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Nelson Mandela Memorial Service
Aired December 10, 2013 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- here in this stadium but also back home as well.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I think when we talk about the relationship the Obamas have had with Mandela, it wasn't as personal as the relationship Mandela had with the Clintons. When I spoke to Mrs. Obama last year, just remember he couldn't come, so he sent his family ahead. It was quite interesting. I said, what did you say to him, what did you talk about and what did it mean? She actually expressed a sense that she had nothing to say. She didn't know what to say to Mandela, because with this arc of history, with the sense of being with this man, she found herself just being able to say thank you. That was -- you couldn't really make small talk with Nelson Mandela. This was a man who you actually -- what can you say? She found that.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: He was so ill at that time, too.
CURNOW: His hearing wasn't good either.
AMANPOUR: He wasn't normally communicating as he might have done before.
CUOMO: The message outlives the man. That's a big point you're hearing at the memorial today. Certainly it's one that we understand Nelson Mandela would want that put first, that it is not about him, it is about the message.
John King, let me bring you in here, taking a look at what the president said, I can't help but think when he was pound the words about what reconciliation means and that just because you don't agree doesn't mean you don't work together and the need for argument and ideas, that that wasn't for a wider audience than just this stadium. Your take?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you're exactly right. This is a moment of tribute that is at the same time a moment of reconciliation, which is why you can have a brief hand shake with Raul Castro and make it about the day, not about any international politics. It's why the President of the United States, the first African American president of the United States can pay tribute to the history of Mandela and look beyond it.
It's a fascinating moment. As you talk about the Obama family and their meetings. I heard the president talk about this and his own children, about the civil rights movement in the United States. Those who don't remember, what do they take away?
And Chris, you just made an excellent point. The memory of the man lives on, the legacy of the man lives on. How does the world, how does the education system in South Africa, how do educators around the world. What will children learn of Nelson Mandela? Look at many of the young faces when you were playing the music beforehand.
Many of those who are performing there, many of those who were there, they weren't alive in the '80s during the struggle. They weren't there when Mandela was freed. They weren't there for the free elections in the early '90s and the years that have followed. It's a fascinating question for me, when you say farewell and pay tribute to one of the greats of history, today all the tributes will be made, 10 and 20 years from now, what will the young people take from it?
CUOMO: It's interesting to that point, John, during the president's remarks, he mentioned what is probably Nelson Mandela's most famous speech, no matter when you were born. During the trial that wound up sending him away on his sentence, he had so many famous lines. It was notable because it would be the last words he spoke before he disappeared from society for all those years. The crowd went wild when Nelson Mandela's words echoed here through the mouth of Barack Obama, saying I fought against the domination by white people, I fought against the domination by black people, and to hear the cloud erupt, the strength of that message, that everyone is equal, there is no preference, really makes this man stand apart.
AMANPOUR: It really does. It really does. That whole trial was incredible because he went on to say that the idea of no dominance but equal opportunity for all, was this idea that he cherished and hoped to live to see. But if necessary, would be prepared to die for. Thinking that they were going to be sentenced to death after that trial for sabotage.
I do also think, by the way the Chinese vice president is speaking right now, and this is incredibly important because China is incredibly important in investment and even in politics here in Africa. Even more so stamping its mark than America right now.
I think what's so important is that many people who still want to criticize Mandela and think of him in the years, 30 years ago when he did embrace the arms struggle. They want to still label him with the terrorist label. Completely and utterly misses the point and doesn't understand the arc of history. Mandela forswore violence. He came out and told everybody to gather their knives, the guns, throw them into the sea. There was no question he was not embracing any kind of arms struggle at the end.
By the way, having had the most appallingly violent arms struggle perpetrated against the majority of this country. He was asked several times by interviewers when he was freed, what about that arms struggle, what about the violence? He said, listen, somebody might call me a terrorist, but terrorism is when you inflict harm and death and injury on innocent people, innocent institutions. We never did that. We went after the state that oppressed us. And it's vital, that.
CURNOW: I think what was key about them taking up the arms struggle when he as a young hot-headed leader in the ANC in the late '50s, particularly the early '60s, there was a sense that the nonviolence philosophy of the ANC wasn't working.
AMANPOUR: That's right.
CURNOW: It was young leaders like him who said we need to change tactic.
CUOMO: They had started that move by first starting a committee to say the defiance of unjust laws. I want to pick up on that point. Let's give people the context. Right now we're listening to the Chinese vice president. I want to bring back President Obama's words, if you missed them. Here's a little bit of what he had to say here and what we're discussing in context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears, his miscalculations along with his victories. I am not a saint, he said, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So that was just a little bit of what the president gave to the people here today. And certainly it was received well here for many reasons.
AMANPOUR: Definitely. And as we just went to that little piece of Obama's speech, we saw a picture flash by of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. I think it's important because President Clinton tells a story of how when Mandela was released from jail in 1990, he was in Arkansas. He wasn't president yet. And he went to wake up Chelsea, as he tells it, and says you must watch this on television, because this is the most important thing that may happen in your lifetime.
And he wasn't just telling his daughter. He was telling a whole people that actually this is the example of our lifetime. This freedom fighter, this Democrat, this man who forgave and then this man who embraced democracy and was elected, but never stayed and overstayed his welcome, even though people would have wanted him to, he didn't.
CURNOW: I think that personal sense of fathers and mothers wanting their children to watch and be part of it, whether it was in 1990 when Chelsea was woken up in the middle of the night, or whether it was this past weekend when we were standing outside Mandela's house, and these very young children, so many mothers and dads pushing their babies in strollers, kids on their dad's shoulders, this very new generation of South Africans who have no recollection, and never will, of apartheid. They were born into Mandela's world. But their parents need a point of saying I need my child to get something of this, to be physically part of the last bit of Mandela's life on this planet. I think it was a very powerful thing.
CUOMO: Simple but almost impossible lesson to follow, that Mandela made beautiful for all the world to see. Wasn't that he didn't have hate in his heart, it wasn't that he didn't feel revenge, it's what he did with those emotions. And I think whether you're an adult or you're a child, it's such a powerful message. Before we move on from the U.S. president though, Jim, what are the president's plans? How long will he be here? What happens next.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think administration officials were saying on Air Force one that really because of the big security footprint that the president brings with him when he travels abroad really today is going to be the only day he'll be in South Africa. He's expected to head back to the United States tonight, arrive back in Washington tomorrow morning. About 24 hours from now.
This was basically it. This was his big moment. He would like to stay for the funeral services at the end of the week. Administration officials say we would love to be able to do that sort of thing but they'll be leaving it to other members of the U.S. delegation who will stay behind to do that. There's a huge entourage traveling with this president, not to mention the congressional delegation that's here as well. A lot of people representing the United States here to remember Nelson Mandela.
CUOMO: Because he is going back, let me bring John King back in, what's your take on this? We're celebrating Nelson Mandela because he was unique, because he was singular, his ability to overcome such repression and hatred, his ability to bring both sides together when it was almost unfathomable to do so and literally turn a country around, what is the reasonable expectation of keeping a legacy like that alive, of making this message take root going forward, let's say, for President Obama as he returns to the United States?
KING: Well, Chris, as you well know and Jim well knows and Christine knows, he's returning to a political environment here in the United States that's poisoned. That might be a polite word. Can the president carry momentum from a big event like this and make any impact on his disputes with Congress over immigration, his disputes with Congress over budget matters, his dispute with Congress over other issues? I think it would be foolish to suggest you can come out of a moment and talk about this.
Does the president personally get momentum and energy out of this? This is something that happens. In a second term, you often see presidents look to the world stage, obviously this is a sad event, the passing of Nelson Mandela, but the president was obviously was -- it was important for him to be part of this event.
We talked about interconnectedness earlier. It is hard to connect the spirit you are experiencing right there. We don't have anything like that in Washington right now. This is a horrible political environment in Washington. But sometimes presidents personally get a little extra juice, a little extra momentum out of something and sometimes they surprise us. We'll watch when he gets home.
CUOMO: It would be nice to be surprised as metaphor, the vice president of China, echoing the same message, with all the disputes and troubles between the United States, almost the same message as the U.S. president he followed. Both of them connected, interconnected, but on this day by Nelson Mandela.
We're going to take a quick break here from the Nelson Mandela memorial in South Africa as the crowd once again begins to chant of love and freedom for the man who united this country, Nelson Mandela. Please stay with us.
CUOMO: Welcome to CNN, viewers from around the world. We are at the Nelson Mandela memorial, covering it for CNN, of course here in South Africa. We've heard from the U.S. president. We'll replay some of that sound for you in just a moment.
World leaders have been following one another after family members form Nelson Mandela and party officials here all articulating (ph) praise for the man and the message he embodied.
Let's bring it to current day, because everything is on context of time, obviously. The South Africa of today, there are issues here when President Jacob Zuma was here. He is in power, of course. That's always going to make you a little bit sideways with the people whom you govern, no matter what country you're in. Where is South Africa today in terms of realizing the dream of Nelson Mandela, Robyn?
CURNOW: You have to talk to various different South Africans. And I think this is a country that is very focused on itself at the moment and that very question. Jacob Zuma is a very different leader to Nelson Mandela. And many people are concerned that he doesn't embody the visionary, patience, reconciliatory type of leadership we saw from Mandela. Was Mandela just an aberration? Is South Africa no longer exceptional, just another, ordinary mid-level African country?
AMANPOUR: I think most people would say no.
CURNOW: No, I know. I'm asking that as a question. And I think that South Africans asking themselves, you know. This happened, you know, corruption, all of that sort of stuff. Poverty happens everywhere in the world. Why are we more critical here of it now 20 years after Mandela?
AMANPOUR: I think in short, the achievements are lasting and incredible.
AMANPOUR: Democracy, that has been established and continues to play out, a free press, a thriving economy, a little slower than it used to be, but nonetheless, the engine of southern Africa.
CURNOW: Water, houses, electricity, basic life.
AMANPOUR: But then the endemic problems of corruption, poverty and the income inequality and those sort of things. But as a stamp, his stamp is here and has got to be played out.
CUOMO: And certainly, the dream had levels of reality, right? The first one, to abolish apartheid. It's impossible to compare South Africa today to then. The progress is obvious and extreme.
CUOMO: But the dream obviously lives on. And that's where the United States President Barack Obama comes in. He was talking about the man and the message carrying it forward, the responsibility of the people in the stadium, the world leaders in this stadium to carry forward that message and of course back home in the United States. Here's some of what President Obama had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We must ask how well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It's a question I ask myself as a man and as a president. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice, the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CUOMO: Obviously drawing parallels between the United States experience, the American experience, and that has been suffered through in South Africa.
And John King, if I can bring you in, the president himself, Barack Obama, said the message of the legacy is to carry it forward into tomorrow. And that is much more easily said than done, is it not?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is more easily said than done there in South Africa. It is more easily said than done. You see the president recently focused -- Christiane was just talking about endemic income inequality in South Africa. The president of the United States just gave a speech on that here the other day back here in the United States.
So leaders find inspiration in moments. Sometimes they find inspiration in individuals. And, you know, how do you capture, how do you bottle the legacy of Nelson Mandela? Rick Stengel I think put it fabulously earlier when he said that South Africa today is exporting brand Mandela.
Well, we know what brand Mandela is today. It will be quite fascinating to watch this president, who's finishing his second term -- he's an historic figure here in the United States -- and these other leaders as we watch come up, each of them from very different political situations back home. How do they carry it home?
It was fascinating, you made the point, Chris, you know, to see China. When Mandela was inaugurated president of South Africa, China was not as big an international presence as it is today. So the world changes. Sometimes we view change through individual moments. Sometimes we view change through the careers and legacy of the people.
And today we're using the Mandela moment, the arc of Mandela to frame things. And it's a fascinating day, although I guess, the weather -- you're right there -- is putting a bit of a dampening on the stadium crowd.
CUOMO: Not on the spirit, though, John. You know, we're looking at the stadium right now. People have been chanting and singing in some form of celebration for hours here. Remember, many of them were waiting up until midnight last night to come in.
The speaker right now is President Pohamba of Namibia, a political prisoner himself. His most notable line so far that a great giant has gone to rest, obviously, Nelson Mandela.
CURNOW: Another description I've heard is a great baobab has fallen. Of course, a baobab is a tree. And it's -- you find them in Africa. The biggest -- the oldest trees sometimes in the world, the sense that this sort of trunk, this tremendous size of the man and the fact that the roots are now out. I think it's a wonderful analogy, too.
AMANPOUR: I do, too. And you know, as one who's covered so much conflict around the world, you can't help but really, really internalize this notion that without the kind of forgiveness that Mandela was able to exhibit, that's not just something nice. It's not just something between, you know, classroom bullies. It is the quintessential element of conflict resolution. It is a political tool. Forgiveness is a political tool to get over what seems to be intractable conflict. I honestly can't help but think right now about Israel and the Palestinians and any number --
CUOMO: Israel who doesn't have leadership here today.
AMANPOUR: Well, yes, the president is here. The prime minister did not come.
CUOMO: The prime minister did not come. The president is here.
AMANPOUR: No, but the president did come, yes.
CUOMO: And what does that mean, by the way?
AMANPOUR: Well, the president is the head of state, and he's come. But nonetheless, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under so much, you know, pressure these days and probably feels to a great extent that his country is isolated in the same way that apartheid South Africa was isolated.
But this is how you get over those intractable conflicts, by understanding the story of the other, by having a political process of resolution that is not just about domination or zero-sum game. Mandela knew there was no Africa for the blacks if it meant Africa without the whites. It was not possible.
CUOMO: Christiane Amanpour, Robyn Curnow, thank you for being with me.
Here we're going to go to break right now. Our coverage of the memorial service for Nelson Mandela continues on CNN International. Now, for those of you in the U.S., NEW DAY will continue right after the break.
CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to a special edition of "NEW DAY". It is Tuesday, December 10th. I am in South Africa, coming from the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg where we're following the incredible memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
We've heard from the U.S. president and other leaders of other major world powers, and, of course, family members all echoing the same message, that Nelson Mandela was a singular man, but his message must live on.
We're going to keep dipping in back here when there are things of relevance that you need to see and that we want to you to hear, but there's a lot of other news as well, so let's get to Kate Bolduan for that back in the studio in New York. Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Chris. It's been great to watch this incredible memorial along with you and the tens of thousands in that stadium with you. We'll get back to Chris shortly, but as Chris said, a lot of other news going on right now.
Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. We're watching yet another nasty morning storm here in the northeast. The federal government is shut down this morning in Washington. The roads too dangerous for workers to get in. Schools are closed this morning throughout the northeast.
Air travel will be disrupted yet again, hundreds of flights already grounded. It's on heels of that huge storm system that dumped snow, ice and freezing rain on millions over the weekend. Our storm coverage begins with CNN's Chris Lawrence live on the national mall this morning in Washington. How is it looking there this morning, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, just about 20 minutes ago we were getting freezing rain, and now it's starting to turn over into a very wet snow.
Here in D.C., the government's closed, all the schools, a lot of businesses as well. not because of what's already accumulated, obviously, but because of what's on the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LAWRENCE (voice-over): The skidding, the pile-ups, the bitter freezing cold, and it's not over yet. Monday's commutes were nasty. The snow and ice, snarling traffic on the ground and the air. Drivers resorted to pushing their cars over slippery overpasses and bridges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The roads are in terrible shape, slippery and slidey, and it's very slow.
LAWRENCE: In New Jersey, thawing ice and rain created major flooding problems in Seaside Heights, causing school closings and delays.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm panicking. I mean, it's coming in under the condo, and I'm on the bottom floor and that's the last thing I need is to have, you know, my duct (ph) work and everything else to short again.
LAWRENCE: Power lines covered in ice left thousands without power, putting utility crews out in full force, trying to restore service before the upcoming storm.
More than 1,700 flights were canceled on Monday, further aggravating travelers, some stuck in airports for days. Road crews working overtime at this hour to keep streets safe for commuters in hopes of preventing more deadly accidents, like this massive pile-up in Yonkers, New York. Forty people were hurt when slick roads caused 20 cars to collide late Sunday night.
And near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a traffic camera captured this horrifying 30-car pileup as it happened, with car after car crashing into each other, shutting down the highway.
TIM MILLER, GERMANTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'd see them go southbound and I'd see their taillights disappear into the snow. And then all of a sudden I'd see their brake lines come on, and I'd see the brake lights jump up or go off to the side or spin. And you knew it was just happening and I was praying to God that nobody was going to die.
LAWRENCE: Same highway, another pile-up, just a few miles away. One person died when dozens of vehicles rear-ended each other.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Well, you hate to see something like that. This storm is going to affect up to 50 million Americans, folks working at the White House, not immune. Snow already starting to fall there. And, again, as I said, it's already turning into a very wet snow, making the roads very, very slick, possibly the worst time in the morning. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. Rush hour in Washington is bad enough. And it looks like it will be a bad one today, though the federal government is closed. Chris, thank you so much for that.
Let's get to Jennifer Gray now tracking where this storm is headed and the east coast. Jennifer, of course, cold temperatures in the wintertime not unusual. But how widespread this is rare.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEROLOGIST: Yeah, we have 60 to 70 percent of the country covered in snow right now on the ground and that's very unusual this early in the season.
We do have the snow pushing into portions of Washington, D.C. You just saw that live shot, the White House looking gorgeous this morning -- could see two to three inches of snow and this is going to make its way up into the northeast. Here is D.C., pushing into areas like Baltimore and pushing into Philly right now, will be in New York City in the next couple of hours just on the fringes right there. And what we're looking at, isolated amounts, three to five inches could see about one to two inches within the city itself.