. There are many entrenched social issues that will not be solved by one person or two people or five people. They're going to have to be solved by people in this nation deciding that they're not going to take the status quo anymore.

MARTIN: I just think that is what has been one of the most remarkable things about this campaign, because, again, going back to election night, he used the word "we" 47 times. All throughout the primaries, you would hear the candidates say, "What I am going to do as president." Obama would always say what we are going to do, this is about us. And so, that's driving home that every person has a role to change the direction of the country.

O'BRIEN: We want to check in with Don Lemon, who is also here in Washington, D.C., who has seen the number of people in this city grow over the last couple of days -- Don.

MARTIN: What's your service, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I don't hear...

O'BRIEN: It seems like maybe they're having some audio problems. Let me try one more time.

Hey, Don, can you hear me?

LEMON: I can hear you now, Soledad. Hope you didn't get any with my sniffles here.

But we're out on the Mall, a beautiful day. And as it gets a little bit warmer and the day goes on, we can see a lot more people coming here to the Mall. And, of course, we're expecting a million, maybe close to two million people, here tomorrow for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

But take just a look at the Capitol behind me. Beautiful, draped in flags and bunting. And it's going to be amazing tomorrow to see all of those folks there at the steps of the Capitol and then lined all the way back here to the Mall.

The folks that you see here, my colleague Zain Verjee is coming up, and she's going to give us a profile, actually a live performance from the Kenyan Boys Choir. They're here for the inauguration, and they're going to perform something from, I think, "The Lion King," a song from "The Lion King," at least a song that is used in "The Lion King."

But I want to talk to you about this special relationship between fathers and daughters. We've been seeing a lot of it with the Obamas, especially with their daughters Sasha and Malia and their dad, and hearing about their special relationship and how the kids, we're told, make him feel warm and take him away from all the seriousness and the stress, at least through the campaign trail. And now getting ready to prepare to lead the country.

I spoke with Valerie Jarrett, who is part of his transition team, the co-chair of his transition team, and now is going to be a senior adviser. She followed Barack Obama, was with Barack Obama throughout the campaign. And I talked to her recently about the special relationship that Barack Obama has with his two young daughters.

Take a look at this.


VALERIE JARRETT, SR. ADVISER TO OBAMA: They're just an extraordinary couple. They're kindred spirits, they are each other's best friend. And, you know, I've watched him hurry to get back in the car in the evening so he has a chance to talk to the girls before he goes to bed. And just...

LEMON: We saw him running down the stairs of the airplane recently so he could hurry up and see his wife and kids.

JARRETT: Oh, that's actually a very good story. When we were traveling this last weekend, before -- before Election Day, we were -- Senator Obama and I were in Las Vegas, and we flew to Iowa -- to Ohio for the day.

And when we flew into Ohio, we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for Michelle and the girls to arrive. And he was busy reading the newspaper, and then he was on his BlackBerry, and he didn't notice that they had arrived. And so I said, "Barack, look out the window."

And he looked out the window, and there is Malia and Sasha playing out on the tarmac, and the look on his face when he saw those two girls, he just lit up. And he said, you know, "They lighten me. They make me feel whole. They make me feel so well loved."

And the rest of the weekend was just terrific. And to have Michelle and the girls along just made all the difference in the world.


LEMON: And you know, he talked about missing his daughters throughout the campaign. And that was one regret that he had, is that he didn't get to spend a lot of time with them. And he missed some of their activities, like their ballet and their recitals, performances, and also them playing sports and what have you. So that happens to a lot of families who have working parents. There's a special bond, as I said, between fathers and daughters, and also between sons and mothers.

I want to show you this. Now, this is the cover of "The Washington Post" today, but below the fold, check this out. You see the Obamas and you see their two girls right there. And it's good to see two young people, two very young people in the White House.

We're celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. He also had a very special relationship with his family. And during his days of service, when he was out fighting for civil rights, he didn't get to spend a lot of time with his children. But I spoke with Bernice King in a special documentary that I did this summer. It's called "Daughters of Legacy." She talked about the private moments, the poignant moments, the very real moments that she had with her father, and what she missed most.

In this interview that you're going to see, she talked about the special places on the face, at least during that interview. She talked about, you know, "He had a spot here for Martin, he had a spot here for Yolanda, and then mine was just above the eye." But she talks about the relationship she had with her father. I want you to take a look at this.


BERNICE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING'S DAUGHTER: I was only 5 when he was assassinated. And for some reason, I just don't remember much. But my father, he was able to balance the work that he was doing with humor.

He was a very fun-loving person. You know, when he was at home, he spent time with us and he would play a lot with us, and to my mother's dismay, because she was the one that disciplined us. He would never discipline us, and he just left that job to her.


LEMON: Good cop/bad cop.

B. KING: Exactly. So she grew up being the bad cop, you know, and he was the good one.

So when my father used to come off the road, there's a game that he would play with everybody, but I guess I remember it the most because it's the only living memory that I have of him. And he would come in and each one of us had a spot on the face and he'd say, "OK, we've got to play the kissing game today."

My spot was on the forehead. And the two boys were on either side of the cheek, and my sister was slightly off to the side of the mouth. And, of course, you know where mom's was.

LEMON: Right there.

KING: Right.


LEMON: And you know where mom's was. And mom's was right there on the lips, which is where it should be.

You know, in that documentary, we talked to a lot of daughters, at least four daughters of famous icons who made history with their work and also with their service. And we're celebrating a day of service today.

So, Soledad, we also talked about the King family. In many ways, they felt like they were sharing their father with the world. Not only was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. their father, but he was the father to many, many millions of people not only in America, but across the world. Interesting that the King family, the children feel that way about him.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's quite a level of sacrifice, to have to share your father with the whole entire world.

Don, thank you very much.

I want everybody to revisit now some of the pictures you can see on your screen. The left side is the president-elect, Barack Obama. He has been talking to the folks at the Sasha Bruce House. And a moment ago, we saw him laying down the blue paint, doing quite a good job, quite quickly, actually.

You know, Michelle Obama's taking notes. Hmm, he can paint.

MARTIN: I'm telling you, she likes to put him to work.

O'BRIEN: So, and speaking of Michelle Obama, she is at a different service project. And there are thousands going on across the nation today.

She's helping create these sort of goody bags, or sort of, you know, packages that they will send off to the men and women who are serving not only around the country, but in Iraq, as well. And she is there. Dr. Biden, Joe Biden's wife, is participating in the service event. We're expecting pictures of her soon. And we've seen Joe Biden, who's attending a service event, as well.

MARTIN: So Michelle's giving everybody a hug. Everybody...

O'BRIEN: She probably learned that on the campaign trail.

MARTIN: Everybody's getting a hug.

O'BRIEN: That's what the day is about today. It is really focused on remembering...

MARTIN: Helping somebody else, yes.

O'BRIEN: ... the words of Martin Luther King and underscoring and using, frankly, the platform that he has, even before he becomes the president of the United States to -- you know, to hone in on the message that he's had for a long time, which is about helping others in service. A message ripped from the pages of Martin Luther King.

MARTIN: And he was a community activist. I mean, yesterday, "Essence" magazine had an award ceremony. (INAUDIBLE), and he talked about how, you know, he went to law school, of course, with the president-elect. And he said how he was a guy who could have walked out, made six figures, but he said he was shocked how he said, "No, I'm going back from where I came from, to help people." You know, and so when you hear somebody forego a six-figure job to say I want to go help somebody get their lights turned on and get their heat turned on, I mean, that's what real service is, grassroots, on the ground. O'BRIEN: Barack Obama's talking to some of the folks who are assembled there. Let's listen in for just a moment to the president- elect.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to lighten it up.

O'BRIEN: Volunteers in this project, but normally the Sasha Bruce House serves about 15 homeless teenagers. And when you think about that number, in the city the size of Washington, D.C., what a gaping hole, really, for what's needed here.

Barack Obama back to painting. He's done a lot of painting. And I guess when they said service, they really meant that he was going to get his hands dirty.

MARTIN: They said, look, you come in here, you're going to work, Mr. President-Elect.

O'BRIEN: You need to work. But he's also, we've noticed in the last few minutes, as we follow some of these pictures, had an opportunity to chat with the young people who are there and to do a little bit of speaking. We've been able to pick up some of the remarks that he's made as well.

MARTIN: But also, folks who are watching, you see there are a number of young black men who are around him. And granted, he's the president for all of America, but he has, obviously, a very intense focus, because we know in Detroit, 25 percent young black men graduate from high school. Chicago, it's like 35 percent.

And so he also understands that in order to affect the prison system, to affect people who are not in high-paying jobs, you've got to touch them where they are. And if he's able to reach them at an earlier age -- Marian Wright Edelman yesterday said a young man said he was in lockup. And he said, "You know, after watching Obama, I thought about my GED, but now I'm thinking about a Ph.D."

That's sort of the effect that he's having on people.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And you know, all people. I think that's really worth repeating, that he is not -- while he is the first African- American president, he has been a symbol to a lot of different people, not only in this country, but internationally, as well. Because there's a sense, as one of our historians said earlier, that if you can break the history of racial conflict in this country, that an African-American man can be elected, well, then, it sort of follows that it's possible for a woman and a Latino and an Asian.

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely.

O'BRIEN: I mean, it seems no question.

MARTIN: If you study how women have advanced, Title 9, a lot of that came after the civil rights movement.

O'BRIEN: Let's listen into the president-elect as he makes some remarks on his service project.


OBAMA: Amazing things. And, you know, I think this facility here is an example of somebody with imagination and determination, working together.

These young people have huge potential that right now is not being tapped. And given the crisis that we're in and the hardships that so many people are going through, we can't allow any idle hands. Everybody's got to be involved.

Everybody's going to have to -- everybody's going to have to pitch in. And I think the American people are ready to do that.

We've got 5,000 volunteer organizations and service projects across the country today. The Internet is an amazing tool for us to be able to organize people together. We saw that in our campaign. But we don't want to just use it for winning elections, we want to use it to rebuild America.

All right?

O'BRIEN: The president-elect, as he talked about a moment ago, no idle hands.

MARTIN: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Everybody's got to get to work on this day, which is -- of course, the focus is a day of service as they honor and celebrate the work of Martin Luther King Jr. But also, you know, he's clearly pointing to some of the bigger issues in America.

He said, you know, the nation's ready for this, and Americans are going to kind of have to get their hands dirty and start thinking about some of the social problems in this country that are going to require far more than legislation. Some legislation, but are going to require sort of the movement of a people and the coming to terms with this can't stand anymore. We're not going to take low graduation rates, we're not going to take -- I mean, this center where he is, is a shelter for homeless teenagers.

You know, that's not OK. It's great that they have a place to go, but there should be an uproar about that situation.

MARTIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

And look, at 12:01, when he's sworn in as president, what many people have been here saying all weekend, Soledad, is all right, 12:02, it's time to get to work.

O'BRIEN: Yes, because literally, of course, the situation does not change for those young people who are in that shelter...

MARTIN: No. O'BRIEN: ... or any shelter anywhere, or whatever social ills he has to deal with. And the issue, of course, is he's also president who comes in at a time with a great economic crisis, he's a president who comes at a time when we have international conflict. There are a lot of problems, and some people concerned that some of these social issues will fall way to the bottom of the list of the domestic agenda.

MARTIN: And that, frankly, is the worst thing that can happen, because that makes the situation even more difficult. And the concern today is also the widening of that class gap. And that is the haves and have-nots, because, yes, it used to be solely about black, white. And all of a sudden, you have African-American, middle class who are doing well. But if you go to Kentucky, you go to Virginia, you go to Appalachia, you will see a whole different situation.

O'BRIEN: And as you said, out here on the Mall, you see a bunch of faces, too, that really represent the nation, which is really exciting, even though it's kind of chilly.

MARTIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: We've had a great opportunity. And some of these people have been out here for as long as we have been out here. And they're sticking it out and they're staying.

MARTIN: They're sticking it out, taking pictures, having loads of fun.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And even though there are no official events happening on the Mall today, lots of people just wandering around, sort of scoping out where they might be tomorrow.

MARTIN: Social service, Soledad. We need to put them to work.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's right. Day of service.

MARTIN: It's a day of service, so you need to pick up some trash or something. I mean, just something.


O'BRIEN: We're going to listen in to the president-elect. He continues to make remarks where he is, at the Sasha Bruce House. Let's listen.

OBAMA: Me and my crew, we were just doing our job. And it made you think, if everybody did their job, whatever that job was, as well as that pilot did his job, we'd be in pretty good shape. So doing your job well, finishing your job, cooperating as a team, all that stuff's important.

I think I got this wall covered. Anybody see anything? I think it's pretty good.

I mean, this is a little dark because it's drier. It's still a little wet. All right. What else you got for me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got some stuff...


All right. See you guys.

O'BRIEN: They're checking to make sure that there are no spots that were missed.

MARTIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: They're actually doing real renovation. I mean, there are a couple of rooms at this shelter that are being renovated today. This is a photo-op, but it's also a photo-op with a purpose, which is, put them to work, and really -- they're hoping to finish up these renovations on this day, start them and finish them in the same day. Again, underscoring how much you can accomplish if you sort of put your mind to it and focus on service.

MARTIN: I like what he just said though when he said, "Get to work." This whole notion of a work ethic. And that is, he has gotten to where he is because of their work ethic. And so what he's saying, "my crew," he's talking to young people, you have to get to work. It's not going to change."

O'BRIEN: That's the picture on the left side, the president- elect, as he is on a painting project at the Sasha Bruce House. Then at RFK Stadium, on the right side, that's Michelle Obama as she is preparing some packages to be sent to the men and women who serve this country.

Again, the theme of the day is a day of service as we honor Martin Luther King, the official holiday today. And the Mall's filling up with people who have come out, you know, hang out with us despite of the cold. But also because it's part of a community, a growing community, as we've seen over the last few days, of people who are out and about and just being part of what is going to culminate in a very big day tomorrow.

Trying to see what he's doing here.

MARTIN: He's got jeans on. Oh, he really came to work.

O'BRIEN: He put his jeans on? He did come to work.

MARTIN: He's got some work boots.

O'BRIEN: Well, he knew it was day of service. You can't wear your fancy clothes.

MARTIN: You got that right. You got that right.

I'm still waiting to see MLK III pick up that brush.


O'BRIEN: We are going to continue to follow, of course, throughout this day of service, this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we're going to continue to follow what's happening as we monitor what's happening with the president-elect and Michelle Obama, and the Bidens, as well. And also, we'll continue to look at Martin Luther King, his vision and his dream, and how it has been realized, or the degree to which it's been realized today.

Going to talk about all of that and introduce you to a fascinating group. From Nairobi to Washington, D.C., they have come a long, long way. They've come to serenade a president.

CNN's special edition of "MLK TO TODAY" continues in just a moment. We've got a short break. We're back on the other side.



O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're listening to the beautiful sound of the Boys Choir of Kenya. They're here from Barack Obama's paternal homeland in East Africa, and they're going to be performing at his inauguration.

CNN's Zain Verjee is with them and joins us live.

A talented group of young men. This must be so exciting for them, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really amazing. We're singing "Hakuna Matata." This is a popular Kenyan song. It means no problem.

This is the Kenyan Boys Choir. They're actually from Nairobi. They are so proud and excited, like all Kenyans, for the day that's going to happen, the big moment here tomorrow in the United States.

This is really, Soledad, the manifestation of the link between Kenya and the United States.

We want to talk to a couple of the Kenyan boys who are here. We have Frederick (ph) and we have Mitchell.

How exciting is it for you to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's truly exciting. We are really overwhelmed by this function. And we believe that we are just happy and enjoying the moment.

VERJEE: How about you, Mitchell? What does this mean for Kenyans? What does this mean for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means a lot to us. It's just so great that one of us is representing us. We are just so glad, yes.

VERJEE: It's amazing to be here. It's amazing to see you.

What would be your message for Barack Obama today?

Leo (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would I say to Obama? Just believe in what you tell us -- yes, you can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For you to just do your thing, and keep us proud, represent us well.

VERJEE: Soledad, we're going to have them sing another song. This is in Luhya (ph). It's coming from western Kenya, where Barack Obama's father was from.

Let's get a little bit of the flavor here, OK?

One, two, three...


O'BRIEN: The boys choir will be performing for Barack Obama's inauguration. And Zain Verjee with them today.

Thank you, Zain. Appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: Coretta Scott King and Michelle Obama supporters, big, big supporters of their husband's dreams and strong accomplished women in their own lives who inspire young women. Tony Harris in Atlanta with one of those young ladies today. Hey Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Soledad great to be with you. Thank you very much. With me this morning is Brianna Martin, she is a 7th grader at Coretta Scott King's Young Women's Leadership Academy right here in Atlanta. And Brianna, good to see you. And it's been good spending some minutes with you this morning.

First of all, tell us what you have learned in your time at the academy about the lady whose name is on that building Coretta Scott King.

BRIANNA MARTIN, 7th GRADE STUDENT: I've learned a lot about her. I've learned the fact that she was a normal young lady just like me, growing up, having to walk eight miles to school, dealing with the civil rights. And now she's passed away with the legacy of her husband and taken after him.

HARRIS: Well tell me what it has been like for you in that academy, what it has meant for you as a growing process, your family moved from New York City, from Harlem two years ago. Now you're in the academy. What has it meant for you? And in terms of your own personal growth?

B. MARTIN: It means to me to take a lead, take action, and what they've done for me. And to show that I'm here, and I have a lot of responsibility in my hands now. HARRIS: Yes, you really do. I hope you know that. It sounds like you do. Tomorrow, we not only get the first black president of the United States, we also get the first black first lady of the United States. What have you learned about Michelle Obama?

B. MARTIN: I've learned a lot about her, actually, the fact that she was a normal young lady just like myself, and she was in a lot of law and justice and things just like that. So after -- I know that she has her mom standing right beside her and that she's had her with the whole thing like I'm right next to you things of that nature. So as she was older, she has her husband by her side, as well, helping him.

HARRIS: Got to tell you something. Well, you didn't get an opportunity to meet Mrs. King, but you have met a couple of occasions, and you're actually developing a bit of a relationship with Bernice King. Tell me what it's like to be on some level friends or developing this relationship with Bernice King?

B. MARTIN: Not only do me and Bernice have a close relationship, but also the students at my school, and I figure she comes every once in a while on a very basic occasion. And she's empowered me. She's really influenced me to go forth with my dream and the fact that these two African-American women have put forth their goal, now it's time for me to do the same.

HARRIS: Here is Bernice King in our interview last week talking about this day, the national holiday to her father. And also tomorrow. Have a listen.


B. KING: Biblically, 40 is the number of generations. There's a chain that always occurs around the number 40 in terms of generations. And because Daddy died, literally 40 years ago, the same year that Obama was elected in 2008, 40 years ago in '68, Daddy was assassinated. Here you have 40 years later this leader emerging, kind of in a sense saying we as a people can get here, and here's Obama responding back, yes, we can.


HARRIS: Your dream. Have you given some thoughts to your dream? How you want to pursue your career in the years to come?

B. MARTIN: Yes, sir. I want to become an author, and I'm also in the process of doing poetry and things of that. So yes.

HARRIS: That is terrific. Brianna thanks for the time. Thanks for coming in. We're going to take it back to Washington. More of MLK to today. Soledad O'Brien in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. By 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had established himself as the leader of the civil rights movement. Ahead would lie not only worldwide honors, but other crises that would stir the conscience of a nation. Take a look.


O'BRIEN (voice over): While blacks were being reviled in the south, the world was taking notice of Dr. Martin Luther King's peaceful protest movement.

DOROTHY COTTON, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP: The day the announcement came down, we were running up and down the sidewalk saying we won, we knew he had been nominated. We won.

O'BRIEN: These are outlines and drafts of Dr. King's Nobel acceptance speech and lectures.

ANDREW YOUNG, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: He usually went off by himself three or four days to do his writing. He was a poet and poets work on speeches until every little syllable is right.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I accept the Nobel Prize for peace.

YOUNG: I think his heart, his soul; his gut came out in that speech.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): He didn't take it as a personal achievement, he accepted it for the people, many names weren't known.

M. KING: I'm mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi; young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered.

O'BRIEN: January 1965, just weeks after accepting the Nobel Prize, the fight for the right to vote put Dr. King back on the front line. This time in racially torn Alabama. In just a few days' time, more than 3,000 protestors were arrested, including Dr. King. While in jail, he jotted down this to do list on stationery. The purpose, to keep national attention focused on Selma.

M. KING: Number personal calls to President Johnson urging him to intervene in some way.

O'BRIEN: Still, there was no let-up in the violence. On February 18th, 1965, Alabama state troopers fatally shot 26-year-old Jimmy Lee Jackson in Marion, Alabama. Dr. King delivered a passionate message in Jackson's eulogy to all who remained on the sidelines.

M. KING: He was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent, behind the safe security of stain glass windows.

O'BRIEN: Jimmy Lee Jackson's funeral was the inspiration for another protest march. On the Edmund Pettis Bridge, police violently pushed the marchers back. What became known as bloody Sunday? This telegram is the result of the sacrifices of Selma. An invitation from the White House for Dr. King to attend the signing of the voters' right act. President Johnson pushed hard for its passage and his words in a nationally televised address had a profound effect on Dr. King.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I remember so well sitting with him on the night of March 15th, 1965. As he listened and watched Lyndon Johnson before he concluded that speech, he said.


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I look back at Dr. King, and I saw tears coming out of his face, he was crying, he was so moved.


O'BRIEN: Incredible to look back on those stories on this important day. Dr. King would be 80 years old had he survived his assassination attempt. We're going to get back to inauguration preps and MLK Day preps. First I want to check out some of the other stories that are making news today. Tony Harris is back at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta for us. Hey Tony.

HARRIS: Soledad thank you and let's get you caught up on other stories making news this morning. Just days after the spectacular crash into New York's Hudson River, the U.S. Airways jet is out of the water. And under the microscope, investigators want to look more closely at the cockpit. The plane's interior and the right engine still attached. One of the flight data recorders captured thumping sounds and right after that the plane had a sudden loss of engine power.

It's believed the thumping noise was geese hitting the plane. Check out the front of this medical helicopter. A flight of geese landed the chopper last night near Little Rock, forcing them to make an emergency landing. Everybody on board made it out safely.

And in the Middle East, Israel is pulling troops out of Gaza and hopes to have them all out by tomorrow night. Palestinian officials in Gaza say more than 1,200 Palestinians were killed during the 22 days of violence. Israel reports 13 Israelis killed. Those are the headlines from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Soledad, back to you in Washington.

O'BRIEN: All right. Tony thank you very much.

We wanted to introduce you to some of the folks are here in the crowd. Look at Roland shaking hands. He's like the mayor here. Get a shot for me, if you will, these folks have been out here all day. And let's get a look at everybody who has come. And I'd like to point out, really, the diversity in the crowd. A good indication of the diversity of the folks who supported Barack Obama.

We've had an opportunity to talk to people from all over the country. And who have come from outside of this country to be part of this day. Let go of him. Let go of him. And come back down this way. Let me ask a quick question. What's your name?

KIARA: Kiara.

O'BRIEN: And where are you from?

KIARA: Cincinnati, Ohio.

O'BRIEN: And tell me a little bit about what kind of experience that you're having out here.

KIARA: I don't know.

O'BRIEN: Come on, come on. Who can answer that question for me?

What's your day been like? How exciting is it to be out here?


O'BRIEN: It's awesome.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): Really awesome.

O'BRIEN: What things have you seen? Have you seen president- elect Barack Obama yet?


R. MARTIN: How do you feel?


R. MARTIN: What do you think about today?

(UNIDENTIFED MALE): I'm excited.

MARTIN: About what?


O'BRIEN: I want to pose the final question to grandma. How important has it been for you to bring the kids out here on this historic day?

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: It's been extremely important to me. We've been talking about this for months. I've been here in Washington for several marches and this has been an awesome time for me.

O'BRIEN: Wonderful, wonderful. Thanks for coming out to see us. We appreciate it. Thank you very much. We'll have a chance to talk to the audience a little bit later. First I want to take a quick commercial break and I want to remind everybody at 12:00 noon at the top of the hour, we're going to have an opportunity to show you the entire I have a dream speech, 12:00 noon, the speech in its entirety is straight ahead. Stay with us everybody, short break. Be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Earl Graves is the founder of "Black Enterprise" Magazine. He's one of the nation's most distinguished businessmen, as well. He's also a loyal advocate for quality and he's been nice enough to stop by. And joining the celebration with our growing crowd, I might add.


O'BRIEN: I'm curious to know there was an interesting article, I think it was in the "Washington Post" yesterday that talked about how now that Barack Obama's coming into office that people are going to have to go out and find a black friend. No more white dinner parties. That will not be possible in this era. And it was a little tongue and cheek. Do you think there's going to be a change, though, seriously?

GRAVES: I think the country's going to be more aware of African- Americans in this country and the levels which they operate. Whether or not it's the police chief or professor at a college or a schoolteacher in New York City. I think that people are going to have more respect. I don't think it's my imagination, but after the election I was saying to my wife, I really think that people are holding the elevator door. I don't think it's my imagination. It's something that I would do anyway, but I'm talking about someone white saying which button can I press for you? And I think that's a sense that we do have to get along. And whatever I didn't know or understand about you I want to know it now. That's not everyone, but of course I see it happening.

O'BRIEN: There are a number of constituencies who gave great support to Barack Obama. How much of a challenge will it be to navigate that? There are a lot of black people who say we need to see results for black people. And then you have Latinos who say the Latino vote went for Barack Obama. And then you have other constituencies, environmentalists, and the people against the war, who all kind of want a piece of that. Is that doable?

GRAVES: We didn't get there overnight and it's going to take a while for things to start straightening itself out. We're in the worst shape we've ever been. In terms of the war, that's got to end, and it was a tragedy that existed, should never have existed. And when you still see companies laying off 4,000 people in a clip that says we've got to make a change. And we can't expect to create miracles.

But what we do have is a person who is concerned, a person who understands what he has to do, a person who knows and has a direction and has put a team together. And I think that can really make a difference and I think that the citizens of this country are willing to make more sacrifices and I think some of us have to in order to get to where we need to be in terms of what we need to do.

R. MARTIN: Earl you have a piece out in the current magazine entitled "No More Excuses." What does that mean?

GRAVES: Well, I said to a group of young students just at the beginning of this week that homework being late, no more excuses. Pants down around the rear, no more excuses. What I'm saying to these young people, for Barack Obama who didn't have a father, really, growing up, from a very young age, who was raised in another part of our country, in Hawaii, came back and struggled to get where he is, got into Harvard Law School and then went on to become the senator and now the president of the United States.

And to come from modest backgrounds, then we as African-Americans and particularly young African-Americans, no more excuses. And you know, we had that rule in place a long time ago when I set up my own magazine after Robert Kennedy's assassination. And our people come to work looking a certain way every day, prepared to do what they're supposed to do professionally, and I think a lot of people who abuse excuses have got to understand that Barack Obama has set a standard for people, black, white, Hispanic and others that says, there's no more excuses. There is too many opportunities. This is the country of opportunities. Are there people who want to stop you along the way? Yes. But no more excuse.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us today. We appreciate it. We are going to take a short break. We want to remind everybody, at the noon hour, start of the noon hour, we are going to be running in its entirety, Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech. The King family has given us permission very, very rare permission to run that entire speech, it lasts about 17 minutes. So we're going to share it with you. And truly if you are watching TV, grab your kids and sit them in front of the television so they'll have the chance to really hear from his own mouth the message of Dr. Martin Luther King on this important and historic day.

A short break ahead, be back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: One of the documentaries that is debuting at the Sundance Film Festival takes a look at the life of civil rights attorney William Kunstler who represented activists, including Dr. King. CNN's Ted Rowlands is with the films director in Park City, Utah this morning -- Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Soledad. Of course, William Kunstler started his career early on in his career and worked directly with Dr. King, but then throughout his career, he used the courtroom really to battle racism on all forums. And his daughters have come up with a project, a documentary on his life, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, and the obvious question, ladies, is what would your father think today, the day before Barack Obama is to be inaugurated and a day looking back at Martin Luther King's life?

EMILY KUNSTLER, DIRECTOR "WILLIAM KUNSTLER:" I think that he would be very excited that a black man was elected president. But I don't think he would shy away from raising criticism of any administration, regardless of who was president. In a democracy, it's important to not be frightened of criticizing your president.

ROWLANDS: The new administration has a mantra of service, asking people to serve. Did you think your father did serve or was he also sort of the enemy, to the establishment? Describe what you think your father's role was in sort of that progression.

SARAH KUNSTLER, DIRECTOR "WILLIAM KUNSTLER:" I don't think that there's a contradiction there. I think that our fathers life, that he dedicated to being a person of courage, standing up to injustice, and to serving. You can do that within the system or outside the system, and that's how he lived his life.

ROWLANDS: What did he tell you about Dr. King?

E. KUNSTLER: Dr. King was hugely inspirational to him. I think that his death is something that our father carried with him. There was a lot of people, a lot of fallen heroes that bill had a chance to work with and that really motivated him in his continued fight against racism.

S. KINSTLER: One thing he used to talk about is how we now have a lot of street signs that are Martin Luther King Boulevards and we have a lot of commemorations of the civil rights movement as a bygone era and that it's still alive, it's not in the past and that racism still is in this country.

ROWLANDS: All right. The documentary is disturbing, and the university, these two young ladies for putting together a very impressive project about their father who was instrumental in the civil rights movement with his career as a civil rights attorney -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I tell you it has been such an amazing day, Ted, to get an opportunity to hear from folks like that, hear their stories and for the kids in the audience. When we have some of these -- like Rosa Parks' attorney come through, how great for them to meet people who really made history.

Thanks, Ted.

He inspired a movement, transformed a nation. Remembering Martin Luther King and that famous speech, straight ahead.