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Obama Meets with Myanmar's President; A Personal Message from the President to College Grads; Obama's Approval Ratings Hold Stead; Eight Killed in Dagestan Car Bombings; Education for Better Life

Aired May 20, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone.

It is a meeting that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. In Washington, President Obama meeting today with the president of Myanmar.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: President Thein Sein's visit to the White House comes just six months after President Obama's historic trip to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Now the U.S. is trying to encourage the country's transformation from a brutal military rule to democracy.

HOLMES: One of the big challenges is the recent violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the country, the Muslims feeling the government hasn't done enough to stop it.

On the other hand American business is very eager to invest in Myanmar, a country rich in resources and many economic sanctions, of course, have been lifted. The door is starting to open.

MALVEAUX: On the 100th anniversary of its founding, Morehouse College added another milestone to its calendar. It was a very special day. This was Sunday. President Obama became the first sitting president to give the commencement address.

HOLMES: Yeah, after a pretty rough week in Washington, he was probably glad to get out of town.

He spent little time addressing politics or policy, instead, reflecting on how success is about more than just a degree.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And whatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I have held have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy, the special obligation I felt as a black man like you to help those who need it most, people who didn't have the opportunities that I had because there, but for the grace of God go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family.

And that motivates me.


MALVEAUX: A very powerful speech, and afterwards, Morehouse President John Wilson presented the president with an honorary degree and said he is now a true Morehouse man.

And we have very special guests with us today, graduates Anre Washington and Adam Starks joining us.

Both of you, congratulations. I know you were probably a little wet out there, right? It was stormy.

But you had an opportunity to meet the president as well as to listen to what he said.

I covered him for many years, and I've never really heard him address very directly black men and race and his own personal story about overcoming odds.

What did you make of it, Anre?


Hearing the president speak about, you know, being African-American and using his own agency and using his power to actually change the world, help folks, that's exactly what Morehouse teaches us, and that's exactly what my brothers and I intend to do, improve the human condition.

MALVEAUX: Did it resonate, the message?

ADAM STARKS, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE GRADUATE: I think the strongest part about the message was he didn't kind of beat around and give like a general message where you hear some speaker come and say be successful, reach out, respect your community.

He targeted the Morehouse community. He targeted his students there. He did his research and his due diligence into some of our experiences and it really let us relate to what he was saying and kind of feel we are connected to the president of the free world.

HOLMES: He also encouraged graduates to take responsibility for others who have not been afforded the same opportunities, and let's play a little bit of that and then we'll chat about it.


OBAMA: There are some things as black men we can only do for ourselves. There are some things as Morehouse men that you are obliged to do for those still left behind.

As Morehouse men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you're about to collect, and that's the power of your example.

So what I ask of you today is the same thing I ask of every graduating class I address. Use that power for something larger than yourself.


HOLMES: What's your take from that, Anre?

WASHINGTON: For me I think one of the greatest causes and the greatest charges of men who know who they are to help others, and Morehouse challenges us to reach back and not just help folks that look like us, but help everyone, and again, improving the human condition.

So, again, we take that to charge very, very seriously. As an aspiring public servant, that's something I want to do when I get older.

HOLMES: And, Adam, you're going to use it to go into service of the literal kind, aren't you?

STARKS: Yes, yes. After I -- it was really special for me because that's my boss, pretty much. I'm getting to commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force to be an intelligence officer.

And to have that charge set out for me as someone to not just be a hard worker, not to go get money, but to go and just build up the community.

And I think, like Anre said that's what Morehouse charges us to do. That's something they've pushed forth in us since we first got there.

It's a beautiful statement. It's a beautiful ideal to hear that from the president of the United States.

MALVEAUX: And one things I was struck with in that speech is, really, he said the kinds of things that my own father would say in our family.

I want you to listen to what he said very publicly here.


OBAMA: Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.

But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there's no longer any room for excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: So, you know, there are already some people making a point of this, who are saying this kind of feeds into a stereotype, if you will, making excuses.

What do you make of that? Because, you know, in our family as well, we had conversations about being responsible.

WASHINGTON: Well, personal responsibility -- again, he was addressing Morehouse students and -- Morehouse graduates rather, and Morehouse graduates, we don't make excuses. We're about making things happen and achieving, accomplishing, regardless of the odds.

So when you talk about speaking to the graduates of Morehouse, you're going to speak to a crowd that's determined to make a difference.

STARKS: I think the bigger point that he tried to pull out there -- because I've seen the blogs. I've seen the people making the comment about that.

He was trying to say that, as a Morehouse man, you have to hold yourself to a different standard. You know when you go out there you have to work harder.

And it's not this idea that you're giving excuses because you're a black man or the society is trying to hold you down, but if you're trying to be this great man, as Morehouse has a legacy of leaders, then you have to be greater.

You have to push. You have to achieve more than most people have.

MALVEAUX: Anybody aspiring to be president?

WASHINGTON: That's a lot of responsibility. Public service, definitely. Politics, definitely.

MALVEAUX: What's next for you?

WASHINGTON: Robert Raven Group in Washington, D.C., interning in Washington, D.C., and learning about progressive policies, so I'm excited.

MALVEAUX: All right, OK, good for you. Good for you both.

HOLMES: Yeah, pleasure to meet you guys. Really is. Anre Washington, Adam Starks, good luck.

MALVEAUX: All right. You'll do well.

And if you missed the president's commencement address, you can actually watch part of it on It is actually in the center page there. It's really very, very powerful speech.

HOLMES: It is. Yep. Right in the middle.

All right, a week filled with problems and controversies apparently not taking a toll on President Obama's approval ratings, a new CNN/ORC poll shows it all holding steady.

MALVEAUX: In fact, it is up slightly to 53 percent, but the increase is within the sampling error. The president's job approval rating was 51 percent in April, 47 percent in March.

The latest poll follows what many are calling the worst week of the president's presidency there.

HOLMES: Yeah, his administration, of course, has been hammered by questions about the IRS targeting conservative groups, the feds seizing journalists' phone records and then there was more fallout from the Benghazi attacks.

But as you see there, approval rating up from March.

MALVEAUX: And a car bombing in Dagestan killing eight people now. That is the same place that the Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited.

Coming up, the type of violence that he could have been exposed to.


MALVEAUX: At least eight people are dead, 20 others injured after a car bombing. This is in the Russian republic of Dagestan.

HOLMES: Yeah, it's not the first time Dagestan, of course, has been in the headlines recently. You remember the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had ties to Dagestan, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually visited there last year.

MALVEAUX: So our Nick Paton Walsh, he is in Dagestan, and first of all, talk about the kind of violence playing out in this particular area.

It's the kind of thing that might have impacted the suspects, the Boston bombing suspects, and what they were exposed to.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today's blast which killed eight or even three if you listen to different reports. There's not much transparency when it comes to these things here.

Today's blast was a particularly bad and big one. Two devices hitting the federal bailiff service outside of the city. Apparently people tried to demine the first one. It went off and then the police in the area were caught up in a second blast, apparently left there for them.

It's the worst, I think, that's hit there actually since May of last year, and kind of these little peeks of casualty tolls really highlight a longer slow burning war that's been going on here between the police and these radicalized militants, which often lead to attacks at checkpoints around here, but also many different special forces attacks against buildings where they think these militants are holed up. But blasts like today's really bring to surface this kind of war in the underground in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev would have found himself sitting very much last year.

People don't really know, though, that during those six months he was here whether or not he met anybody who may have ties to militants or, as his parents suggest, he was simply resting and praying, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yeah, and Nick, diving in here because we got a report a little bit earlier, Russian media saying that they foiled a planned terror attack on Moscow, the capital.

What have you been hearing about that?

WALSH: Well, statements from the FSB they've foiled terror attacks are reasonably common, but this one, of course, seizing attention because it talks about Moscow.

It talks about how an operation by the FSB, the Russian security services. arrested two -- sorry, arrested one person about 85 kilometers due east of Moscow and killed two others.

A source I spoke to at their anti-terrorist committee said that they believe these men were Russian citizens but had actually come from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area to carry out this particular attack, obviously an attempt there by Moscow to suggest foreign elements are at play here.

We don't know what kind of attack they were planning. I'm sure cynics will point out how convenient perhaps it was that this emerges at the same time they're also dealing with a blast in the south of the country.


HOLMES: All right, keeping an eye on that, Nick Paton Walsh there in Makhachkala in Dagestan. Appreciate it.

MALVEAUX: Now to Cleveland, we're hearing more from the police officers who actually rescued the kidnapping victims, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Coming up, one officer's emotional description of that day.


MALVEAUX: Remember the three women who were enslaved in the Cleveland home. Well, the police officers who saved them, they are actually talking about their experience.

HOLMES: Yes, and they are emotional stories.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

HOLMES: Yes, especially that officer, Anthony Espada. Listen to him explain what happened as he entered the home to help rescue two of the victims.


OFC. ANTHONY ESPADA, CLEVELAND POLICE: You know something's going on in this room. And, you know, I'm looking that way just waiting to see what's going, you know, what's going to happen. And it was Michelle. She kind of popped out into the doorway and paused there for a second. Within moments, she came charging at me. She jumped onto me. She's like, you saved us, you saved us. And I'm holding onto her so tight. And then within a few seconds, I see another girl come out of the bedroom. I just look at her. You can immediately tell who it is, just thinner. And, again, I just needed confirmation. And I asked her, what's your name? She said, my name is Georgina DeJesus.


MALVEAUX: That is so powerful.

HOLMES: And emotional.

MALVEAUX: I mean you can tell just what that meant to him, that very moment. And Cleveland Officer Barbara Johnson, she says one of them just jumped - just jumped into her arms saying, please don't let me go, please don't let me go.

HOLMES: Can you imagine the relief after 10 years that they finally see law enforcement there literally to save them. To get them - get them out of there.

MALVEAUX: To save their lives.

HOLMES: And you're going to hear more from those officers in the next hour or so.

MALVEAUX: This is my favorite story. Straight ahead, you're going to hear from the first - this is the first Saudi woman to climb Mt. Everest. It is her historic adventure. That is up next.

HOLMES: And we're going to tell you how a 26-year-old high school dropout got a billion-dollar payday. And, get this, he didn't win the lottery. And that's up next as AROUND THE WORLD continues.


MALVEAUX: A 26-year-old high school dropout getting a billion-dollar payday today. Pretty amazing. David Karp didn't even win the lottery. He sold his blogging website called Tumblr, of course, for $1.1 billion to the Internet giant Yahoo.

HOLMES: Yes, he created this site back in 2007 in the back bedroom of his mother's New York apartment. He is going to stay on as CEO and run the company as a separate entity within Yahoo. Now, Tumblr, it's relatively small, 120,000 people a day do sign up. Now, the big appeal for Yahoo, Yahoo wants to get a bit cooler. Tumblr has been the go-to blog site for the 18 to 24 crowd and Yahoo want them.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, yeah.

HOLMES: Uh-huh.

MALVEAUX: We'll get cooler as well, I guess, we'll join.

HOLMES: As we get older.


So, somewhere out there, they're not going to be a billionaire, but there is a Powerball lottery ticket out there that is worth $590 million.

HOLMES: Well, less tax.

MALVEAUX: We didn't win.

HOLMES: We didn't because we're here clearly, so, yes, so we didn't win.

MALVEAUX: Exactly. I was a little disappointed myself.

HOLMES: You know, to pay the tax, by the time you've done that, it's not worth it.

MALVEAUX: Oh, geez.

HOLMES: Kidding. Yes, this ticket was sold at a Florida Publix, actually. It was a supermarket. The winner yet to come forward. At the peak of sales this weekend, states like Texas and California were reportedly selling more than a million dollars of tickets an hour.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it would have been a billion if you didn't have a winner. So, you know, that whole town is like just - they're kind of up in arms, like, who is this, right?

HOLMES: I want to know. I want to bet you, I reckon that once it gets to that sort of amount, it's stupid. Make it so that 10 people get 50.

MALVEAUX: And then we'll all call it quits.

HOLMES: And then, yes, make more people happy. I mean, you know, one person getting $600 million, really?

MALVEAUX: I'm, you know, I'm still hopeful one day.

HOLMES: One day.

MALVEAUX: I am. Really.

This is great.

HOLMES: Oh, yes.

MALVEAUX: So this is the summit season. This is Mt. Everest. And this is the time of year the weather is more favorable for climbers. So over the weekend 146 people reached the summit. This is conquering the world's highest mountain.

HOLMES: It's getting crowded up there. Among the ones to do it, the first Saudi woman to attempt and reach the peak. Her name is Raha Moharrak and she is part of a group called Arabs With Altitude. Not attitude, altitude. She spoke earlier to CNN from the Mt. Everest base camp via Skype. Have a listen.


RAHA MOHARRAK, 1ST SAUDI WOMAN TO SCALE MT. EVEREST: It was absolutely surreal. It was really windy. And it was like an out of body experience. I felt like I was in an episode of National Geographic or Discovery Channel. I couldn't believe it, I was standing on top of the world. It was unbelievable really.



MALVEAUX: Good for her. That's pretty amazing. Got a Skype shot from base camp there. Moharrak said she hopes that her achievement inspires all women to, quote, "step out of their comfort zone, go for their dreams." She's pretty awesome.

HOLMES: Yes. First Saudi woman. There was also an Iranian and a Katarian (ph) and someone else in that group too and they were the first people from their countries to summit as well. So it was a - it was a pretty, pretty cool group of people.

MALVEAUX: It was very impressive.


MALVEAUX: You and I, we'll do that one day.

HOLMES: Yes, right.

MALVEAUX: Sometimes difficult to get kids here in the United States excited about school.

HOLMES: Oh, yes, I've got a couple of them like that. Well, one's good. The other one, not so much. We're going to introduce you to a girl living in Nepal just thrilled to be getting an education. I hope my son's watching this.


MALVEAUX: All right. Sometimes it's hard to get kids in the United States excited about school, but many kids around the world fighting just to get a good opportunity for an education. (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: And absolutely delighted when they get that opportunity. We're going to talk about one girl who was one of the lucky ones with the opportunity and the will to rise up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is 16-year- old Purnima. She lives in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Purnima is one of the lucky ones. She's attending school.

PURNIMA: And I'm proud of my (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: Girls in Nepal have a higher literacy rate than boys. Room To Read, a global nonprofit group that promotes literacy and gender equality in education, is trying to change that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The girls education program started out because we found out that most families, if they were able to afford education of one child, it was boys that got preferred over girls.

WHITFIELD: Purnima attended primary school, but government education is free only through the fifth grade. Organizations like Room To Read allow her to continue her education.

PURNIMA: I'm the first person getting education in my family. We are from the poor family, so we can't afford all to go to high school.

WHITFIELD: Purnima lives with family above a carpet factory. Her father is paralyzed and her mother is blind. Without an education, Purnima says she would probably end up working at the carpet factory. But now she has big dreams.

PURNIMA: I want to be an eye doctor when I grow up because my mother is blind. So I want to be an eye doctor in the future.


MALVEAUX: Purnima, she is 17 years old now. Just an amazing young woman. She's waiting to find out if she actually passed her tenth grade final exam. I'm sure she did.

HOLMES: I'm banking on it. Yes, I'm banking on that. CNN films "Girl Rising" premieres Sunday, June 16th, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss that. A terrific show.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a good day.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow.