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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Obama Speaks at Arizona Memorial Service; Interview With New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Aired January 12, 2011 - 21:28   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Talking with the crowds. Welcome very much. Thanks. You're watching a special edition of 360 as we continue, let's go back to Arizona, watching President Obama talking with the crowds.

Events just wrapping up at the University of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center in Tucson. People continue -- people continuing to talk to the president. People coming to mourn Saturday's fallen. To pray for the survivors. To root for their congresswoman's full recovery.

They came to hear President Obama as he did what presidents do whenever a tragedy strikes. Counting on him to help them, help the country, help all of us start to heal. We'll be replaying parts of President Obama's speech throughout this hour and through the significant portion of the speech at the top of the next hour at 10:00 p.m. Eastern in case you missed it.

John King is in Arizona tonight, anchor of "JOHN KING USA". Also with us tonight, former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, senior political analyst David Gergen, Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist and former Obama campaign pollster. Also, Paul Begala, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, and 360 MD Sanjay Gupta.

Let's continue to look at that picture -- live picture in Arizona as we talk. David Gergen, you've worked for Presidents Reagan and Clinton, both of whom had to shepherd the nation during major tragedies. Your reaction to President Obama's remarks tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER: Well, John King made a helpful point, because a lot of us did come tonight thinking this would be more of a solemn memorial service. And we would have the kind of words that President Clinton used at Oklahoma City or that President Reagan did after the Challenger blew up.

But instead, it turned it much more of a pep rally. It almost kind of -- it seemed like a campaign rally. But I thought John was helpful by saying, you know, people -- people in Tucson needed to cheer.

So you had to get beyond that. I think it was jarring for those -- especially for those of us who are more traditionalists. Once you got beyond that, what the president had to say towards the end of his speech was important. Trying to transcend the bickering that's gone back and forth, and to try to find meaning through creating a more civil society and a place where we can have a more civil discourse, and honoring the victims through a more civil discourse.

That I thought clearly resonated with the audience. I'm sure it's going to resonate with much of the country.

COOPER: Paul, it was interesting, he talked about political discourse. But he was able to do it by focusing on the political discourse since the shooting, as opposed to discourse before the shooting.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's wise. I think he mailed a powerful point that when these crises happen, we want to try to impose order on chaos. And yet, as he said, scripture teaches us there's always evil.

I thought that section of it was a very delicate line for the president to walk. You know, he does not want to appear, I would think, lecture-y or preacher talking down to Americans who are having healthy political debates.

And yet, this has been a recurring motif throughout his public career. This president has always looked for unity and always called for civility.

I was struck. It seemed to me, you know, at over 30 minutes, it was an extraordinarily long speech for these sorts of situations. Ronald Reagan's Challenger speech was four and a half minutes. Bill Clinton's speech in Oklahoma was nine minutes. This was over 30.

But he was trying to do a lot of things. He was trying, most importantly, though, to speak for the fallen. And I thought that's where the real power of this speech was, when he told the stories of the fallen. And at the end, he came back, as David says, and reminded us that we have to try to lift ourselves to be worthy, particularly of little Christina Green. I thought that was very powerful.

COOPER: The applause, too, oftentimes lengthy, added to the time more than -- made the speech longer than it actually was. Cornell Belcher, you worked for then candidate Obama. What did you make of the speech?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I got to tell you, we saw Barack Obama at his finest tonight. I think you saw the inspiration and the passion that he spoke with tonight. A lot of people say they hadn't seen that in Barack Obama in the last two years. They hadn't seen that really since the campaign trail.

A couple big things to me tonight struck me. One, he was a head of state, a unifying figure, sort of bring us together. He talked about how all our hopes and dreams are bound together. And then he went to our core values, talking about what -- in the end what, matters is how we love, which has a really strong faith undertone, which is important for the country. And then he got above the politics. He talked about how we can't use this occasion as one to attack each other. Then he went straight -- to me, straight to something that is circling in Washington right now when he said no one can know what triggered this.

So he got above the politics in a way I think was very helpful and very commander in chief tonight.

COOPER: Michael Gerson, speech writer, you've written a lot of speeches for President Bush. What do you make of this one?

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I thought there were good and bad tonight. I think the good very much, as the others talked about, telling the stories of heroism, the stories of sacrifice. The president's good at that. That's humanizing. It dignifies. The details dignify. I think the president's good at that.

I think, in some ways, this was a speech dedicated to Christina Green, to be worthy of her innocence. And she had some of the most eloquent words of the speech, when she was quoted near the end. There was a strong spiritual undertone in this speech that I thought was very appropriate.

But it was long and it did in parts lecture. The president talks about discourse, and he talks about the news cycle. He can't resist lecturing in this kind of setting. I think the speech would have been better without it. And the setting was, frankly, strange. You can either have a pep rally or a memorial service. You can't have both at the same time.

COOPER: I found, just watching it, I think it took -- as David Gergen said, it took a while for viewers -- I was Tweeting with a lot of viewers -- to get used to the applause. And not just the applause but the whistles and shouts out. Certainly I, as a viewer, found it hard at first to get in the rhythm of things.

John King, as you pointed out, that didn't surprise you, given what you have seen, the people you've talked to, the spirit you've encountered in Arizona in the last couple of days.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, it has been difficult visiting coffee shops, being at the hospital where Congresswoman Giffords and some of the other victims still are. I was at her office today where there's a makeshift shrine, and interviewed an aide who was standing there. She takes pictures at these events. She was four feet away from the congresswoman snapping pictures when she said somebody came up and stood next to her, said nothing.

And then she saw the arm come up and she saw the gun in the shooter's hand and he opened fire four feet away. So there's been so much crying in this town the past five days. There has been so much silence because they're just shocked. Forget -- forgive me, but forget it's a federal judge. Forget it's a congresswoman. We all go to the supermarket. Just imagine this happening when you go to buy groceries. So the community has been so stunned and so tearful, quiet and angry at the same time. I think it simply needed tonight to cheer. The people here were stunned when they heard the president was coming. We think that's the president's responsibility, but they were quite surprised that the president was coming, grateful that he was coming.

I think at the end of that speech, when you heard first a hush in the room and then more applause, when he was speaking more as a parent than as a president about the youngest victim and about how -- yes, the president said no act of uncivility caused this to happen, but if we can be more civil going forward, to set an example, to live up to the expectations of our children -- that at the end was very, very powerful.

One last footnote; these are t-shirts they gave out to people, anyone who went into the auditorium today, "Together We Thrive, Tucson and America." There's a sense of unity in this community, Anderson, even as it is still going through quite a bit of shock.

COOPER: It's interesting, John, because actually, on a number of conservative blogs, there's writers sort of attacking those t-shirts, saying it's some sort of branding by the Democratic party. Whose t- shirts are those?

KING: It is the university handing them out. That also was the title, Anderson -- forgive me for turning but -- of the program tonight. I'm holding up the official program put out by the university. So these were all given to us by university officials, not by anybody with the Democratic.

When we're done with the program, we can trace back, see where they came from, the source. But our source for them were the volunteers outside of the event handing them out. This came directly from the university.

COOPER: OK. We're going to talk in a moment to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The president informing the world for the first time Congresswoman Giffords has opened her eyes. We'll talk to him and our panel as we continue our coverage. And more, a significant chunk of the president's address we'll replay you at the top of this hour, at 10:00. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have a full panel assembled tonight. John King is in Arizona. Also former bush speech writer Michael Gerson is with us. Senior political analyst David Gergen, Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist and former Obama campaign pollster. Paul Begala is with us as well, as well as 360 MD Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, we got news tonight from the president himself during his speech. It was a surprise, because it wasn't in the prepared remarks that were sent out to reporters moments before the president began to speak. I just want to play for our viewers the news we heard about Congresswoman Giffords from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to tell you, her husband Mark is here, and he allows me to share this with you. Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

Gabby opened her eyes. Gabby opened her eyes so I can tell you she knows we are here. She knows we love her. She knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Very surprising emotional moment. What does that mean? She's opened her eyes? We were told earlier, Sanjay, by doctors that she was having spontaneous movements.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, when you start to evaluate someone's neurological exam, there's three sort of components that become important. One's motor skills. We've talked about this a lot in terms of her following commands. Verbal skills, which she can't do right now. She has a breathing tube in place.

Eye opening is sort of the third component. And opening your eyes, obviously, a significant thing. Now whether she was doing that spontaneously or whether she was doing that because someone asked her to or responding to her name in some way, that would tell us a little more about this.

Certainly every day, Anderson, that we've talked about this, now, the last several days, there's been some new -- something new to report that's been a positive development. And certainly in this world of neurosurgery and recovering from brain injury, you want a positive development every single day. You certainly don't want something to go backwards. Obviously, a very positive sign.

COOPER: At this point, do we -- that would mean she's conscious? I mean if she's having spontaneous movements, but her eyes weren't open, was she conscious when she was doing that?

GUPTA: Good point. What I will tell you is this: movement alone is -- doesn't tell you a lot unless it is both spontaneous and purposeful. What I was listening for when Dr. Rhee was speaking and describing this earlier; she's having spontaneous movements, but it was to sort of, for example, adjust her hospital gown. That's a purposeful movement. It was to take her hand to a wound and sort of feel that. That's a purposeful movement.

That's different than just reflective movements, which don't give you a real indication of higher brain function. So both the movements, as well as the eye opening, especially if it was in response to her name being called out or her being asked to open her eyes, are very significant in terms of higher cognitive activity.

COOPER: David Gergen, did the president do what he needed to do tonight? There was so much rising vitriol over the reaction to the shooting. Did he -- do you think he cooled things down?

GERGEN: Well, Anderson, I do think that he may have helped to cool things down. Rick Davis with CNN has sent a note to several of us pointing out some Tweets from some conservative commentators, both "National Review" and the "Weekly Standard," praising the president's speech, seeing it, in fact, as him telling the left to cool it.

After all, it's been the liberals who led the charge about what happened there. And the conservatives countercharged. And so the right, in a sense, sees this as an effort to sort of say, hey, wait a minute, my friends on the left, don't blame the rhetoric for all of this. Let's go to a more civil discourse.

I think, in that sense, he may have helped cool things down. As terms of a Oklahoma City moment that we talked about before, a speech that would transform his presidency, I have a hard time saying that happened tonight. I think this context, because it seemed so much like a campaign rally, that may have worked well within the hall, but I'm not sure it worked as well with a national audience.

I think probably did not lift the speech into the annals of great oratory, where you find a moment that transforms presidencies.

COOPER: Although Paul, it's interesting, I'm getting a lot of Tweets from viewers who were watching who felt, as Cornell mentioned, sort of a return to the Obama of old. You could almost -- you know, the pattern of his voice changed and he seemed to, as the speech went on, sort of it echoed the Obama that many people came to -- you know, came to vote for on the campaign trail.

BEGALA: Yeah, I've been getting messages like that as well from friends of mine. He seemed -- and I'm trying to think of the right way to say this. He seemed much more comfortable than he sometimes is.

This is as difficult a challenge as a president faces. And yet he seemed remarkably relaxed. He was in command. Went off the prompter from time to time. He kind of joshed that young hero, Daniel Hernandez, and said, yes, in fact, young man, you are a hero.

So yes, I think David's right. This is not going to transform his presidency. I don't know if in 10 or 15 years people will watch this speech and weep. I do think it helped to reconnect him to his constituents, to our country, in a more human way.

The best parts of that speech were when he spoke as a father, not as a professor, not even as a president. But when he spoke as a father, you could see how powerful. I thought he was going to cry when he kept looking down -- did you notice, when he was talk about Christina at the end, he couldn't even look up at us I think for fear of losing control of his emotions. COOPER: David -- Michael Gerson, I want to ask you, David Gergen mentioned some of these Tweets. From Stephen Hayes of the "Weekly Standard," he said "President Obama gave an exceptional speech, empathetic, moving, strong, optimistic, important." And Rich Lowry over at the "National Review" said, "well done, Mr. President. Shows the right saw his cool to blame game, his advice to those who are blaming right. And those are the ones on the left wing."

Do you agree with those?

GERSON: Well, I do think the president, you know, had a meditation on those issues. And he criticized the blame game in the speech, that this was a time for inspiration rather than blame. And that's an appropriate sentiment.

He also said some things like, to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future. I have no idea what he meant. I'm not quite sure why some of these things were in there. I don't think the speech was a disciplined speech. I think it tried to do, in some ways, too much. And in that way, not a memorable speech.

But a speech, as others have said, can be effective without being memorable and eloquent.

COOPER: Dana Bash is actually -- well, actually, I'll see if I can confirm that.

BELCHER: Can I jump in?

COOPER: Yeah, go ahead.

BELCHER: I love how we do this in Washington and New York and go round and round. I think the president's speech was effective tonight because, you know what, it rallied Americans. And the cheering that went on, you know what, in the end, Americans -- after mourning, Americans want to cheer. Americans want to rally around the flag and their leaders and want to cheer.

I remember when Bush went to Ground Zero. And he pulled out that bull horn. You know, I was never a Bush fan. But you know what, I wanted to cheer. And that's what the president gave us tonight. He was effective at doing it.

COOPER: Let's talk to Cornell -- let's see. We're on the line with Michael Gerson, David Gergen, Cornell Belcher, Paul Begala, Sanjay Gupta and John King.

I don't know if I want to inject politics into this at this point, give that the whole message of the speech was sort of rising above it. But Sarah Palin did put out basically an eight-minute video today. I want to play just a brief part of it and get some of your reactions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas.

But especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Paul Begala, what did you make of Palin's comments?

BEGALA: I don't think I can say on a family network after a memorial service, Anderson. It was -- look, you don't become a politician at Sarah Palin's level unless you have a healthy self- image. OK? But this is political narcissism of the extreme. She's the victim?

Now, I watched the entire tape twice today, and I read it three times. And it didn't get any better. It's incredibly self- referential. It does not even mention the names of the victims in that eight minutes. It is all about Sarah and how she's been wronged.

Now, perhaps she has been wronged. But let me tell you, this was just not the sort of speech Ronald Reagan would have given if he had been wronged. This was no rising above it. This was no call for unity. This was very bitter, very self-centered speech. Just awful.

She needs better advice. Someone needs to talk to her and say, Sarah, I know this stinks, and I know you've been hurt and wronged, but you need to speak as a mom, the way President Obama just spoke as a dad. She's a wonderful mother. She's devoted to her five children.

She should have talked about that little girl who was lost or the adults who lost their older parents, not as just a politician who's wounded and who's been sat upon by the media in the left.

COOPER: I want to get more reaction. I've been stumbling the last couple seconds because I've been having someone talk in my ear and getting e-mails. Dana Bash is reporting that she's been told that Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand were actually in the room when Giffords first opened her eyes.

And Gillibrand told Dana Bash, quote, "it was like witnessing a miracle."

David Gergen -- Michael Gerson, let me ask you, a Republican, what did make of Sarah Palin's comments?

GERSON: Well, I kind of agreed. This is a case where she chose -- she was wronged and she chose to counterpunch. That really confirms her image as a polarizing figure. It doesn't change her image, which I think this might have been an opportunity to do.

She had a set of remarks that was about maybe seven and a half minutes Ronald Reagan and 30 seconds Spiro Agnew, getting back at her enemies. And, of course, everyone's focus is on the Spiro Agnew part. And I just don't think it helped her in any way. It just confirmed what people think.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. More when we come back. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're back with our panel. David Gergen, what did you think of Sarah Palin's remarks? Was this a missed opportunity for her?

GERGEN: I thought she made a terrible mistake trying to go toe to toe with Barack Obama on the same day.

COOPER: Do you think she was intentionally doing that?

GERGEN: Yes. I think she tried to get out in front of the president. And particularly that line that's been singled out, the blood libel line, you know, that's -- Jewish groups, of course, see that as anti-Semitic. It goes back to an old libel that used to be used against Jews, who were accused of using Christian blood to smear their children. And there are Jewish groups that have taken quite serious umbrage with her comment, using that phrase.

I just thought it was jarring. but I want to come back to something Michael Gerson said, because I thought it was important, about what the president was trying to do tonight. I think the president had an important message and I think he was generally effective. But I must say that by putting him into a rally like atmosphere --

I disagree with Cornell. This was not about whether Barack Obama has recovered his mojo and whether Barack Obama is back into his campaign capacity. This was about a serious event in the nation's life and trying to find meaning in that event. And I think a quieter event might have been more helpful to trying to find meaning that everyone could join in on.

COOPER: It does seem, though, that -- I'm not sure how much control the White House had over this, the tenor of this event. From the get-go, with the -- you know, the professor there who gave the blessing, I mean, it seemed to be kind of very much something the University of Arizona had just cooked up on their own.

BELCHER: The thing is the president can't control what the people are going to do at -- in that venue. Again, these people were -- as John pointed out, they've been doing some mourning. They were ready to release in a rally and sort of have some positive energy. I think that's what you saw tonight.

GERSON: The president can put together any event he wishes. That's just the nature of the presidency. And this was not a speech, by the way, that was written for this setting. It didn't have applause lines. Some of them were odd, where people applauded. It wasn't written for that purpose. There was actually a mismatch between the setting and the speech. I don't think they expected this.

COOPER: I think that's probably true. We got to take another quick break. Our coverage is going to continue all the way through to the 11:00 hour. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And, if you're just joining us, welcome to this special 360 tonight at 10:00.

President Obama in Tucson in his role as healer in chief, speaking at memorial services for the six killed in Saturday's massacre, he and Mrs. Obama visiting families of the fallen and comforting the wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The president tonight delivering some unexpected news, some unexpectedly good news about her condition, that her eyes have opened.

Also today, new details were emerging about the alleged gunman, and earlier Sarah Palin adding her voice, stirring controversy by equating criticism of heated rhetoric surrounding the shooting with the invocation of collective guilt. That's the political backdrop.

We are going to begin, though, as apolitically as possible with an assessment of the president's message tonight. We are going to play you an extended chunk of the president's address, but I want to go on the telephone.

We're joined by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Senator, you were actually in the room when Congresswoman Giffords opened her eyes; is that correct?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I was. I was with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I was with Speaker Pelosi, her parents, her husband, Mark, and the doctors.

COOPER: What was the moment like? What -- what -- tell us about it.

GILLIBRAND: It was extraordinary. I mean, we were -- we were lucky that we were even getting to visit her. So, we felt so blessed that we could even see her.

And she was amazing. She was holding my hand at the time, and she was squeezing it and even stroking it. She was -- absolutely could hear everything we were saying. And Debbie and I were telling her how much she was inspiring the nation with her courage, her strength. And we were talking about the things we wanted to do as soon as she was better.

And I was saying, we will have another night out for beer and pizza with your husband. And Debbie started talking about taking her out to their house in New Hampshire. And we were just talking about all the things we wanted to do. And -- and, all of a sudden, she started to struggle to open her eyes. And -- and so Mark saw that and said, you know: "Open your eyes, Gabby. Open your eyes."

And she kept struggling and struggling. And Mark just kept encouraging her. And, within a moment, she literally opened her eyes. And the doctor was unbelievably excited, because this was such great progress. And -- and so it was something that we couldn't imagine that -- that we would have witnessed.

But then she -- she took a few moments to try to focus, and you could see that she was focusing. And then Mark said -- he said: "You know, Gabby, if you can see me, if you can see me, you know, give us a thumbs-up, give us a thumbs-up."

And she didn't only give the thumbs-up. She literally raised her entire hand. And we were just -- we couldn't stop crying. We were so excited and so -- just witnessing something we couldn't imagine we were in the room for.

And it was just one of those moments that -- that life brings you so rarely. And both Debbie and I are just sitting -- we're sitting there in awe of her, about her strength and courage and what she was able to -- to communicate to us. And it was an extraordinary moment in both our lives.

COOPER: And -- and the -- just...

GILLIBRAND: I mean, Debbie and I were just talking about it.

COOPER: Just so you know, our viewers, on the left side of the screen, are watching the president and Mrs. Obama about to board Air Force One.

Senator, how -- how long did -- I mean, did she keep her eyes open? Were her eyes still open when you left?

GILLIBRAND: She only kept them open for a moment, probably about 30 seconds? How long?

Yes.

And how long did she keep them open total? Maybe 30 -- maybe 30 seconds, maybe 60 seconds, about -- it was just moments, but it was -- it was open, and then you could see she was focusing. And then, when asked if she could see, she responded positively.

And so it was -- and the doctor said, you know, after that moment, she's like, she needs to rest. And so we said our good-byes and said we'd be back. And -- and, so, it was a moment, but it was a really important moment for her, and -- and one that we just feel so blessed to be a part of.

I would like to give the phone to Debbie, because she'd like to say a few words as well.

COOPER: Sure.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Hi. Hi, Anderson. How are you? It's Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

COOPER: So, explain -- how was it for you when -- what -- explain what you saw.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, we were -- we were in the room. Kirsten was holding -- we were all alternately holding her hand.

She -- we were taking turns talking to her, and, you know, just saying -- you know, Kirsten talked about, you know, going out for pizza with -- with their husbands. And then I said, because we have vacationed with Mark and Gabby for the last couple of summers. They have come up to our house in New Hampshire.

So, I told her -- I said, come on, you have got to get better as quick as possible, because we expect you up in New Hampshire this summer. And, just as I said that, that's when she suddenly (AUDIO GAP) struggling to open her -- struggling to open her eyes.

And, you know, at first -- at first, it was just a little bit. The doctors couldn't believe it. They -- they said, this is -- you know, this is such a good sign -- and then they -- sorry, we're just coming up to the plane -- this is such a good sign.

Then Mark started encouraging her. "You know, Gabby, you know, give me a thumbs-up if you can see. If can you see me, touch my ring. You know, touch my wedding ring."

So, she started doing that. She started rubbing his arm. Then her arm -- when he asked her again to -- to give him the thumbs-up if she -- we just kept talking to her and talking to her about the fun that we have had with her.

And so then she opened her eyes more. I mean, she went from opening her eyes really just in slits to opening them almost fully. I mean, it wasn't for very long, and then they would close again.

But it was just absolutely -- Anderson, it was the most incredible -- other than the birth of my kids, it was the most incredible experience that I have ever -- I have ever had.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Congresswoman -- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you're breaking up. We appreciate you being on the phone with us, as well as Senator Gillibrand.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Giffords' communications director, C.J. Karamargin.

C.J., I appreciate you being with us.

C.J. KARAMARGIN, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Sure.

COOPER: You know, we have just been talking to Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who say they were in the room when Congresswoman Giffords actually opened her eyes.

KARAMARGIN: Yes.

COOPER: You've been in that hospital. Explain, what is the scene like there?

KARAMARGIN: Well, the scene is an intensive care unit. There are doctors and monitors and tubes. And it's a -- it's a hospital with a patient in critical condition.

But I was speaking with Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz right before the president spoke, when the congresswoman's staff met with the congresswoman -- when the president met with the congresswoman's staff -- excuse me.

And we heard that same story. And it is just so heartening, Anderson. Mark Kelly, the congresswoman's husband, told us that the congresswoman reached out toward his face, touched his wedding ring.

And, you know, our boss is a fighter, and she's fighting. And we saw that today.

COOPER: We're looking at pictures, live pictures of the -- the memorial, the makeshift memorial that has sprung up outside the hospital where the congresswoman is.

And it's just -- it's been growing every day. And it's just this extraordinary outpouring from people, probably from all over the country...

KARAMARGIN: Right.

COOPER: ... who have sent things, people from the state, who just want to do something.

What -- do you think -- I mean...

KARAMARGIN: Well, Anderson, you saw...

COOPER: Yes.

KARAMARGIN: You saw the human version of that in this auditorium tonight, that -- that outpouring, that expression of love and support.

You know, I don't know what the political analysis is going -- political analysis is going to be of what the president's remarks were. But, in the -- in McKale Center, we had about 13,000 people outside, another 13,000 people -- 26,000 people coming to express their support and love for the victims of this tragedy.

As I was leaving, a woman called me over and gave me this rosary and asked me to give it to the congresswoman. I mean, this is the atmosphere we have here. It is a great tableau.

From my seat, I could look down and I could see the first lady, Barack Obama. And next to him was the hero, Daniel Hernandez, right next to Daniel Hernandez, a famous daughter of Arizona, Sandra Day O'Connor. I mean, it was just -- the tableau of America that we saw tonight was truly inspirational.

COOPER: I think a lot of viewers were surprised -- I know I was surprised -- by the applause and the cheering early on.

Explain that for those who aren't there. John King was saying, if you spent time there, if you have been there for the last couple days, people need to cheer.

Did -- did you feel that?

KARAMARGIN: Yes. People need to cheer. People need to cry.

There's a catharsis that's necessary when we -- when our community goes through a tragedy like this. And that was the -- I think, the great thing about the remarks that we heard tonight. It was an acknowledgment by the president of a community that's trying to come to terms with unbearable grief.

And he did, I think, an admirable, memorable job. In that arena, it was impossible not to be touched by the president's words.

COOPER: Well, I know, I mean, everybody's thoughts and our prayers are with the congresswoman and -- and all the members of your staff and all the folks down there who are still wounded, still trying to come to terms with what we have been witnessing and what happened to them.

We're going to talk to Sanjay Gupta in just a moment.

C.J., I appreciate you being with us.

Sanjay, obviously, this is amazing news that the congresswoman's eyes have opened. The importance of it medically for you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, now they have given us some more information here, Anderson, specifically that she sounds like she was really doing it because she was being asked to do it.

You know, she -- she was being -- they -- they were talking to her, relaying stories, and then asking her to open her eyes, which she did. And that takes it to a whole different level, as opposed to just spontaneous eye-opening, which is significant. But doing it to a command, doing -- you know, and then reaching out with her hand and touching specific things, the wedding ring, for example -- I heard the story -- those -- those are all very significant.

It sounds like she is really hearing, processing everything, and being able to execute these commands in a way that's improving day by day. Eye-opening, again, as I mentioned earlier, you really -- you -- you look at people's motor skills, which she is showing, their eye- opening, which she's now showing. Verbal skills would be sort of a third category.

She can't do that right now because of the breathing tube that she still has in, but, you know, forward movement, Anderson, every single day.

COOPER: Yes, good news indeed, always good to report.

More with Sanjay in the hour ahead.

More breaking news as it comes in tonight.

After the break, we are going to play you an extended portion of the president's speech, in case you missed it. Also, our panel is going to weigh in.

Let us know what you think -- the live chat right now at AC360.com.

We will also talk about the key moments tonight, including more about the news about the congresswoman's recovery, and, later, also, what Sarah Palin had to say about the tragedy today, and her call to stop what she calls the voices trying to blame anyone for the shooting but the gunman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And we're back.

President Obama departing Tucson tonight, after speaking to a capacity crowd on the University of Arizona campus. It was really a part memorial service, part kind of a pep rally, remembering the victims of Saturday's shooting, calling on the country to live up to our better angels.

Now, we're going to talk to our panel momentarily, but we do want to play you an -- extended portions, selected portions from the president's speech tonight, in case you missed it.

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders: representatives of the people answering questions to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns back to our nation's capital. Gabby called it "Congress on Your Corner," just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And that quintessentially American scene, that was the scene that was shattered by a gunman's bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday, they, too, represented what is best in us, what is best in America.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken, and yet our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.

And I want to tell you -- her husband, Mark, is here, and he allows me to share this with you. Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you, she knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for her.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Our hearts are full of thanks for that good news, and our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. Their actions, their selflessness poses a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless.

Already, we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much -- much of this process...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self- government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that -- that heals, not in a way that wounds.

For the truth is, none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.

Yes, we had to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That, we cannot do.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That we cannot do.

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. (APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And that process -- that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions, that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.

For those who were harmed, those who were killed, they are part of our family, an American family, 300 million strong.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners.

Phyllis, she's our mom or our grandma, Gabe, our brother or son.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America's fidelity to the law.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And in Gabby -- in Gabby, we see a reflection of our public- spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never- ending process to form a more perfect union.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And in Christina, in Christina, we see all of our children, so curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic, so deserving of our love, and so deserving of our good example.

If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.

They believed -- they believed and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here, they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I believe that, for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. (APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.

May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May he love and watch over the survivors. And may he bless the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama, a rousing speech in front of a capacity crowd at the University of Arizona, everyone -- telling everyone to live up to the best in the fallen, the heroes, and ourselves.

Joining us now, senior political analyst David Gergen, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson.

Doug Brinkley, what did you make of this? The first we're hearing from you.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I thought President Obama did a wonderful job this evening. I thought that he really brought people together.

I mean, when he, in the middle of the speech, said, "Gabby opened her eyes, Gabby opened her eyes," and you could almost hear a Martin Luther King-like inflection -- and he carried that throughout a lot of the speech.

I was, like David Gergen earlier, a little put off by the atmospherics, 14,000 cheering people. But the president, I think, worked his way into that atmosphere. So, by the end of it, you could almost feel people hugging in the excitement, in the warmth and the love in the arena.

So, I think, Tucson, it really was a speech for the people there. And it's the city that's been hurting so much. Some day, there will be a plaque out in front of that auditorium that Barack Obama gave this very significant speech there.

And the president, I think, struck a tone of civility. I think he's been on a bit of a political role lately. And he's only enhanced by, I think, giving a performance like this, because it seemed heartfelt. And he -- he conjured up, I think, some powerful images and made sure that he -- he commented on all the people he needed to, as any good memorial speech needs to do.

COOPER: David, I mean, I do get the sense, in watching this, that, unless you're there, unless you're -- you know, live in -- in -- in Tucson, live in Arizona, and are living through this on the ground in a very visceral way -- I mean, we're all feeling it, we're all thinking about it constantly, but unless you're actually part of that community, you kind of don't get the -- the reason for cheering. You don't have that same sense of -- you know, wanting a release and wanting to have this shared common experience.

GERGEN: That's a very perceptive comment, Anderson. I did feel that the whole country must have been heartened by -- by the story of her opening her eyes. And your conversation with the senator, and the congresswoman, that was to me, I think all of us were just enormously encouraged and that to me was the high point of the evening.

And I do think in the replaying, the president's call to civility and decency in the way we treat each other is very important. But do I agree with you that, unless you're in Tucson, I think it's really sort of hard to relate to the cheering at a time when, you know, there's a sense of grieving and a sense of wonderment in the country about this continuing violence.

I also felt that the president calling for decency was absolutely right. I was delighted he did that. But as he said, as we debate going forward, it's not clear to me what he want to debate. About what led to the killing and leads to this kind of violence. And I think it's not clear where this goes from here.

COOPER: Well, I think, Michael, clearly, the president was not focusing on what happened before, but was focusing on the debate that's sprung up and the tone of the debate that's sprung up since the shooting.

GERSON: I agree with that. And in that context he called on people to avoid the blame game. That's been one of the most disturbing aspects of what's happened, is that people have been taking the idea of civility, the idea of tolerance, and using it as a weapon in their ideological battles. And, you know, that -- that is both ironic and disturbing. And the president criticized that in this speech. I think he deserves credit for that.

So, you know, I'm just not sure that, in a memorial service like this, addressing the news cycle, addressing the issue of the day, which this is definitely the issue of the day, was the right approach. I think there might have been other settings to do that. But what he said, I think, was constructive.

COOPER: Doug Brinkley, do you think that this was kind of the Obama of old during the campaign, sort of some of the tenor, some of the -- the cadences that he used?

BRINKLEY: Part of it. Some of it seemed like a little bit of a teleprompter speech, where he was making sure he had all the people's names right and said things exactly right, and another part of the speech seemed quite moving and passionate.

But as he's leaving Tucson tonight with his wife, they must have had a very moving day...

COOPER: Yes.

BRINKLEY: ... being in the hospital and seeing Gabby and all of this. So I think the president was a winner for coming to Tucson. I think most Americans will think he did a good job.

COOPER: In a moment you're actually going to hear from some of the folks who met the president today. I'm going to talk to Christina's parents, to John and Roxanna Green about what they talked to President Obama about.

We'll also talk to some of the survivors from the shooting, the McMahon family, the mom. You see her right there, second from the right. She was hit by gunfire three times. Saved her daughter's life, she did. We'll talk to them ahead and we'll have Christina's story, Christina Green, just 9 years old. The president spoke about her a lot tonight. We'll talk to them all ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Even as preparations were underway for tonight's event in Tucson, new details were emerging about the suspect, Jared Loughner.

Randi Kaye has been following that angle. She joins us now with the latest.

Randi, what did you learn today?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there were three new tidbits of information coming out today, each of them significant. And I'll just run through them quickly for you.

Investigators are now looking for a black bag. Apparently, Jared Lee Loughner had a conversation in his front yard with his father the morning of the shooting, Saturday morning. His father saw him with this black bag. He asked him what's in it? Where are you going with it? What's that for? And apparently, the suspect then took off. His son took off, and he got in his truck. His father actually got in his truck, tried to chase him down, didn't find him.

We don't know what was in the bag, if he was possibly carrying ammunition or what. But as far as we know, the authorities are now looking to try to find that black bag.

Another bit of information tonight, we know that at 7:30 in the morning on Saturday, two hours and 40 minutes before that shooting, the suspect was actually stopped at a red light, because he had run that red light. He was stopped by officers from the Arizona Game and Fish. He was questioned and released. They didn't think he had done much wrong, so they let him go on his way.

And that's one of those moments, Anderson, where you just wonder, could that have changed the course of what happened over this terrible tragedy here? And that also might have been why he may have taken a taxi, as we know, to the Safeway that morning.

The last bit of information, new information coming out today is that we already knew that officers been to the Loughner home, and they had found an envelope with the congresswoman's name on it. Now we found out today, we're told today that they also found a piece of paper in a locked box at the house. And on that piece of paper was scrawled these words. These are direct quotes, "Die cop, die bitch. Assassination plans have been made." That piece of paper with that writing was inside a locked box at the Loughner home, Anderson.

COOPER: Very disturbing writings indeed. Randi, appreciate that.

Details may be tough to take for the families who have been through so much. We only hope that seeing justice done will provide some comfort in the days and months ahead.

Over the last couple of days, we've heard just amazing stories of heroism, acts of unselfish love on Saturday in Tucson as a gunman fired his weapon at innocent people.

Mary Reed was in the parking lot with her husband and two teenage kids. She was standing next to her daughter, waiting to greet Congresswoman Giffords, when the carnage began. She reacted as a parent as you hope a parent would, as any parent hopes they would, shielding her own child from harm. Mary Reed was shot three times. She survived. She joins us now, along with her husband, Tom, her daughter, Emma, and her son, Owen.

Mary, your story is actually incredible. You were shot three times while shielding your daughter from the gunman. When the shots rang out, did you know what was going on right away?

MARY REED, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I didn't. Not until I actually felt the first shot at me. He was probably ten feet away, and I was facing him, speaking with the Stoddards. Unfortunately, Mr. Stoddard passed.

I was shot, and then Mr. Stoddard immediately jumped in front of his wife and was shot. And he continued down, the gunman continued down the line.

You have to imagine how small a space this was. We were between a brick wall, which was the store, and a stanion (ph), which was only a person and a half wide.

When they were cleaning my wounds, the medic who cleaned my wounds is a war veteran, and he kept saying, "Oh, my God. Look at the amount of gunpowder on her." So he was quite close. He went down the line shooting, and...

COOPER: He actually was just walking down the line shooting?

REED: It wasn't quite walking, but it wasn't running, either. He was moving quickly, and he shot me first here, and then Mr. Stoddard jumped in front of his wife. We had just been speaking about college for Emma, and then -- and then I shoved Emma against the wall and put my arms on either side of her. He shot in this arm, and then he shot me in the back as he passed. After he passed, the lady behind me, standing in line, grabbed the next magazine. You could hear him releasing the magazine in order to come back to put a new magazine in and come back.

COOPER: Emma, did you -- I mean, did you know right away when you heard the shots what was going on? Did you know that you and your mom were in danger?

EMMA MCMAHON, EYEWITNESS: I did not, actually. I thought they were fireworks. I thought somebody was just playing a prank and throwing fireworks at the congresswoman. I didn't realize what was happening until I saw people crowding against the wall and screaming.

So I kind of crowded against the wall, and I felt my mom over me. But it was over so fast. It must have taken less than ten seconds. So it wasn't until really the whole thing was over that I realized what had happened.

COOPER: Your mom saved your life.

E. MCMAHON: Yes, she did.

COOPER: Tom...

E. MCMAHON: I'm just -- I'm so grateful for her, it's just unbelievable.

COOPER: Yes. I mean -- yes. Incredible. I mean, Tom, you and your son were about ten feet away, which was far enough, luckily, to keep you out of the gunman's target zone. Did you know that your wife and daughter, that Emma was in -- was, you know, was right there?

TOM MCMAHON, EYEWITNESS: I knew where my family was during the event. Once I found out, realized that there was danger, my son was to my left. I turned around and told him to run and basically chased him down the hallway.

Once I found out, once I realized that he was out of danger, I then turned around and saw that the gunman was down on the ground and went to my wife's side, to see what the damage was, how she was wounded. I could tell she was wounded. I could tell that Emma seemed OK, but that Mary needed my help.

COOPER: You must be incredibly proud of her.

T. MCMAHON: Of my wife, yes. Very much. Very much proud of her. I'm proud of my whole family for dealing with this. I'm proud of my -- my wife for saving my daughter, and I'm very thankful that she's OK, that she -- it wasn't worse for us. As it could have been.

COOPER: Owen -- yes. Owen, was it scary when the shots rang out? I mean, did it seem real to you?

OWEN MCMAHON, EYEWITNESS: I don't know, but it was very scary, definitely. I kind of was already processing that these weren't fireworks, because we had been to New Mexico several times kind of, and we bought a few fireworks there because they're legal there. And I'd also gone to the shooting range with my cousin, and we shot his guns, and it sounded closer to that. So I was already processing "run."

COOPER: Right. Emma, when you realized your mom had been shot three times, what did you do?

E. MCMAHON: I immediately called 911, and so I then walked over to the Walgreens. I didn't know how bad it was. At first I thought she was actually shot in the leg. So I walked over to the Walgreens until I got through to the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

And then I immediately ran back to my mom. And the butchers brought out clean uniforms to be pushing into people's wounds, so I held that against her back.

COOPER: Mary, how are you doing now?

REED: I'm actually healing. I'm quite sore, as I would -- I still have the bullets, as memories inside of me, and I -- I'm just quite sore. The back, in particular, traveled along from my mid back all the way to but not through my spine.

So I was extremely lucky that, with three rounds, it hit -- didn't hit an artery, a vein, a major organ, any organ or a bone.

COOPER: Yes.

REED: So I am incredibly lucky.

COOPER: Incredibly brave. I mean, just amazing. You saved your daughter's life. Just very briefly, Mary, what was it like being there tonight? I mean, from the president's remarks. Did they -- did you hear what you wanted to hear?

REED: Anderson, I was overwhelmed with seeing the woman that was standing behind me that actually grabbed the magazine out of the gunman's hand.

I -- I loved what President Obama said, in that -- that we have to be civil to each other. We have to make our children proud of us. We need to honor our -- the 9-year-old girls and boys in this world and do the right thing. And so for that, I was very grateful. It was a gracious speech. My 13-year-old even stayed awake through the whole speech, so it had to be very, very inspirational.

But I was overwhelmed by seeing the people that I was actually standing in line next to, talking to, as the shots rang out.

COOPER: Well, Mary, Tom, Emma, Owen, I appreciate you being with us. I'm so happy that you're all alive, and safe, and I know your thoughts are with those still recovering and still -- well, still dealing with the loss. I appreciate all you being with us. Thank you.

REED: Thank you. COOPER: Still ahead tonight, remembering Christina Taylor Green, just 9 years old. What an enormous impression she has made in her short life. We're going to hear from her family ahead. I talked to her mom and dad. You'll also meet her little brother.

Also more on Congresswoman Giffords' recovery. We're joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was by the congresswoman's side when she opened her eyes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama brought the crowd to its feet tonight when he departed from the prepared text of his speech to reveal that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot through the head on Saturday, opened her eyes today.

House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi was there in the hospital room with her when it happened. She joins us now by phone.

Congresswoman Pelosi, what was that moment like?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER (via phone): Well, it was, as you can just imagine, a glorious moment. My colleagues, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kirsten Gillibrand were invited by the family to visit Gabby, which we considered to be an honor, being there with her parents and her husband, Mark Kelly.

It was a girl power moment because we were striving -- amusing and reminding of things that she was going to come back to when she came to the Congress. And then she opened her eyes, and her husband -- she looked at her husband and responded to comments that he made. And it was like a miracle. Really. It was something so spectacular.

We chalk it up to girl power, but I think it's largely due to the magnificent care she is receiving at the University of Arizona Medical Center. The love of her family, and, well, like those moments, the love of her friends. The president and the first lady had just been in the room, so I think it all contributed to that glorious moment.

COOPER: And what was it like being in that hall tonight hearing the president speak?

PELOSI: Well, all of us had -- a number of us had gone to Arizona to pay our respects to those who lost their loved ones and to -- to meet the families of those who were injured, to meet Gabby's staff and the rest and thank the medical -- and the medical caregivers at the University Medical Center.

So when the president spoke in such a particular way that each and every person who was lost on Saturday and when he challenged us to honor their memory by having a debate, a conversation worthy of those people and their sacrifice. It was very -- it was really transforming for the audience.

And it was a special speech, I think, for the president, as well. I think he moved the country with the speech. That's how it seemed in the hall.

COOPER: Do you think the tone will change?

PELOSI: Well, I certainly hope so. I don't see why it would not. We all, as the lovely young man, Daniel Hernandez said, we are one country. We have that common bond. And as the president said, we have much more that binds us together than that which separates us. I would certainly hope so.

COOPER: Minority Leader Pelosi, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

PELOSI: Thank you. Bye-bye.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, remembering Christina Taylor Green, just 9 years old. We'll talk to her parents tonight, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, President Obama mentioned Christina Taylor Green numerous times tonight, the youngest shooting victim. Her story has broken a lot of hearts.

Christina was just 9 years old, by all accounts, a very, very special little girl. A third grader, recently elected to her student council. She wanted to meet her congresswoman. She was interested in government. Christina's family is going to bury her tomorrow.

Before tonight's memorial service, President Obama met with her family, her parents Roxanna and John, and her older brother, Dallas. I spoke to them earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So John and Roxanna, it's been four days since the shooting. How are you both holding up?

ROXANNA GREEN, MOTHER OF CHRISTINA: It's minute by minute, day by day. We're just taking it slow. We're hanging in there; we're trying to be strong. We have to be strong. Our country's being strong. Our community is being strong for us. So we will, you know, get through this with our faith and our friends and our family.

COOPER: Do you feel all the -- I mean, the love and the thoughts that so many people have for you and for Christina right now?

R. GREEN: Yes, we certainly do. We appreciate everything that everyone's done for us, and we do feel the love. And that kind of makes it a lot easier to have everyone, you know, trying to take care of us and be there for us.

JOHN GREEN, FATHER OF CHRISTINA: People from all over the country have touched our family. It's been a really tough time for us, but, you know, the fire department of New York is sending the 9/11 flag out for Christina, for her service tomorrow. And, you know, people have all over, California, the East Coast, my parents came from overseas.

The help we've had in Tucson has been unbelievable. Law enforcement, it's just -- I don't think we could have done it without everybody. And it makes us certainly feel good about our -- people close to us and definitely about our country.

COOPER: Yes, John, for those who don't know, obviously, Christina was born on 9/11. And as you said, a firefighter is coming down from New York with an actual flag that was recovered from the World Trade Center site. When you heard that, what -- what meaning does that have for you that it's going to be displayed at her funeral tomorrow?

J. GREEN: Roxanna and I both let out a gasp, really, of emotion, because, you know, that meant a lot to us and for them to extend that courtesy to our daughter. Again, it's just another one of those things that will help, for us. We feel like the country won't forget her.

COOPER: John, you just came from a meeting with President Obama. What did the president say to you?

J. GREEN: He expressed that there are no words, and to stay strong and believe in our country. And we've -- one thing we promised him is we would do that. We did take our family to -- Christina and Dallas and Roxanna and I went to D.C. right after he got elected. And we had such a wonderful time in Washington, D.C., and, you know, we're going to...

R. GREEN: We're going to go back.

J. GREEN: We're going to go back. And Michelle...

R. GREEN: Invited us.

J. GREEN: ... invited us, invited Dallas to come in and see everybody. So I think he was excited about that, and we would be proud to be a part of that. And I know Christina, you know, her -- that's something she would have loved to do.

COOPER: Roxanne, I know you -- we talked before, that the president had called you, and you said it was one of best phone calls you had ever gotten. What was it like for you? What did the president say to you?

R. GREEN: Well, I was honored to meet him and his wife and all the other people today. You know, there -- there aren't any words, but just for them to show their love and support and be there for us, it's comforting.

COOPER: Obviously for Dallas, this is incredibly tough, and how do you feel he's doing?

R. GREEN: I think he's doing very well. He's very brave. He's very strong, just like his sister.

J. GREEN: How are you doing, buddy?

DALLAS GREEN, BROTHER OF CHRISTINA: Good.

J. GREEN: Good.

R. GREEN: He's doing good. He's doing a lot better.

J. GREEN: We know you miss your sister, but he'll be strong.

R. GREEN: He's going to be strong.

COOPER: And you guys have set up a memorial fund under Christina's name.

J. GREEN: The Christina Taylor Green memorial fund. We have set up that in honor of her. And there's -- there's been so many other people that have -- that have offered to set up other funds. We don't really have -- we can't wrap ourselves around all those yet at this point, but we have a memorial fund for her.

It's going to help children less fortunate in the area of northwest Tucson. And, you know, people -- people have come forward and offered to name Little League parks after her and things like that, which we're deeply honored. But something we know she would be proud of is to have whatever money comes in to help kids in our community that need some help.

R. GREEN: With education money, so they can fulfill their dreams.

COOPER: I'm not sure if you -- this may be -- I don't want to ask an inappropriate question, and if you don't want to answer this, that's fine. I know the Loughner family had put out a statement just saying how sorry they were. I wondered if you had a reaction to that.

J. GREEN: I think -- I would welcome that. I mean, the family certainly, I'm sure the mother and father -- I don't know them at all, so I guess I'll have to look them in the eye before I took that, but it's -- it wasn't their act that did this. Their son -- they're not necessarily responsible for this.

So I don't know the circumstances behind that. Before I took that apology, though, I'd find that out.

COOPER: And finally, you know, this is an age where a lot of folks grow very cynical about government. You know, for Christina at age nine to have been interested in politics and interested in the process and wanting to go to that Congresswoman on the corner event, what do you think it was that made her so interested, so passionate about it?

J. GREEN: She -- she has a very inquisitive mind. She liked to know -- first of all, she liked to be in charge. So I think that's one thing. She liked to be in charge. And she was very ambitious. And she wanted to -- she liked things done her way. And I think she was very fair minded about how things should be done. Again, I think if there were some injustices, I think she would have done her best to try to right those.

COOPER: Well, again, John and Roxana, I appreciate you being with us. The funeral is tomorrow, and as you know, all our thoughts and prayers are with you, and with Dallas and with Christina. We thank you very much for being with us tonight, and for having Dallas there with you as well.

J. GREEN: Thank you, Anderson.

R. GREEN: Thank you.

D. GREEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Remarkable. Remarkable family. If you'd like to contribute to the Christina fund, you can find more information at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, www.cfsoaz.org, cfsoaz.org. The banner is at the bottom of the screen. Click on the link the Christina Taylor Green Memorial Fund. That's our report for tonight.

I'll see you tomorrow.

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