January 17th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

On the brink of history

Program Note: Be sure to watch Anderson report on the inauguration LIVE from Washington all weekend and on Monday and Tuesday.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/17/train.dispatches/art.obama.biden.cnn.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama speaks Saturday during his stop in Wilmington, Delaware."]

Anderson Cooper

Searching the paper on the way to Washington, looking for news of the inaugural, the headlines warn of what lies ahead: "Big firms Deepen Job, Wage Cuts." "Circuit City To Liquidate." The storm clouds are all around us.

The challenges Barack Obama is about to take on are overwhelming, but not, of course, unprecedented. Abraham Lincoln took office with fears the country itself was on the brink of dissolution. Fears for his safety were so great he had to sneak through Baltimore on board his train. Maryland, like Virginia, was a slave state.

FDR's first inaugural was in the midst of the Depression. 1933. Relief would not come for many years more. So, as Barack Obama heads to Washington today, on a train trip that will re-trace some of Lincoln's own train journey, he shoulders a great burden, but one past presidents have as well. He arrives in Washington this evening with a groundswell of public support. More than Clinton did, more than Reagan.

On the plane heading to Washington this morning, there is excitement. People pose for pictures with one another, wanting to document, savor each moment of their journey to history. These next few days, are ones without politics, without labels, without divisions. That is how it should be at least. We are a young country, one that rejected the traditions of the past in order to form itself anew.

When we inaugurate a president, we celebrate our youth, our democracy, our vitality, our ability to transfer power peacefully. Today, and in the days to come, we pause on the brink of history, looking forward, and looking back, and we repeat the traditions which we ourselves created after our independence.

Traditions which remind us that we have faced worse problems in the past, and we have succeeded. We walk in the path of those who have come before us. Like the President-Elect, we do not make this journey on our own.

Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Inauguration
soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. Mary H. St. Louis, MO

    I enjoyed the coverage over the weekend and looking forward to the show tonight and tomorrow night. Work calls on Tuesday during the day so will have to catch all those festivities this weekend via my DVR.

    Yes, there is very little good news on any front. I was encouraged to hear of the truce and the pullout of Gaza.

    January 19, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  2. Lori Shirley-McKinnis

    Touche, Mr. Cooper...very well said...this is such an exciting moment for us all...I have been teary the past few days just watching the events of the past few days...I am driving 4 1/2 hours to be with my friend in Kansas to watch the Inaguration...to experience history...I have never been more proud of my country & of what it means to "truly" be an American.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  3. esalley

    Many people would not understand what is going on, as they are about to witness the first African american takes the office of the President of this country.

    This is a "Fiat" ( a divide act of God) to bring equality to this country

    January 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  4. susan

    i like to see how more people of diff.. color feel im so happy because
    this man was not of rich family and know how it feel to be like most us

    January 18, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  5. Diana Carter

    True, we are on the brink of history; but not because an African-American will assume the Office of the President of the United States. It will be that a BI-RACIAL American takes the Oath of Office to serve the people of the United States. When is Barack Obama going to acknowledge that he is not only African-American, but white as well? Yes, he speaks of his "white heritage;" however, he always refers to himself as African-American. Mr. Obama, step up and acknowlege to the world that you are American – neither black nor white, but both.

    January 18, 2009 at 8:14 pm |
  6. robert brendle

    Interesting how John King interview Obama about creating jobs etc etc and in the background you could see a Toyota Forklift not one made in the USA now wonder our country continues to sink

    January 18, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  7. Cody

    Curious, why was Gene Robinson's invocation speech missing from broadcasts. And, if what has been said is true by those attending. Why were the speakers turned off during his prayer and turned back on when he ended it with Amen.

    January 18, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  8. Vonda

    God has Always Blessed America. We say God Bless America and now We All See It. God Has Blessed and Is Blessing America. We thank you God, and we will return the Blessings.

    (To see this day, To See Who God has choosen, he put this man in our hearts, Mr. Barack Obama a true African American Decedant, with a true Caucasian heritage, choosen by our Father God, to aid in the healing of the American Home Land and Abroad. This is truly spiritual, that is why it is so beautiful to all. This is God's work that has moved the world like - Never before.) Thanks again God!

    January 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  9. Ian McCallum

    As admirable as it is that American will have a black head of state, it is incorrect to say that it could only happen in America. Canada has had a black woman, Michaelle Jean, as its head of state for several years. It should also be noted that she is an immigrant, something that cannot happen in the United States.

    January 18, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  10. Gail

    As President-elect Obama challenges everyone to give something back to our country, perhaps those individuals who are attending the inaugural events could ensure that they leave the grounds unlittered. I was saddened to see all the garbage left behind after today's wonderful concert, especially in the reserved section!

    January 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  11. EJ (USA)

    By the way, I wouldn't be grabbing at Anderson because I'm a polite person. I would admire him from a far.

    January 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  12. Olorunbunmi


    You and the "Best Political Team on Television" are all amazing journalists! And we sincerely appreciate your coverage of this historic event.

    And you're article rocks my socks!

    January 18, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  13. Linda Moore

    Ivan from CA : You obviously have no idea how cold it is in the northeast right now! The hats are on for practical reasons I can assure you! Dudes on the newseum: You keep on sporting those hats you look awesome!

    – Linda from PIttsburgh

    January 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  14. Amber Rodriguez

    Please, when you people select people to interview, please make the selection as diverse as the crowd. This is not just historic for African Americans. It's historic for all of us.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  15. maeneica fowlkes

    This is truley a historical event for the world and the usa, as a black american I thought I would never see this day, so I stand proud of our race ,and for the nation, I have no doubt, he he will do an above average job, as commander in chief, God bless ,BARACK OBAMA and his family, and God bless America.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Neufer

    I would have like to hear comments from foreigners in the crowd gathered at the inaugural site, instead of those who will have the same praises and comments. Much of the interviews were blacks and young blacks. Their comments were of a people proud of the great event about to take place, and well they should be. It would have been a little harder to locate people from other countries but not impossible for good reporters. A foreigner would not be here to celebrate the inaugration of their country's leader, but perhaps to watch the inaugration fo a world leader.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  17. Kathy

    I appreciate the historic nature of this occasion, but I think it has less to do with Barack Obama the person than it does with the American people in general.. The American people are the ones who elected this man, they are the ones who were the grass roots movement, they are the ones who CHANGED things. Barack Obama just happened to be the one who benefitted. I hope he can live up to his hype – we all need that to happen. This EVENT is being celebrated around the world – but please keep in mind that at the end of the day Barack Obama is not a god, he is a politician just like any other politician – he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. So Please celebrate the American people in this just as much or MORE than the man!!!

    January 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  18. Katherine

    Why are you mostly interviewing black individuals and families at the inauguration activities? Please represent everyone.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  19. natasha

    this blog was really well written and portrays the magnitude of what is occuring right now. the election of barack obama has united our country so much. god bless him and his family and god bless america.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  20. EJ (USA)

    I'm wondering what all of you are eating during the breaks.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  21. Bob Gere

    Hey Anderson – love ya, but move the mic along to others in the crowd. You linger on the same people and ask routine questions. I am interested in what others in the crowd around youwant to say, instead of staying 5 minutes on the same people (from New Orleans). Let's get some variety.

    January 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  22. Nancy Williams

    Congratulations on your wonderful coverage of the news and your objectivity.
    Please ask Soladad O'Brian where she purchased that darling royal blue cap that she wore yesterday, looking as adorable as always...
    I want that hat or to buy that same hat.
    Thanks much, and please keep up your outstanding broadcasting.
    Nancy Williams
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    January 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  23. James lawless

    I,as a american and proud that we are moving from the Bush era to Obama era.History is in the making for we are moving forward and the Book of america is making a new chapter.But i also don't judge of one apperance.Obama is indeed becoming the first African american President, but i will not remeber him for that.I will remeber him for what actions he does during his term of office.Bush promise hope to america but the events that happen to him change his ideas and there for brong him to the road of his downfall.But these event could had happen to Gore to if he was elected president of the united states but he would had handle it in a different way.But i would like to see how Obama handles his term and lets hope the History remeber has not just the first african american President but a President who Brong hope and tell american YES WE CAN and DID!

    January 18, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  24. francy

    Hullo Anderson, thanks for all the coverage. Obama's inauguration is indeed a historic moment. However, I would also like you to interview black people as well as the white people because this has been a journey for all. If blacks are only 14%, who then really voted Barak? Let us hear all the views and voices of all races



    January 18, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  25. Sue

    Please explain the significance of the different types of American flags hanging at the Lincoln Memorial

    January 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  26. jim Fallbrook CA

    It will be a historic occasion all right. The aftermath will be a disaster. The first thing that will happen is Barack Hssein Obama will allow illegal aliens to enter the country. He will give amnesty to the millions of ILLEGAL aliens living here. Obama won't continue the record George W. Bush had with no terrorist attacks after 9/11. There will be many in his first term. Then there will be the gas tax he will implement to fund research for alternative energy. The uninformed voters that elected hime will be shocked when they have to pay about $10.00 a gallon for gas. There is a good possiblity he will go down as the worst president in history.The only thing that might save him from the fate is the incompetency of the current worst president Jimmy Carter.

    January 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  27. Tawnie

    Hey Anderson,
    I loved what Joe, the 30 year old kid from NYC said. Yes, Obama makes me believe. I have been crying for 2 days now....I am so proud to be an American. I only wish my Father were alive to see this; he would be equally as overcome. Thanks for your great coverage. LOVE your show. Can't wait for Tuesday!

    January 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  28. geowashingtonstime

    I wonder if there is any significance in "numerology" to the fact that Obama is the 44th President and the Congress is the 111th? What could double numbers portend?

    January 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  29. Allan Goud

    I've just finished reading Joseph Ellis' bio of George Washington, "His Excellency", and it is clear that Washington was the right man at the right time. Without him, we probably wouldn't have the country we have now. I see Obama in much the same way. Somehow, Providence gives us what we need when we most need it, one of the miracles of our system. I am a lifelong political and news junkie, and a hight school teacher, and I don't think I have ever been so excited and hopeful about what we have done in an election. To the naysayers who thankfully are in the minority, I say hold your peace and give him a chance. If you are able to be open-minded, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised by what this extraordinary man will accomplish.
    Allan Goud

    January 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  30. john

    anderson you guys are doing a great job covering the inauguration,but why with john king today interview with president elect in a warehouse was there was a toyota lift truck in back ground,and not an American lift truck company.

    January 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  31. Slim

    On the brink of history, indeed. Congratulations!

    Let's not forget about our history, the Second Amendment.
    I gave you my vote Mr. President Elect, don't infringe on the peoples right to bear arms.

    Just like marijuana, regulation and proper control is more effective than prohibition.

    Best wishes, and hope to see your final address to the nation in 2016!

    January 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  32. Beverley Rady

    Hello Anderson,
    CNN is one of my favourite stations, by watching I've learned about Barack Obama, President Elect and have a great appreciation for him – I think he will pull America out of it's difficulties, this will be done with much effort and initiative on Barack's part and I trust Americans will give him the time he needs and be patient.
    Yesterday on CNN when I watched the videos of Barack waving to the crowds it was a wonderful sight and it seemed to give the message, I'm here for you America. I think it would have been nice if the song Peace Train by Cat Stevens was played while videos of the train were shown. I was singing this song because this train represents open communication and respect between different political parties and peace of mind to Americans because they can be confident knowing that their country is on the right track towards becoming vital.
    Barack Obama is the first African American President in American history and this is a great stride for all Americans. Barack is half African and half Caucasian and people of African descent need to rejoice but Caucasians also need to rejoice just as much on his behalf.
    May God Bless America.
    All the best Anderson,
    Beverley in Toronto, Canada

    January 18, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  33. joy daymon

    Hi- I am watching John King-instead of going to church- and I have some thoughts I would like to share with him- and all the rest of you before I forget them, but I can't figure out how to make contact with him. (I'm not too bright- with computers, that is!) First of all, the fourteen year old child he interviewed is living in a very nice middle-class home. That's what so many of our children are missing. I keep hearing, "...anybody can pull themselves up by their boot straps." Perhaps- but only if they know to. Barack has repeatedly given his mother and grandmother credit for even knowing that he wanted to be somebody, and for encouraging him to put forth the effort. That is not to belittle Obama's own efforts, but he had a lot of support, people he loved set high goals for him. As Hillary Clinton so eloquently pointed out- it takes a village to raise a child. And it really does. When I was a child, I had that village. Everyone I met knew me, knew who I was, knew who my parents were and where I lived. I didn't dare do anything wrong! Also, when I was growing up, like David Gurgen, I didn't know that Negroes (they were then) were being mistreated. I never even thought about it until I began to notice things as I was growing older. What I was taught was that the worst thing you could be was "poor white trash." We didn't have money. Our house would be declared 'unsafe" today–but we had pride. My home-made dress was starched and ironed- and I knew to wash behind my ears, and always look the best I could. To see the jeans kids wear today just wipes me out. Obviously, I grew up in the 'thirties. This isn't about equal rights for African Americans- or it shouldn't be. It's about equal rights for EVERYONE. I did my graduate work at the University of Southern California. The brightest student in the class (besides me, of course...) was a young black woman. (By then they were "Black." ) I knew then that anything I had ever heard about their intelligence- anything negative- was all wrong. When one of our Methodist missionaries came back from Africa and showed us slides and I heard these very black men talking with a very British accent, I knew that any stories I had heard about their inability to speak properly was just as inaccurate. So I learned slowly, but I learned. I also saw just as many white people who had either lacked opportunity or not taken advantage of it. With all the unemployment problems right now- and El Dorado has more than its share, what I am hearing is that competent workers, with families to support, can't get jobs because- get this – they can't pass the drug tests. Now to me that is really sad. I have a plan. I keep sending it to different people. I hope it eventually gets to Obama- and he takes it seriously. As you probably have figured out, I have lived a long time- and I think I have learned a lot. I have been in education and counseling most of my life. I want to see education, health and prison reform all combined to the benefit of all- and get rid of NCLB. That has hurt an entire generation of children. Obama's children have been in priviate schools. I have been in the public schoools. (I am now in the court system, working with children in difficult custody cases.) Now, I better go back to bed before somebody calls to check on me- find out why I am not in church. I am the SS teacher and the organist- so they notice when I am not there. Appreciate your work.

    January 18, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  34. tim

    Anderson, With the state of the U.S. economy, why are we spending 150 million on the inauguration? Wouldn't it be a great decision for the incoming president to say that we don't need this at the prsent time. I am a lifetime republican and by doing this he would gain my respect of a politician doing the right thing for a change.

    January 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  35. curly

    I speak as a Brit, and I don't find all that many Americans who share a sense of history. Perhaos this is because, in relative terms, your country is still so young, despite being the most powerful on earth.

    In Barack Obama I see the first American President with a real grasp of historical context, but with a firm view of his and the nation's future.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  36. Ken

    How is it only white people are prejudice? In Oakland, California a police officer shoots a black man who later dies. The incident was captured on tape for the whole nation to see, and it was shown to the nation on every channel. The black community of Oakland went into riot mode over the incident. Yet, not one word is mentioned in the liberal media about the gang murders there, which is some of the highest in the country, and it's citizens do not seem to be too concerned about taking those murder rates to the streets. Hmmm.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  37. Kelly

    Great Coverage of this historical event- everyone at CNN is fabulous!
    I would, however, like to see someone explore the link between Mr Obama's election and the Sesame Street generation. Anyone who grew up watching that show knows that all races, ethicity, or handicap were presented in an unbiased way. I honestly think that it is from this humble show that my generation learned that bigotry had no place in America.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  38. Michelle D. Fonthill,Ont

    Hello Anderson

    It was ahistroic momnet to see Obama and his family on board the express heading to D.C. It 's all a buzz with excitement He will have a up hill battle to reapir the stat e of the economy and the many Americans on the brink of losing jobs and evrything .Thanks foir being there doing what you do .Thanks for enduring the cold . I must ask why they don't put you guys in a warm studio ?

    Take care Michelle D.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  39. Ken

    This innauguration is a joke. In reality he is nothing more than a former community organizer and attorney, who managed with the help of many corrupt individuals to get him into the senate where he did absolutely nothing. He pretends to be a Ronald Reagan, a Martin Luther King, a Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a John Kennedy. These men have proven historical records. Barack Hussein Obama hasn't proven one thing, including who he actually is. This guy has pulled off a bigger fiasco than Madoff , and liberal America, and CNN and MSNBC have fallen for this shiester hook line and sinker. This man has no business sitting in a seat of such power. He pretends to be someone he is not. He is not a christian, and this will eventually be known. He is the Great Pretender, or as I prefer to call him, "THE ANTICHRIST OF AMERICA".

    January 18, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  40. Carol B., Virginia

    Hi Anderson & Company, I saw some of the pre-inaugural coverage and the mood seems cautiously optimistic, considering all that is going on within the country and outside. The stories about prior traditions were interesting and this celebration will also become part of that fabric.

    January 18, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  41. lee

    Great work Anderson and crew.

    Anderson – you don't drink hot things – but maybe as a suggestion just get a hot drink and hold the cup, it warms up your hands, even just put it up to your lips – I'm not much on hot liquids myself and this helps me.

    January 18, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  42. Kay

    I notice on "State of the Union" Pres-Elect Obama has given interviews to various other networks in the past few days...why don't you try to get a panel of the interviewers together to get their "take" on their interview and especially what was the most meaningful message they came away with from Mr. Obama.

    January 18, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  43. Mike

    I think this is an important inauguration considering the crisis we are currently under, but I am not sure why everyone keeps refering to it as HISTORIC, more so than others. I think it is because there are many people that still think Obama will be the first black president. I guess if he were black, that would be historic. But he is not black. If he advertised himself as biracial (which he is) I think that would have had a much more profound affect on uniting this country.

    January 18, 2009 at 9:41 am |
  44. Alba

    Hi Anderson,

    Great that you are there to cover this momentous event. Can't wait to read your insights.

    Am not an American and I live in Asia. Ill be up in the wee hours of the morning just to watch this event unfold. Might even get goosebumps even though Ill only watch the inauguration on TV.

    Be safe.

    January 18, 2009 at 8:24 am |
  45. Amanda

    I have been loving the coverage of this historic week. I have been laid up with a broken ankle and I enjoy turning CNN on.

    In light of everything this is going to be a shallow post, but I just have to know the answer to this. Can you please tell me where Solidad got the purple hat she wore yesterday? I have to have that hat. 🙂

    Thanks Anderson!

    January 18, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  46. Jen

    He's just a man, it's just a job, and it will only last four years.

    January 18, 2009 at 7:58 am |
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