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The Presidential Inauguration; Interview with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Interview with Congressman James Clyburn; "The House I Live In"

Aired January 21, 2013 - 06:30   ET


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In particular, some Hispanics playing an important role, chief rather, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was taking part in the swearing in ceremony yesterday of the vice president, will again be doing the public swearing in of the vice president today, the first Hispanic to do that at the public ceremony.

The inaugural committee has also chosen a Cuban-American to read an original poem. He is Cuban-American civil engineer and author, Richard Blanco.

So, Hispanics playing an important role on an important day here in Washington -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A long day of firsts and a long day of celebration. Great to see you. Dan Lothian at the White House this morning.

So, the crowd expected to turn up here today, all the way down this National Mall, is not expected to be as large as four years ago, when 1.8 million people crowded into the city. Still, they are still expecting some 800,000 people today, nothing to thumb your nose at.

Our Christi Paul is down on the National Mall where the crowds are gathering.

Hey, Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are gathering and they are dressed to impress and to stay warm. There's no doubt that things have definitely picked up in the last half hour, so we've seen a lot more people.

And with me now is 10-year-old Mari (ph) and her mom Michelle who feels a special kinship to one Michelle Obama as well, we should point, Michelle and McKenna as well.

So, Mari, 10 years old. You moved from California a couple of years ago, what do you want to see today?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Inside the White House.

PAUL: You want to see inside the White House? You think that's going to happen?


PAUL: Well, Michelle said that they actually got on the train at 3:30 this morning on the metro. And it wasn't too bad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope, wasn't bad at all. Hardly any people there.

PAUL: But you've got a trek back, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and I'm not looking forward to it.

PAUL: Yes, because he's got to get the kids back for school. And you live three hours away once you get off the metro in Alexandria?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, near Virginia Beach.

PAUL: All righty. And thank you so much, McKenna. I want to ask McKenna really quickly, if you could ask Malia or Sasha anything, what would it be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the favorite part about the White House?

PAUL: Yes, you bet.

There are so many questions kids want to ask the kids of the White House. Here we go. And one thing they want to tell you that's so interest to see, people taking pictures with their iPads all over the place down here.

I'm sending it back to you.

BERMAN: Christi, I saw so many people from so many different places on the Mall yesterday, Louisiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nebraska, Boston, all over the country to join in the celebration this weekend. It's an exciting time for so many people.

Christi Paul down at the National Mall this morning, great to see you.

Right now, I want to turn to my friend Soledad O'Brien who's on the few rows behind me here on the west part of the Capitol.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. Thank you.

After the inaugural balls tonight, down to business. Starting with some tough work in Congress. First up, working on gun control legislation.

Let's talk a little bit more about the challenges that the president will face ahead with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, attended Vice President Biden's swearing in yesterday.

Let's begin with that, in fact -- historic, of course, because as Dan Lothian mentioning a moment ago, a first with a Hispanic Supreme Court justice doing the swearing in. She'd be the first Latino to do the swearing.


O'BRIEN: What it was like?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, it was warm and intimate, and really classic Vice President Biden. He was really just thrilled to be re- inaugurated. And it was a privilege to be there.

O'BRIEN: Did it feel like an historic moment? I mean, I had talked to Justice Sotomayor about it a couple of days before. She said that she -- you know, she almost couldn't believe -- two things were stunning her. One, that she was even a Supreme Court justice and she would get the honor of swearing in the vice president. And she said both seemed completely improbable considering where she came from.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, you could see how thrilled she was. It was really touching to see -- special moment between the two of them. It was incredible to be there, you know, to witness history, and to see the opportunity for women -- you know, just the historic nature of a woman swearing in a vice president and the first Hispanic, it was -- that was really remarkable.

O'BRIEN: The nation is divided. Polls show the nation is divided. I'm sure you feel it in the halls of Congress, that the nation feels divided.

What does the president have to say, and then to make your job the next day easier for you and your colleagues on the other side of the aisle?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think what the president's goal will be this morning is to try to use the inaugural address to unify the country, to talk about how we're all in this together, to talk about that we need to find common ground and that there are really are more similarities than there are differences.

And, you know, we should start this new term with the goal of trying to put aside the really divisive politics of the past, and polarization is not what the American people voted for. They want to make sure we address the real serious challenges that we're facing. My way or the highway needs to be put aside.

And we've got to come together, and -- you know, we just all have to recognize starting tomorrow that our challenges are significant, and we can each give up a little, and it's OK. You know, that's not loss. That's actually the way things should get done in this country.

O'BRIEN: Sounds so easy when you say it, yet we have talked many times where it didn't seem so easy.

Where is your seat? Because right now, for folks who can't see our vantage point, we're right at the Capitol. So, 1,600 people who have the best tickets are sitting right here. Where are you?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So, usually, members of Congress file in here right around here, in those rows right in there.

O'BRIEN: Oh, you're right near the front row.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, we're pretty close.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be a good day for you.

Nice to have you with us, Congresswoman. Our pleasure, our pleasure.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's pretty incredible. Thanks, Soledad. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat from Florida, and also, of course, the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

When the president was sworn in during that private White House ceremony, he used a Bible that was handed down by Michelle Obama's family. Today, the president will be using two historic Bibles. The first was used by President Abraham Lincoln when he was sworn in, back in 1861. Supreme Court clerk purchased it for President Clinton, because the Lincoln family Bible was back in Illinois at the time. Mr. Obama used the same Bible when he took the oath of office in 2009.

The president will be sworn in using what is described as Martin Luther King's personal Bible. It features Dr. King's notes in the margins. It traveled with King as he led the battle for civil rights across our nation.

Performing for the president on Inauguration, of course, is an honor. The ultimate honor for any kind of band. Repeat performance for the Isiserettes. This Iowa drill team features fancy footwork, has students between the ages of 10 and 18. They performed for then- Senator Obama at a 2007 campaign event, and earned an invitation to his first inauguration in 2009.

Symphanee Fisher says it means a lot to be asked back.


SYMPHANEE FISHER, AGE 14: To be able to do it a second time, that means that he understood us on a personal way and it's just -- it's mesmerizing.


O'BRIEN: Yes, it's always nice to be asked back yet again.

And this morning, of course, we've been showing you scenes from Washington, D.C. But only the astronauts on board the International Space Station will have this view of the inauguration. The ISS crew members captured these images of Washington, D.C. yesterday.

The detail shows the Potomac River, the bridges on the left hand side, National Mall in the center. The east, you could see the Capitol building, which is exactly where we are. And, of course, which is where the inauguration ceremony is going to be held.

Coming up, civil rights legend and congressman, Representative James Clyburn, is going to talk to me about the significance of the president's inauguration, happening today, which, of course, is Martin Luther King Day. That's right ahead.

First, though, a commercial break. We're back right on the other side.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

You're looking at a beautiful picture of the Capitol, which is where we are this morning. It's our special inauguration coverage. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Let's get right to Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, veteran of the civil rights movement, joining us now to talk a little bit about Inauguration Day.

Nice to see you, sir, in person.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: Our pleasure, as always.

You know, it's interesting. We've heard a little bit about the two Bibles that President Obama will be sworn in with. One is the Bible of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, today is Martin Luther King Day, that we celebrated.

And I'm curious to know what you think about the cyclical nature. I mean, 50 years ago --


O'BRIEN: -- march on Washington, 50 years later, a black president is being sworn in for a second term. Do you --


O'BRIEN: Is it an indication that at least there have been some steps, big steps towards progress in this country?

CLYBURN: Sure. Sure. Big steps. But many, many steps left to go.

I think all of us are aware that this president came into office, when the so called (ph) like the 40th year, and a whole lot of things haven't happened, and he is -- he has been met with some really tough times. Not just because of the reaction to him, but because of the challenges that the country faces and I believe that so much of what President Obama has confronted was sort of forecast by Martin Luther King, Jr.

O'BRIEN: What do you mean? CLYBURN: Well, take health care, for instance. To me, one of the most important speeches ever made by King had to do with health care, and he said in the speech -- of all of the injustices that exist in America, the most egregious of all is the lack of health care.

And I think with President Obama tackling health care the way he did, and one of the reasons when we talked about him, I thought he had to go forward with health care.

O'BRIEN: Many people like to focus on the content of character part of his speeches, but actually a lot of that particular speech, as you well know, was really about economic justice.

CLYBURN: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: You think about economic justice, jobs for African- Americans, unemployment, higher -- much higher than it is for white and Latino counterparts.

So, what has to be done in the second term that will change the numbers? Obviously, not just for black people, but for everybody?

CLYBURN: Well, I think the president looking at recent Supreme Court decisions and the climate that exists, and we have to find creative ways to make the economy work for all citizens. And by that I mean, the president put in the stimulus package the so-called 10, 20, 30 formula for the rural development.

I think when you take that formula and put it in all parts of grants so that at least 10 percent of the money can get into those communities with 20 percent or more of the populations are locked beneath the poverty level for the last 30 years, that is the kind of creative approach that I think has to be made, because we know that the Supreme Court is finding a lot of so-called affirmative action programs.

O'BRIEN: There was a photo that showed a lot of people that work closely with the president. And I know have you seen this photo. It's mostly white guys.

I think we can see Valerie Jarrett's leg on that photo and it was a photo sent out to show that all the president's men and women were working hard over the Christmas break to try to resolve the fiscal cliff crisis that we were in.


O'BRIEN: But there was another message that was sent, which was -- wow, for the first black president, not a particularly diverse cabinet.

CLYBURN: Yes, I have seen that photo, and a lot of us were bothered by it. Not so much because of the photo itself, because those of us who work with the White House, we know that it was a one snapshot that did not really dictate the White House in substance. But, symbolically, we have to be very aware that people all over the world are watching these kinds of things and I think we have to make sure that the programs measure up to the promise.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Clyburn, nice to see you, sir. A pleasure.

CLYBURN: Thanks so much for having me.

O'BRIEN: You bet, you bet.

Ahead this morning, we're going to talk with singer/songwriter, John Legend. He also is here for the day's inauguration. We'll talk to him about what he's hoping hear when the president makes his inaugural address and a lot of his focus is on the war on drugs. We'll explain in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome to our special coverage of the presidential inauguration. Grammy award winner John Legend is in town for the inauguration. He performed over the weekend. He is also here to promote his new film that takes a hard look on the war on drugs. I spoke to him about that on Saturday.


O'BRIEN: What are you hoping from a second term from President Obama?

JOHN LEGEND, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I think the recovery needs to be stronger, because there are still too many people unemployed. I think we need to still focus on growth. I think a lot of Washington is talking about cutting and talking about balancing budgets, but I think we're still in a place where we're still recovering from a very deep recession.

And I think we need to focus on making sure we have more opportunity, more jobs for so many people who are out there suffering.

O'BRIEN: You're an executive producer of the film. And it's really told through the story of someone that Eugene knew through his childhood and really looks at the racial disparities.

LEGEND: I think Eugene did it in a way where this is an issue that usually elites can ignore, because it's not around them. It's not in their immediate surroundings. It's somebody else's problem, but he wanted to bring it closer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nanny Jetter was like a second mother to me. Though, she started out working for my family, she was never a nanny.


O'BRIEN: Nanny Jetter is a housekeeper in your family. Tell me the story of her son, James, that unfolds as the movie goes along.

EUGENE JARECKI, WRITER/DIRECTOR: She said something that broke my heart. She said, after all this hard work, I feel like I'm the first generation of Americans, of black Americans whose children are worse of than we were.

O'BRIEN: There are plenty of people who have said and continue to say, listen, drug issues are about personal responsibility. You know, why would you not blame someone like her son who was doing drugs?

LEGEND: They are personal choices. People do make choices to use drugs, however, black people aren't making more of those choices than other people in this country, but they're getting locked up at a dramatic higher rate than other people around this country. So, not only are they personal choices, but they're policy choices that our government has made over the years that have systematically disadvantaged Black and Brown people and poor people in this country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of the day, when there's not a lot of resources out here and teachers are stressing you to come to class or not even caring, you know, you're not going to school. You're going to sell drugs. You're going to do what you have to do.


JARECKI: What I'm so troubled by is that we treat the non-violence in this country as though they were violent. It's a crime against humanity to do it as we are doing, and I'm hoping with the inauguration of President Obama in the second time, I'm really hoping that in a way he understands that there is a moment here for the country's legacy, let alone, his own legacy to really move into the post civil rights era and really rescue us from this terrible inhumanity to man that we've been conducting in the drug war.

LEGEND: And if you think about it, all -- all Washington talking about it right now is, how do we cut costs? Let's think about one of the most expensive useless things we've done is wage this war on drugs.

O'BRIEN: It's failed.

LEGEND: We've ruined lives. We've spent all this money, and everybody is still using drugs the same amount they've been using it before.

O'BRIEN: What's the solution?

JARECKI: This war on drugs must end. It's the primary human rights issue we have facing us in the United States , facing our own people. And I think John's words in many way carry the hopes of a better America as we look to these next set of years.

O'BRIEN: You have a song that's featured in the movie, and it's -- in the video, it's so powerful, because it's beautiful. And the pictures we're seeing are terrible.


LEGEND: The juxtaposition is that, again, we have this concept, this ideal, what we think America is, but we're also the most incarcerated country in the world. We're the land of the free, and we lock people up more than anybody.


O'BRIEN: That was the writer and director Eugene Jarecki and also John Legend, who's one of the executive producers on the film, which is called "The House I Live In." If you want to see the entire music video, which has been released exclusively to CNN, go to

Coming up next, stars of stripes, Katy Perry, rocking the red, white, and blue, in one of the many bashes across our nation's Capitol that happened over the weekend. And it's only the beginning. more on that when we come back.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The focus today, of course, is on the ceremony and the parade, but tonight it is all about the parties, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, John Legend, all expected to perform. Celebration, though, is somewhat scaled back from four years ago.

The presidential inaugural committee is hosting just two official inaugural balls this year, compared to the ten that were hosted back in 2009. Brent Colburn is communication director for the Presidential Inauguration Committee. He's with us this morning. nice to have you.


O'BRIEN: You're sort of the Mr. Logistics about very logistically nightmarish day potentially.

COLBURN: That's right.

O'BRIEN: What else is different in addition to just a scaled-down number of balls? What else has changed?

COLBURN: Sure. Look, obviously, second inaugurals are a little different than first inaugurals. It tends to be a little bit smaller, but they're really important moment. It's an important moment for the president to look back as to where we've gone as a country and for the country to look forward. A lot of great events over today. A lot of great weekend heading in to this day.

Two balls tonight, one of which is the commander in chiefs ball, which is a tradition that was started by George W. Bush, and President Obama's continue a great way for us to say thank you to our men and women in uniform and really celebrate everything they do for our country.

O'BRIEN: And of course, the two that you're having are almost like ten because there's something like 40,000 people going.

COLBURN: That's right. That's right. So, one of the nice things about second inaugurals, a lot of us worked on the first and we learned some lessons. And one of those was that by having a centralized event, a larger, centralized event, we can get more out of the talent. That's been so kind and given their time.

So, instead of being stuck in one ball or another and seeing maybe one act or two, you'll be able to see an entire night of programming tonight and a night of these great folks who have come together to celebrate the country and celebrate the president's second inauguration.

O'BRIEN: Talk to me about the money. It's got to be expensive --

COLBURN: Sure. Obviously, a lot of resources go into this, not just from the presidential inaugural committee, but the security that you've seen today and others have seen it and opening up the mall, paying for things like the commander in chief's ball, takes resources, and luckily, a lot of folks have come together and I think we're going to have the money we need to have a great day and a great ceremony.

O'BRIEN: Is it all based on donations?

COLBURN: There are piece (ph) of donations. There are some tax dollars that go into the ceremony, itself, and some of the security, but all of the events, the parade, all of the balls, all of the celebratory events are paid for through private donations, including the things like the day of service that we had on Saturday.


O'BRIEN: That was a fantastic event. 10,000 people came through.

COLBURN: Yes. So --

O'BRIEN: And I was amazed, again, kudos to you, the logistics. It was so calm.

COLBURN: It's a great event. Again, a huge team here. The JTF (ph) who's our military partners play a big part in this. Obviously, members of Congress and Chuck Schumer has been a great leader of the Congressional side in these ceremonies, but what people have to remember is really only the swearing in itself is what's required by the constitution.

The rest of these are traditions that are started by different presidents. And one of the traditions of the President and First Lady started was this day of service which brings us back to Martin Luther King Day, which we're celebrating today as well.

And we had folks in all 50 states. We had actually staff, for the first time, in all 50 states organizing service events and we had over 250,000 Americans come out and serve in their communities across the country this Saturday to help celebrate and kick of thois inaugural weekend.

O'BRIEN: It was really, really fun to be part of that at the armory. It's really great. So, you must have the best -- you know, we all have these I.D. tags. You must have the best one to get us everywhere. Brent Colburn, so nice to have you with us this morning.

COLBURN: Thank you for having us.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

COLBURN: Have a great day.

O'BRIEN: We're going to continue on this morning with our special inauguration coverage. "STARTING POINT" begins right now.