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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

More Coverage and Discussion of Inauguration Events; Interview with Myrlie Evers-Williams

Aired January 20, 2013 - 15:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is 3:00 pm on the East Coast, 12:00 noon out West. The inauguration festivities are in full swing here on the National Mall, if you're just tuning in. Thank you for joining us, I'm John Berman.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. It's great to have you with us. We're live in Washington, D.C. for our special coverage of President Barack Obama's inauguration.

BERMAN: It's great to be here. It is such a beautiful day. And we are in the second term right now. It is official. Barack Obama has been sworn in for the second term as President of the United States of America.

O'BRIEN: The president took the Oath of Office at the White House with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Here's how it went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

ROBERTS: -- that I will faithfully execute --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- that I will faithfully execute --

ROBERTS: -- the office of President of the United States --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- the office of President of the United States --

ROBERTS: -- and will, to the best of my ability --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- and will, to the best of my ability --

ROBERTS: -- preserve, protect and defend --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- preserve, protect and defend --

ROBERTS: -- the Constitution of the United States --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- the Constitution of the United States --

ROBERTS: -- so help you God.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- so help me God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, sweetie.

Hey. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He'll do it all over again tomorrow at a public ceremony and give his second inaugural address. He is only the 17th president in U.S. history to make a second address.

BERMAN: Of course, Vice President Joe Biden also took his second Oath of Office today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: -- that I take this obligation freely --

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- that I take this obligation freely --

SOTOMAYOR: -- without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion --

BIDEN: -- without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion --

SOTOMAYOR: -- and that I will well and faithfully discharge --

BIDEN: -- and that I will well and faithfully discharge --

SOTOMAYOR: -- the duties of the office on which I am about to enter --

BIDEN: -- the duties of the office on which I am about to enter --

SOTOMAYOR: -- so help me God.

BIDEN: -- so help me God.

SOTOMAYOR: Congratulations.

BIDEN: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: His service was at the Naval Observatory, which, of course, is the vice president's official residence. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore him in, using the Biden family Bible, the large Biden family Bible.

O'BRIEN: The vice president traveled with President Obama afterwards to Arlington National Cemetery. Together they took part in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony.

BERMAN: The vice president will also take the Oath of Office again tomorrow in a public ceremony.

O'BRIEN: We're expecting up to 800,000 people in Washington, D.C., for the ceremony tomorrow. That might sound like a lot. But of course, compared to four years ago, it's not -- nowhere even close. Already this weekend people have been flocking -- like those behind us that you can hear -- here to the National Mall to celebrate. Just watch what's happening as things come together.

Many also came as part of the Day of Service Saturday. I had a chance to hang out with the folks who were packing bags and packets to give to service men overseas and women overseas. Excitement keeps building in the crowd minute by minute as we get a little bit closer to the inauguration ceremony.

BERMAN: You know, so much great work being done here and around the country on this service weekend. Right now we want to head across town to the White House. That's where we find our Dan Lothian.

Dan, another historic moment right before noon in the Blue Room.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it's because it's a constitutional requirement that the president takes the oath on this day, just before noon, so the president taking that oath in a private ceremony, surrounded by close family members and friends, the first lady, the first daughters, also his sister, his mother-in-law and brother-in-law during that ceremony that lasted just about 30 seconds.

Of course, the big public ceremony will take place tomorrow at the Capitol. But this was a chance for the president in a private setting to take the official ceremony, at the swearing-in here in the White House Blue Room.

You saw and heard the president just a few seconds ago, but take a listen at the very end, after the president started greeting the first lady and the first daughters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hey. Thank you.

SASHA OBAMA: Good job, dad.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did it.

SASHA OBAMA: You didn't mess up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LOTHIAN: So, leave it to the first daughters, daughter Sasha telling the president that he didn't mess up. That's, of course, a reference to four years ago, when during that public ceremony, they kind of stepped on some of the words, had to do a redo. That didn't happen this time around, Soledad and John.

BERMAN: What's the current status of this speech here? Less than 24 hours ago to go until showtime?

LOTHIAN: Well, we're told that the president is sort of in the final moments of wrapping that speech. But he will be tweaking it right until time of delivery. This is something the president has been working on now for many, many hours. He's been doing it longhand, those yellow notebooks.

But, Jon Favreau, the president's chief speechwriter also working with the president again, trying to tweak it. Will be doing that until he delivers it tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Have they given, Dan, any more details? I've heard hopeful, I've heard it'll talk about unity, which is not exactly going out on a limb and us any giving details about this speech.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Are you hearing more about it?

LOTHIAN: Well, those familiar with the president's remarks tell us that it will be -- we'll be looking at some broad themes here. The president will talk about the fact that the political system rather doesn't require those here in Washington to settle all of their differences, but that they can look for areas of agreement.

And this is in stark contrast to what we heard the president say four years ago, where he came to Washington hoping to change the way that Washington worked. And then he ran into some of the realities on Capitol Hill.

So a slightly different tone this time around. We expect that the president will also talk about some of the challenges moving forward and how the public can get engaged to help push through his agenda.

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian's at the White House for us today.

Thanks, Dan. Appreciate the update.

Now of course if you're in Washington, D.C., and you want to come hang out with us, you can join the folks behind us. The crowd has actually slowly been getting bigger and bigger and that's because the weather is really perfect for this time of year here out here.

We want to get right to Suzanne Malveaux. She's also out on the Washington mall. I think she's literally smack in the middle of the crowd, talking to folks who are really excited.

Suzanne, tell me a little bit about some of the folks you're talking to.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I am smack in the middle of the crowd, yes, Soledad. I mean, there's a lot of excitement here. The weather is gorgeous.

California, California is in the house, we have a lot of families from California. This is the Elliott (ph) family. You were -- OK, OK. You here last go-round.

MS. ELLIOTT: Yes, we were, my boys were 4 and 6.

MALVEAUX: Four and 6, and you returned. What does this mean to you?

ELLIOTT (PH): This means a lot. It's history in the making. My children are part of it. I'm excited because they're always going to know that history is important.

MALVEAUX: So what is your name?

ASSAN JALEN ELLIOTT (PH): Assan Jalen Elliott (ph).

MALVEAUX: And you were here last time?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Yes, I was.

MALVEAUX: Do you remember anything about it?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): They locked down the roads.

MALVEAUX: They locked down the roads. OK. And do you remember why you were here? How old were you?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Four years old.

MALVEAUX: You were just 4?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Yes.

MALVEAUX: Yes. OK. You're 8 now, right?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Yes.

MALVEAUX: All right. What do you remember when you were 4 when you saw the president?

Did you scream?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Well, I did a funny dance.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: You did a funny dance? You must have been pretty excited, yes?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): Yes, I was.

MALVEAUX: And how do you feel about it a second time, now that you're 8 years old?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): It feels good because I could like, really remember stuff.

MALVEAUX: Oh, that's good. Yes, you get a second go-round. And you're sporting some gear. What's that hat all about?

ASSAN ELLIOTT (PH): She just gave it to me. I don't know what it's all about.

MALVEAUX: It's an Obama hat.

I'm going to talk to your brother.

You know what the hat's all about, you've got a button as well. Tell me what it was like last go-round.

MR. ELLIOTT (PH): It was special, it was emotional, because most people can't come. So I'm very blessed to at least come to see the president.

MALVEAUX: That is so nice. And you came all the way from California, is that right?

MR. ELLIOTT (PH): Yes, ma'am.

MALVEAUX: OK. And what do you hope the president learns? What do you want the president to know?

MR. ELLIOTT (PH): Everything that he can.

MALVEAUX: Everything that he can. Everything that he wants to know about, about the family.

MR. ELLIOTT (PH): No guns at school.

(APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: We got a message from one of the kids, no guns at school.

Soledad, we're going to give it back to you, a lot of folks want to weigh in here, it's just a gorgeous day and they're very excited about tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: And it's nice to see all the big crowds that are growing steadily. All right, Suzanne Malveaux for us.

Thanks, Suzanne.

Barack Obama's public swearing-in ceremony tomorrow is going to coincide with another very important event, the national observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. BERMAN: Earlier today, President Obama and Vice President Biden traveled to the King Memorial on the National Mall to honor the civil rights icon.

O'BRIEN: Another person who was cut down by an assassin's bullet was Medgar Evers. That happened back in 1963. And Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, is with us today.

It's nice to have you with us, a real pleasure.

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS, MEDGAR EVERS' WIDOW: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And an honor as well.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: But it's my pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Well, we can sit here and have a mutual admiration society, the three of us. But I want to ask you about the invocation, because you've been chosen to give the invocation. You're the first lay woman -- usually it's clergy that gives the invocation. So -- and they've told you three minutes. Does that make you anxious?

EVERS-WILLIAMS : Three minutes. No, it doesn't.

O'BRIEN: Pressure?

EVERS-WILLIAMS : First of all, no,no; I'm just thrilled. I'm so honored to have been asked to deliver the invocation. To get it down to three minutes is going to be a little difficult for me. But I've gone through it and I think that I will be successful. If not, perhaps they'll turn the mike off. I don't know.

O'BRIEN: (Inaudible) the Oscars, they'll play music loud and someone will haul you off the stage.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Ironically, it was 50 years ago that you were trying to get to the march on Washington.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: That is correct.

O'BRIEN: And you obviously could not.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: I was in Boston, and had just delivered a speech there. Transportation was slow. I got to Washington and could not get to the stage. It was so disappointing and for years, heartbreaking because I wanted so badly to be there and to represent my husband, who had been killed in June of '63.

Miracles happen when we --

O'BRIEN: Sometimes they take 50 years, but they happen.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: But here we are, almost 50 years later and I've been asked by President Obama to deliver this invocation. And -- BERMAN: Do you see, in a way, that this is fulfilling a sort of destiny?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Let's say it is, all right? And I accept that because today we have many of the same concerns that we had then, perhaps not as much violence. But we still have violence. I think it makes -- at least I hope it will make people think of the past and look at what they are doing today to change things.

It's a constant that's there. And I have been so blessed in all of my horror and the pain that my children have gone through to have come this far. And I hope to be able to instill dignity and determination to move this country forward in the three minutes that I have. I don't know if that's possible or not, but I'm going to give it a try.

BERMAN: You said you want people to think about the past while you'll be speaking. But what will you be thinking, as you gaze out over that crowd? You seem so confident.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: I think I will hold my grandmother close, near and dear to me. She was the one who set the standards for me to follow. And she always said, "Darling, ask God to make you a blessing."

And to me, this is what this is, an opportunity for me, an opportunity to let people know that Medgar Evers gave his life without wanting publicity or anything else. And here we are, 50 years later, with his being recognized through me. And I am so thankful for that.

O'BRIEN: The president will use Lincoln's Bible and the Bible of Dr. King as well on inauguration ceremony. And I always think of that as sort of, a cycle, right, in a way, a virtuous cycle, if you will, that Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated really trying to create what I think to some maybe small degree has been realized in the election and inauguration of the first black president of this country.

Well, you know, with the first election, I, along with so many other people, just broke down and cried and cried and cried out of thankfulness, out of remembering what we had been through. And thinking about Medgar and all those other people who gave their lives and gave so much that we don't even recognize any more. And hopefully, we'll begin to do that in the very, very near future.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, it's nice to have you with us, a real pleasure and an honor. We're looking forward to your three minutes.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: We can't wait.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: So am I.

BERMAN: So great to see you.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BERMAN: So a man who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Era, Congressman John Lewis, he will be here; we will speak to him in just a moment.

O'BRIEN: We're going to talk about what this inauguration means for him and also the challenges still ahead in the president's second term. We're back in just a moment.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody, this city, of course, is not only known for inaugurations, it is the place where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech during the march on Washington, back in 1963.

BERMAN: We're joined by the last living person who spoke on the program that day, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. He was number six on the program. Dr. King was number 10.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Lewis, I just want, before we begin, to give our condolences to you. I know you lost your wife at the end of the year and we appreciate your time.

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-GEORGIA: Well, thank you so much. We've been married for 44 --

O'BRIEN: A long time.

LEWIS: -- a long time, 44 good years.

O'BRIEN: Well, we appreciate you talking with us. And we want to talk a little bit about history as we asked Ms. Evers to stay around with us as well.

Talk to me a little about a second term. In terms of history, as we think about what President Obama should be thinking about for his second term, what would you put top of the list?

LEWIS: Well, I think it's important for this president during his second term, to (inaudible) comprehensive immigration law. We must bring millions of the (inaudible) that are living here in America, out of the shadow into the light and set them on a path to citizenship. We must do that.

You know, he's been inaugurated as we celebrate and commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King would have us to do that. Do what is right, what is fair and what is just. He must lead this country and help lead the world for a more peaceful place.

O'BRIEN: Take us back 50 years, Ms. Evers-Williams. You know, sometimes I think in a very bitterly divided Congress, people feel often very -- I mean, look at the polls, people feel angry, hostile and very divided about the direction that the country is going.

So 50 years ago, was it worse? Was it less divided? Better?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Oh, I think it was certainly divided. Whether it was worse then, compared to now, I guess I would have to say yes, because so many lives were lost. And we know about that and the challenges. But we still find little bits of that scattered throughout this country.

O'BRIEN: What do you mean?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Well, my native state of Mississippi, there have been killings there over the last year, that were certainly racial oriented. We can look at the hiring of jobs, we can look at people who wanted to vote and who had difficulty getting to the polls and whatnot. It seems kind of changed. Some of it remains the same.

O'BRIEN: Voter suppression seems similar --

(CROSSTALK)

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Yes --

O'BRIEN: (Inaudible) now?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: -- it's still there.

And we mustn't forget that as a country. And we have a generation of young people, many who are totally unaware of what happened in the '50s and the '60s. And this man, who is such a hero, for all of us, speaks just by his presence to that time and what can be accomplished in the future, and I think we have a good future coming ahead. And I hope to be able to say that.

BERMAN: So much of the energy, so much of the sensation of this weekend four years ago was around the fact that Barack Obama had been elected the first black president of this country.

How much of that sense still exists now four years later or how much of it is just part of the past and now we're moving on?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Oh, I don't think it's a part of the past and we're moving on. People are cherishing that and looking for this next four years to be stronger in terms of action and inclusiveness of all people. I think it's going to be a good four years.

O'BRIEN: How do you bring the congressmen together? I mean, what is the thing that's going to make people who don't really seem to necessarily even know each other -- I was surprised when I heard that the other day from a senator. Senator Manchin, I think, said it -- how do you bring people not only to know each other in Congress, but to want to work toward a common goal?

LEWIS: Well, many of us are trying to bring people together. One of the things that I'm doing as part of an organization called Faith in Politics, every first weekend in March, we take a group of Democrats and Republicans, leaders of the House and the Senate on a trip.

We take them to Alabama, we take them to Birmingham, to Montgomery, to Selma. We've been to Mississippi and this March we're going to the University of Alabama, because 50 years ago in the heart of the South, we still had literacy tests.

People were asked to pay a poll tax, to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap, the number of jelly beans in a jar.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

LEWIS: So we want people to learn. So many young members of Congress have been elected and they have commented. They don't have a sense of history. They need to be able to walk in the footsteps of another generation.

O'BRIEN: Would Dr. King look down on this day and say I'm proud of where the country is? Or would he say, oh, what a distance this country still has to go?

EVERS-WILLIAMS: I don't know whether we would agree on this. But I think he would challenge us about the distance that we have yet to go and to do innovative things. You mentioned the programs and things of bringing people back to the South.

We have established the Medgar Evers Institute with the hope that reaching out into colleges and high schools all across the country that people will learn about that time and find ways in which they can strategize to move us forward, technologically, anyway in other time.

So that's --

LEWIS: Well, I would say Dr. King would be very proud and very pleased at the distance we have come. But I agree, he would say we still have a distance to travel. He would say there's too much violence, too many killings and we've got to end the violence. And we've got to teach our children and those us not so young the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.

He would say do something about the guns, the proliferation of guns in our society.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Lewis and Ms. Evers-Williams, thank you for being with us. We appreciate your time. It's such a pleasure and an honor to talk to you on this weekend.

EVERS-WILLIAMS: Well, thank you so much.

And, Congressman, you mentioned age, speak for yourself.

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: She's 20, Congressman.

LEWIS: (Inaudible). I'm holding at 21.

BERMAN: What an honor to have both of you here with us today.

Hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into Washington for these inauguration festivities. And among them are dozens and dozens of celebrities.

O'BRIEN: One of them, singer Cyndi Lauper, she's going to be sitting on the inaugural platform tomorrow as the president is sworn in. She's going to be joining us to talk about that and her role here this weekend right after this short break. We're back in a moment.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. There's some girls in the crowd who want to have fun. There they are.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That's a big cheer because, of course, it's singer Cyndi Lauper who's joining us now, those lyrics, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" catapulted her to international fame back in the 1980s.

Her attendance, of course --

BERMAN: There's no doubt, there's no doubt that her being here tomorrow at the inauguration will be fun.

But it really isn't just about the fun. You were invited here by the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, explain that to me?

CYNDI LAUPER, SINGER AND ACTIVIST: Leader Pelosi, well, I'm a huge fan of hers, because she's fought for the middle class, she's fought for women. And you know, it's -- we're still not there yet with the equal pay thing. But at least now we can sue for it, you know.

And she's fought for the kids, for education. She was behind helping the don't tell -- abolishing the no tell --

O'BRIEN: "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."

LAUPER: -- "Don't Ask/Don't Tell". I mean, I'm really hopeful for the next four years, honestly, because I think the Republicans might stop trying to derail the president and every step he tries to take, because it's almost like they want him to fail. They're just trying to make him fail. And you know what? When you make our president fail, you make our country fail.

And you know what? The people elected him. I mean not just by a little, a lot. So that's the voice of the people. So let's get on the people wagon and make the country a great country again.

O'BRIEN: You said the things that are most interesting to you and most important to you are being a musician and being an activist, especially when you're fighting for equality. Have you seen some great strides, certainly on the equality front, but also some big obstacles? LAUPER: Well, at least our president evolved. You don't always have a president that says, oh , I evolved. Evolution is great. Because you know, information, sometimes you don't have the information. You know, so to me, that's great.

Like you know, the gun control thing. Listen, nobody wants to take all your guns away. But is there a reason why you need a 30-bullet, you know, 30-bullet --

O'BRIEN: Magazine?

LAUPER: -- magazine, you know, instead of a 10? I mean, come on, who are you, Rambo? What are we doing here? It's the kids. The kids want to feel safe, they don't want to feel like they're going to school, afraid of Rambo.

O'BRIEN: When did you become political?

LAUPER: I'm not. I'm just --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- you are.

LAUPER: Well, what am I supposed to do, be quiet about everything? If you're singing to people and you see the discrepancy, you've got to say something.

BERMAN: You don't seem like the quiet type. One of the issues that you speak --

LAUPER: I am, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: -- issues you speak most loudly about, of course, is gay rights.

LAUPER: Yes.

BERMAN: A lot has been done the last four years. The president has come out, evolved, as you said, changed his position.

LAUPER: Yes.

BERMAN: What is there left to do?

LAUPER: Well, I'm working on the Forty to None Project. And Senator Kerry has a reconnecting, I don't know what's going on with that, but he had (inaudible) the reconnecting the families act.

Let me just cut to the chase. On any given year, say there's 1.6 million homeless kids. Up to 40 percent of them are gay or transgender. Right? Now here's the discrepancy. Only 3 percent to 5 percent of the overall national youth identify as gay or transgender. So that means those kids are either runaway, or getting thrown out of their homes like hotcakes just because they're gay or transgender.

That's a problem, you know what I mean, because that's a fixable problem.

So that means why don't we put them in some family therapy to work it out before the kids are on the street. You know what, the street is a tough place. No matter how tough you think you are, the streets are tougher. And they start from 12. You know? You can't do that. These are our kids, come on.

O'BRIEN: The statistics are terrible on that front.

The Supreme Court is going to take up some of Defense of Marriage Act. Do you think that the nation is moving on this issue?

Whether you're talking about transgender kids, whether you're talking DOMA, Defense of Marriage, whether you're talking about gay -- I mean, do you think the nation is slowly shifting?

LAUPER: You know, I think regular people don't care if two consenting adults of the same sex want to get married. Who cares? Why can't they join the lot of us like us, be just as miserable as everybody else?

O'BRIEN: Come on.

LAUPER: You know.

BERMAN: So you're going to be sitting up there on that platform during the inauguration, what does that mean to you?

LAUPER: Oh, come on. I'm going to start crying. From watching it on TV, ever since I was little. It was Nancy, Leader of the -- the leader, Nancy Pelosi, she's the one that invited me. She wanted me to see it. And, I mean, I'm so blown over by it.

O'BRIEN: What do you want to hear him say? What do you want -- in his inaugural address? And people have been talking about it and guessing about it, certainly all today.

What would you like to hear his message be?

LAUPER: Listen, he said a lot of things already that I'm glad he said. I would like to just see the Republicans stop trying to drag the president down. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I mean it's not, it's just, they just want him to fail. But if they do that, they want us to fail, the whole country. And that looks bad for the whole world.

We could be a great country, work together. Come on. You got to work together. Bend a little like a willow. You know what I'm saying? You can't all be one-sided. So I think the president has said a lot of great things. Now can we back him up?

I'm thrilled. I love the guy. I think he tries hard, he never gives up. You know, his wife is really bright. She's well spoken. Come on, that's -- I'm blown away. I just want to see everybody get on the same bandwagon. That's like moving forward, you know, and supporting the guy. I mean, don't you think so? I mean, I'm just talking like this, you know --

BERMAN: I think you're going to have a great weekend here. That's what I think. I think you're having a great time already. And --

LAUPER: I can't believe it. You know, I was out last year, I was walking, I had the purple ticket, which never quite got through.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: The one with all the people.

LAUPER: Well, it was very funny, because then everybody said cut in front of the line and tell them who you think you are. And every time I did, they'd look at me and say, I thought we were all equal. And then my manager was going, no, no; it's Cyndi Lauper. And they would look at me and they'd think, yes, but I'm here with Thelma Houston ,too, and --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I mean, she had a headache (ph). No, I'm kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you with us this afternoon. Congratulations on getting and nabbing a great seat tomorrow.

LAUPER: Oh, gosh --

O'BRIEN: As history is made --

LAUPER: That's one of those bucket lists.

O'BRIEN: That's great.

LAUPER: You never get to do that.

BERMAN: Well, it's so great to see you here. Thanks for being here.

And, of course, you're just one of the thousands of excited people here in this town, many of them behind us right now, who are no doubt thrilled to see you up here on stage right now, everyone, everyone a big Cyndi Lauper fan.

And coming up, we're going to have more from Washington. We're talking to some folks who are out there on the mall, just ahead.

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BERMAN: The crowd here at the National Mall keeps growing by the second. People everywhere from around the country, really around the world here to share and be part of this 57th inauguration.

O'BRIEN: And Suzanne Malveaux, our colleague, is in the thick of the things on the mall.

Suzanne, the weather, of course, I'm sure is helping you out with all those crowds around you.

MALVEAUX: It's so enthusiastic out here. I mean, it is amazing, all the different folks from all over the country here.

One of the things that I am always struck by is what people buy, what they can get with Obama -- you've got the Obama poster. I know you're an AKA. All right. OK. Tell me about -- you got the scarf; where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alabama. Huntsville, Alabama.

MALVEAUX: Second time or first time at the inauguration?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First time.

MALVEAUX: First time, what are you looking forward to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What am I looking forward to?

MALVEAUX: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, just seeing the president, seeing everything.

MALVEAUX: You'll see him up close, you got tickets?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

MALVEAUX: All right. OK.

Maybe a little -- you'll still see him. A little faraway. OK.

So this is -- I have to show you. This is Sean (ph). And you got to see Sean's (ph) jacket here.

Sean (ph), show us your jacket. This is the front. All right, President of the United States, show us the back. Show us the back. Show us the back, Sean (ph). OK.

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MALVEAUX: All right.

So, Sean (ph) that is amazing, where did you get this?

SEAN (PH): At my barber shop, I have a guy that does airbrushing and he made the jacket for me.

MALVEAUX: So did he charge you for it or he just gave it to you?

SEAN (PH): Well, we worked some things out.

MALVEAUX: Oh, OK.

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MALVEAUX: But you're -- and when you wear this, what's the reaction?

People are saying, you are a big, big fan.

SEAN (PH): (Inaudible) pictures of the jacket or you could take pictures with the jacket.

MALVEAUX: Yes. He must mean a lot to you to wear this jacket.

SEAN (PH): He does.

MALVEAUX: How so?

SEAN (PH): Because he's a very important president, he's very intelligent and he's making sure that our country is being turned around to benefit everybody.

MALVEAUX: I want to go to this gentleman here.

You're all the way from Washington State and you're part of a political group. Tell us why you're here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm here with friends and our school. And what we're doing is we came to Washington, D.C., and we're part of this close-up organization where we can meet people around the globe and experience D.C. and really get the full experience, because you learn the political process and get to see everything with your friends, family and people around the globe.

MALVEAUX: All right. I know we're running out of time. So we're just going to do a quick scene-setter here. I just want to show all the folks here who have come out as well.

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BERMAN: Look how many Suzanne Malveaux fans there are in Washington right now.

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MALVEAUX: That's Elijah (ph). He's a Ravens fan.

O'BRIEN: Right in the middle of it all. That is so great.

Thanks, Suzanne, appreciate it.

Of course the first family is getting set for another four years in the White House.

BERMAN: And you know, and that privilege comes with a lot of pressure. Just ahead, we're going to talk to a former staff member. She worked for Michelle Obama. What will the first lady's focus be in the second term?

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BERMAN: So from 2008, really until now, the world saw first lady Michelle Obama evolve. Katie McCormick Lelyveld was the first lady's communications director and press secretary until the summer of 2011.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and now she's here to give us a little preview of what we can expect from the first lady for the next four years.

It's so great to have you with us.

It's so nice to be here, thank you for including me.

O'BRIEN: Our pleasure. You know, we have seen many people sort of weighing in on the first lady and often it's about her fashion or it's talking a little bit about her hair. But what she's really done in terms of military families, and what she's been able to do in terms of focusing on health and wellness have been big steps. Do you expect to see the same thing and more in the next four years?

LELYVELD: Yes. When we were starting our strategic planning in 2009, around the "Let's Move" campaign, you know, the goal of that initiative is to reduce the problem of childhood obesity in a generation. That's a 30-year struggle, a 30-year fight.

We've seen some major successes over the last few years in terms of awareness, getting parents and teachers involved, kids, you know, planting community gardens. We've gotten it started, but we have a long way to go. She's going to keep that level of commitment to that, to raising awareness for the support of military families who have unique needs across the country. And I would imagine that she will -- she'll not only stay focused on those two, but we'll see what else she might add to her plate.

BERMAN: You know, Soledad brought up, so much of the focus is often on the fashion or what she's wearing. But she spends so much time dealing with serious issues.

Does it ever get frustrating when you're working inside that office, when people call and say, what about her hair, what about the dress?

LELYVELD: No, I mean, we absolutely understood that fascination. The reality is she's a working woman, a working mom. A lot of people have that level of shared experiences with her. So when she wore J. Crew, people got excited.

And so we would certainly share that, we understand that. But the reality is she's a Harvard-educated, Harvard Law, Princeton-educated woman. She's a smart cookie and she is working hard. And so we would try to keep our focus on the substance. But, you know, the single biggest precedent I ever worked on was on the introduction of the dog. O'BRIEN: And people love the fashion, come on. I mean, really, they really do. But you know, Jodi Cantor has a new article out in "The New York Times," and she describes the Obamas as a couple, but Ms. Obama specifically as sort of in a way more in the bubble than she even was when she started this whole journey four years ago.

Do you think that's the case? In some ways she's recognized that she's got to keep her close friends closer and it's hard to bring people into that bubble with her?

LELYVELD: When she was on the south side of Chicago, she loved running errands to Target. Running errands now is a little more difficult. She's very aware of her footprint.

So you know, a few years ago when they were planning a family vacation out West, they recognized that so were many other families. So them going to national parks might be a huge inconvenience to many other families who had organized trips to national parks.

She's aware of what their roadshow might entail and how it might impact other people and their commute, when they're taking their kids to school. She kind of senses that. So she does, she does, yes, they have incredible friends, they do keep friends and family close, and that's why, you know, special times like tomorrow when so many people can join them, are even more special.

O'BRIEN: She was very ambivalent about the president running for the presidency. She and I sat down and she said that very clearly in her interview years ago. Has that changed? I mean, how has she sort of transitioned into her role today that's different from four years ago?

Well, you know, she said herself, at that time, you know, she -- he was her husband and the father of her kids. And so having him continuing to be out and about, was something that, as a wife, she was ambivalent about. But as a citizen she knew there was no better person for the job than her husband and she simply couldn't stand in the way of having a man like him as our president.

BERMAN: What's she like as a boss? What are her characteristics as an employer?

LELYVELD: She's an outstanding boss.

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O'BRIEN: All the dirt.

LELYVELD: No. She's actually an outstanding boss, she's nurturing, she's encouraging, she's serious business. She made us all sit up a little straighter. Bring out our best work. You want to do well. And you know, do your best when you're working for her.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about Sasha and Malia. My daughters are roughly the same age, they have watched with great interest every single thing the girls do in the White House. How has she been able to both protect them and then also they are hauled out for events clearly, I mean they're the family and it's the inauguration. That must be a very tricky line, I think for any parent in any kind of spotlight.

LELYVELD: Well, we would build our schedules around their schedules. So it wasn't until they indicated we're good, we're happy, we're whole, we love school, we love our friends, that we started really getting out more and more with public events.

They have the right to participate, you know, for example, the entertainment evenings that are hosted at the White House, those social events, if the girls want to come down, they're welcome to. If they don't, if they've got something else going on. You know, it's up to them. And also their family rules, I think, help keep them all in that routine, help keep them all grounded.

BERMAN: Did they go to most of them?

LELYVELD: Sure. I mean, why wouldn't you?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Hi, Beyonce in.

Come on, man.

LELYVELD: You live above the store, you get to do that stuff.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you do. Yes, you do, and you got another four years of above the store. And those girls are getting bigger, it will be interesting to watch them.

LELYVELD: (Inaudible) very tall.

O'BRIEN: Oh, they're beautiful girls, it's been really fun to watch them as a parent, to watch them grow and blossom into young ladies. It's really been a wonderful thing and my kids still want to have play dates, I'm like, that's not happening. It's not going to happen.

It's nice to have you with us. We appreciate your time.

LELYVELD: Thank you so much. Nice to see you both.

O'BRIEN: You bet, you bet.

BERMAN: So nice to see you.

So this weekend is about parties, concerts, celebrities, who's going to be where and who will be performing.

O'BRIEN: And wearing what?

BERMAN: Exactly. Everything you need to know about the inauguration social scene, coming up next.

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BERMAN: Welcome back everyone. We're going to show you a shot of the Capitol there, such a beautiful view, that is where the action will be happening tomorrow.

Tonight we're going to see all kinds of unofficial balls and parties. The ladies will be stepping out in their glamorous dresses and, of course, tomorrow night, the men will in their tuxes, they'll be hitting the dance floor to show off all their moves.

O'BRIEN: I would die and pay a lot of money to see you do that, actually.

BERMAN: I'm a very good dancer.

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O'BRIEN: OK. Let's get right to "Washington Post" writer Amy Argetsinger. She writes the "Reliable Source" column.

Amy, four years ago, of course, the Obamas raced around to 10 inaugural balls. That will not happen this year. It's been way pared down.

What are the -- what are we going to see on the ball front?

AMY ARGETSINGER, WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, they're making it a lot easier for themselves anyway. There are only two official balls and they are all contained in the Washington Convention Center.

However, those two balls will include about as many as 40,000 guests altogether. So you know, about as many as you might have at six or seven balls, but just really all in one place.

However, the convention center is so big, tjat I think the Obamas will actually have to get back in their limo and drive from one end and in through another. But there will be dancing on every level of it apparently.

BERMAN: 40,000 people, that's quite a party.

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ARGETSINGER: I don't know if it's even a party. It's more like a convention. It's a gathering, it's a happening.

BERMAN: That's right. What will people wear, what is it like? What kind of food do they serve?

ARGETSINGER: You better eat first, and you'll probably want to eat later, it's like snacks. Finger foods, it's not a real meal. This is not an elegant sit-down dinner.

O'BRIEN: People think of these things as very, very glamorous, but what I remember is a lot of waiting outside in very, very cold weather in a ballgown with a jacket that someone might steal from you because there's nowhere to put it.

ARGETSINGER: There have been horror stories over the years of coats getting lost at coat checks, long, long lines at coat checks, bathrooms. I mean, it is not really a very glamorous thing.

People often want to buy the best, new fanciest dress and put on their dancing shoes. This is not the night to do it. No one is going to be able to see you from the waist down, it's that crowded. And you really want to wear flat shoes, it's going to be a lot of walking, whatever you're doing.

O'BRIEN: The final question for you, Beyonce, four years ago, who's the line-up this year?

ARGETSINGER: Oh. I wish you had told me you're going to ask me that. I think a lot of people. John Legend.

O'BRIEN: He's going to be there. I talked to him yesterday.

ARGETSINGER: And Beyonce again, right?

O'BRIEN: I think she's coming back to perform as well.

ARGETSINGER: Yes. They've got a number of people actually performing, singing tomorrow night.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's going to be exciting. I can't wait for that big party.

BERMAN: There are a lot of official parties, unofficial ones, too. Any sense about the hottest unofficial party is?

ARGETSINGER: You know, that's hard to say. There are a bunch of ones that are really kicking off tonight. You've got a bunch of balls and parties that are focused around affinity groups, you have got the Green Ball tonight. You have got the Ambassador's Ball tomorrow night. You've got the --

O'BRIEN: I'm going to the Victory Ball tomorrow night.

ARGETSINGER: The victory ball tomorrow night -- you've got the BET Ball. There's a lot of buzz about a very, very late afterparty that Rahm Emanuel is doing tomorrow night. There's the Creative Coalition Gala tomorrow night.

There are so many different things. I mean, I think, you know, it is whatever you can get yourself into where you don't have to spend too much money, I think, is the secret.

O'BRIEN: That is the secret. Nice to have you, Amy. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Nice to see you.

So after a very divisive campaign and a battle over the fiscal cliff, what can the president do now to unite the country?

O'BRIEN: Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is going to join us with some advice for President Obama. That's ahead.

BERMAN: I bet he has some advice.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody, you are watching CNN's coverage of the 2013 inauguration.

As Barack Obama starts his second term, what does he need to do to mend fences with Republicans in Washington, D.C.?

BERMAN: We will put that question to Ari Fleisher. He, of course, was the press secretary for George W. Bush in the first term.

So Ari, what does he have to do?

ARI FLEISCHER, FRMR PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think it is a question of genuineness. Does he genuinely want to work with Republicans, then he's going to split from Democrats on key issues, mostly fiscal issues, mostly entitlement related -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- to do something about the debt.

If he indicates a real willingness to do it, I think Republicans have to cooperate. If he puts up walls and fights, then we are in for the same thing we have been through for the last two years.

BERMAN: I have to say I think it's a very big deal what the House leadership has done here by essentially offering to extend the debt limit vote, debt limit debate, for three months here, it feels like it changes -- well, let me pose this question.

Do you think it changes the tenor of this weekend and do you think it changes the tenor of the first few weeks of the president's second term?

FLEISCHER: First few weeks. Not this weekend. This weekend is special. It has its own tenor and it's bigger than the daily politics that they're grinding it out up here.

But Republicans just save themselves from themselves. This debt limit is the Republican's enemy. The sequester, the so-called cuts to the Pentagon, hospitals and doctors, are their friend.

If Republicans try to make their final stand on spending to reduce spending by going after debt limit, they will fail. It's too blunt an instrument. So they were very smart to push that down the road and stand in on a more routine understandable spending fight and engage the president over that. That's called the sequester. O'BRIEN: We hear a number, sometimes as many as 15 or 20 items on the president's to-do list. How would you rank them? I mean, obviously gun control has moved from being nowhere that he cared about to now being front and center.

We also have of course, the spending fight we are going to have. We have immigration. We have -- you know, Van Jones was talking about green jobs. We thought maybe the environment was going to maybe not make the list at all.

FLEISCHER: I go back what the president said in his first inaugural address, where he talked about the time of putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

The most unpleasant decision is the country is going broke and we need to save our children and we need to save the next generation. It been coming, the demographic changes of America are what is driving it even more than spending decisions are. And it's the task of whoever is president in this era to deal with the underlying demographic issues we face and entitlements.

If we don't do that we're going to continue to have a low-growth economy with high unemployment. We got to get our fiscal house in order. To me, that is the biggest of all.

BERMAN: Have the Republicans, do you think, given the president any genuine sign that they are willing to work with him?

FLEISCHER: Well, John, the decision to postpone a fight over the debt limit, that, in and of itself, was. Now I said they saved themselves from themselves, which I believe.

But it also is a recognition that the president has got the upper hand on some things, we can't fight him on everything. Republicans need to be smarter.

So, that was one sign right there, Republicans are doing it.

I also think that if the Senate can pass a budget, the House will have to act and then it's a real test of where the Republicans are going to actually compromise at the end of the day.

And I was down at the Republican retreat in Williamsburg and I did an address to all the House Republicans and I said, your fight is not with John Boehner, your fight is with James Madison. He wrote this system. This is the government we have. If you believe in the Constitution, we have division of power. You have to work within that to get an agreement.

O'BRIEN: So, then frame that for me as words in a speech tomorrow that the president's delivering. He has to say ...

FLEISCHER: The speech tomorrow has got to be the big picture above it all, it should not be specific policies. Save it for the State of the Union; that is a much more plebeian speech. This has to be the uplifting power of America role, the America values, morals. That's what it should be about. That's the power of an inaugural speech, that's what you want to remember in your president.

O'BRIEN: Ari Fleischer, nice to have you. Great to see you this afternoon.

FLEISCHER: Good to be here.

BERMAN: So great to see you.

So great to be here with you, of course, I'm John Berman.

O'BRIEN: Why, thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you so much for joining us in this special coverage of President Obama's inauguration.

O'BRIEN: And of course, I'm Soledad O'Brien. Our special coverage continues all afternoon.

Don Lemon's going to be up next with more from here in Washington, D.C.

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