tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC July 15, 2013 1:00pm-2:00pm EDT
when you see a cop. >> i have a young daughter and i thought to myself, if it could happen to him, it could happen to her. >> right now on "andrea mitchell reports" -- a nation divided. thousands protest the verdict as president obama calls trayvon martin's death a tragedy for a family, a community, and a nation. in the wake of the verdict, the strong passions the case had elicited could be running even higher, and that it was important to remember that we are a nation of laws and a jury had had spoken. the president also wanted to ask every american to heed the call for calm reflection from trayvon martin's parents. a rather remarkable request, given how much they have suffered. george zimmerman's lawyers contend -- justice was done. >> i understand people's
frustration, but it would seem to be that trayvon martin overreacted to what he perceived to be something going on and he overreacted in a violent way. but is zimmerman out of the woods? this hour three congressman pressing the justice department to pursue a civil rights case against zimmerman. attorney general eric holder says the investigation will continue. the nuclear options. senate majority leader harry reid calls a bipartisan caucus tonight on his proposal to change the senate rules and block routine fiphi filibusters. >> during the four years that president obama has been president, he's already had 16 of his nominations filibustered. great expectations. the world's media plays the waiting game outside the london hospital where kate middleton
will give birth to britain's newest heir to the throne, the prince or princess is due any day now. the reporters at least are more than ready. it is insanity. it is total, total insanity. every time something like this happens we all go completely mad. and good day, i'm andrea mitchell in washington. just one of many cities across the nation where people were protesting the not guilty verdict in the george zimmerman trial. we are monitoring all of the continuing reaction today, including a community prayer selves this afternoon in sanford, florida. joining me now, msnbc's craig melvin, live in sanford. msnbc legal analyst lisa bloom. thanks so much to both of you. first of all of, what do you expect in sanford today, craig? >> that service that you mentioned, andrea with, is happening right now at a church nearby. it's a community prayer service. the police chief will be there, the mayor is there, the city
manager is there. they've invited people who live in sanford, a town of 52,000, 54,000 people, they've insighted them all to gather, pray, to talk, to heal, to grieve. they've made have inta tags yesterday. they sent word out they'd be doing this. in addition to doing it today they say they are going to do this every monday as long as people continue to show you up. sanford, since that verdict came down, has been quiet. i talked to the mayor yesterday. i talked to the city manager as well. no reports of any violence. no reports at this point no reports of any protests or demonstrations today as well. of course we got word a short time ago there are going to be some 100 demonstrations planned this weekend at federal courthouses across the country but nothing planned here in sanford today. everything after the verdict, again, peaceful and orderly. >> lisa bloom, let's talk
about -- we know there is no double jeopardy. he has been acquitted, george zimmerman. tell us what are the legal justifications if there were to and justice department move towards a civil rights prosecution on hate crimes? >> you're right, can he never be tried again for murder or manslaughter in connection with the killing of trayvon martin. so the department of justice is currently looking into whether there are any federal civil rights charges that could be brought against him. that would have to be based on different crimes an different elements of the crime that were not already decided in george zimmerman's favor. of course, they also want to make sure that this is a case that they can win. they don't want to bring another criminal case against him and have it hend in an acquittal. there is also the possibility of civil charges being filed against him by the family. that would be a civil case for money damages only. the burden of proof would be lower there, just a preupon dance of the evidence, rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. >> lisa, what about the fact that the prosecution never dealt with race? it is annish thu didn't come up
during the trial. can you understand what their strategy was? >> i can't honestly. i think it was, frankly, fumbled during the trial. the prosecution fought hard at the beginning of the case to get in george zimmerman's prior police calls where he reported suspicious people in the neighborhood. every time he called about a suspicious person on the calls that came in to evidence, it was an african-american person. they won that battle. it came into the case. but the prosecution didn't use it much or argue it during closing argument. perhaps this is important for the civil rights looking into charges. the prosecution said this is not about race so arguably that issue has not yet been determined by the jury. >> lisa bloom, thanks for your reporting and expert analysis throughout this long period. and thanks to our own craig melvin as well. joining us, elijah cummings, thanks very much for being here. at this hour some of your
colleagues are calling for the justice department to take action. as lisa bloom was just pointing out, first they have to decide whether there is a case and whether it is a winnable case. would it not be even more of a problem for many people if they were to pursue a case that they also did not win? >> well, the situation is that there are federal laws, hate crime laws, for example, andrea. possibly violations of trayvon martin's civil rights that need to be looked into. i believe that eric holder and his department will make a thorough investigation and they will make a determination as to whether or not there is a case there and do what the constitution requires them to do one way or the other, and that is to provide justice. so i look forward to that review. i think in a case like th, it is deserving of a review. we'll have to see what happens. i look forward to whatever those findings may be.
now they may come back either way but i think at least to have the review -- one of the things i think is important, andrea, a lot of people don't real identifies is that he they had already started a review earlier on to look at this case and they suspended it -- that is the justice department suspended it -- so that the state case could go forward. they are just basically picking up where they left off. i can see it can do no harm. the other thing i think is important, andrea, this case is very, very painful for a lot of people. as an african-american man, i can tell you that there is a feeling quite often -- and i talk to a lot of african-american women and parents -- one of their number one concerns particularly if they have a boy is worrying about that young man being harmed. being profiled. and as an african-american man, i have seen it, felt it, i've experienced it over and over all my life. and i'm 62 years old.
so this was clearly in my opinion a case of profiling and i think the thing that really upsets people is that zimmerman had been told stay in his car. he gets out of his car. he makes some comments basically saying these people always get away with it, they always get away with it. so next thing you know we've got the situation where a young man loses his life. it is very, very, very hard for the public to understand how somebody with some skittles and candy against somebody with a gun -- and it ends up that the zimmerman walks away with not even a misdemeanor charge against him found guilty of charge against him. and then young trayvon is dead. that is hard for people to understand. >> congressman, i want to follow up and ask you about guns. because mayor bloomberg issued a
statement and you know his position on guns. i know yours as well. he said, in response to the verdict, sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known but one fact has long been crystal clear -- shoot first laws, like those in florida, can inspire dangerous vij lajtyism and protect those who act recklessly with guns. such laws drafted by gun lobby extremists in washington encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue justifiable homicide later. i know your nephew died as a result of gun violence. let's talk about whether congress, all these months after newtown, might ever take up the issue of gun violence? especially after this? >> i think the gun lobby is extremely strong. andrea, after newtown -- when you've got 20 little children shot and the congress fails to act? i don't know when we're going to
act if we don't act after that. but one of the things that you point eight here is, and ya, an african-american male has a 17 times greater chance of being killed with a gun than whites. that's real. so while african-american people fully understand newtown and sympathize to the highest degree, they see funerals in their -- and experience funerals and deaths in their communities every week. in a city like baltimore we see it all the time. in my own neighborhood. >> in washington, in philadelphia, and it goes unremarked by the national media. >> that's right. there's a lot here. the other thing about this case is when you look at it from a legal standpoint -- you know i'm a lawyer -- there's a high burden of proof.
in other words, you talk about a reasonable doubt. a reasonable doubt is a pretty tough standard for a prosecution to get past. and what happened is the altercation itself -- in other words, what happened there on the ground and -- a lot of people are saying, well, wait a minute, how did that -- i mean how did it happen? so there is a lot of confusion. and all the prosecution has to do is let -- tell the jury there is another side and the jury begins to say well maybe there is another side to this. once that happens, that's a reasonable doubt pitch's seen it over and over and over again in criminal it trials. so it was a tough burden. another factor that was crucial is that they -- that the prosecution waited like six or seven weeks to bring the charges. and so people i guess say, well wait a minute, why you waiting so long? all those things go into the minds of a jury. the jury has spoken. i'm disappointed in the verdict. but at the same time, i
understand why people are so upset. because they cannot understand it. i'm going to tell you, most african-american parents, when they see that happen to trayvon martin, they say it can happen to my child. >> thanks so much for being with us today, congressman. in moscow where edward snowden could be ready to deliver another blow to the beleaguered national security agency, according to the "guardian" writer who interviewed the nsa leaker, snowden has blueprints now detailing how the nsa operates. he said snowden has enough information to damage the government if he chooses to. >> in order to take documents to prove what he said is true, he had to take very sensitive detailed blueprints of how the nsa does what they do. so he is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know
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i understand people's frustration, but, two seem to be that trayvon martin overreacted to what he perceived to be something going on and he overreacted in a violent way. >> defense attorney mark o'mara continuing to try to deflect responsibility away from george zimmerman and on to trayvon martin. days after his client was found not guilty by that seminole county jury. georgetown law professor paul butler is a former federal prosecutor around joins me now. thanks for being with us. your assessment of how the prosecution handled this case. >> they made some strategic
mistakes. they allowed the defense to frame the narrative. what the defense did was to put trayvon martin on trial. they made the case about who was on the bottom and who was on the top in a street fight. it was a brilliant, but cynical, move and it persuaded the jury. >> we don't even know because he did not testify in person whether there was a fight. >> we don't. we heard conflicting accounts about all of that. but the bottom line is we had a skinny teenager unarmed who was followed by a big guy, big guy was told stay in the car. he gets out the of the car. they get into some altercation and the skinny unarmed teenager ends up dead so clearly there was something bizarre that happened here around the prosecution, through a series of just poor judgment decisions didn't do a good job of using the evidence that they had. >> including -- i was very struck by the so-called expert
witness, the trainer who did not know george zimmerman and testified to the fact that he was not physically strong without having ever dealt with him. talk now about the burden, political as well as legal, on eric holder, the attorney general. because is there a civil rights case? should the attorney general who is being pressed by the congressional black caucus and others in the community to pursue this civil rights case for hate crimes, what does he do if he thinks that it is not winnable? >> eric holder is in a very difficult position now. he has, as his tools, the federal civil rights laws. the problem is that they were made for people who were the kind of old-fashioned ku klux klan racists. i couldn't think that anyone thinks that george zimmerman is like that. there's no evidence that he hates african-americans. he just uses racial profiling. he particularly suspects that they're guilty of crimes and the laws just don't cover that. will there be an investigation in yes. do i expect that there will be
federal civil rights charges? no. i think the trayvon martin family's best hope is in a civil case. >> right now, eric holder is speaking. let's listen to him. we'll come right back. >> -- the necessarily difficult dialogue -- that those who have lost the most, trayvon's parents, that they have demonstrated throughout the last year and especially over the past few days. they suffered a pain that no parent should have to endure. and that i, as a father, cannot begin to conceive. even after i embrace their example and home them in our prayers, we must not forego this opportunity to understand one another to make bet they are nation that we cherish. moreover, i want to assure you that the department will continue to act in a manner that's consistent with the facts and the law. we -- >> as you can see, we have a video problem there but you could hear the attorney general is saying that they will act in
a manner, as he just said, consistent with the facts and the law. he's leaving his options open. clearly, as you point out, this is a big burden in -- as the way the law is actually written. >> it is a big legal burden. there's also a bit of a political problem. there will be an appearance of unfairness to mr. zimmerman that many folks will say, if he's tried, even though technically it will be for a different crime, a federal crime, and possibly a hate crime. a lot of people would think that the government just didn't like the way the first case came out so they were going after him. so there are big political issues here as well as legal issues. >> thanks so much, professor. we'll be right back. this is "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. twelve bucks a night! no. they have waterbeds. ew. no! are we near a gas station? [ phone beeps] [ phone ] no. is that from the mini bar? [ both ] no. is that a cop? no. [ cop ] do you know how fast you were going? no. eighty-seven
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points of light and i'll ask every member of my government to become involved. the old ideas are new again because they're not old. they are timeless -- duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in. >> that, of course, former president george herbert walker bush's call to service during his 1989 inaugural address. more than two decades later, president bush's points of light program is the nation's largest volunteer organization. today the former president is back at the white house along with former first lady barbara bush. joining president and mrs. obama for the presentation of the 5,000th daily point of light award. the award recognizes a couple today from iowa making a difference. other members of the bush family are also in attendance, including son neal bush to joins
us from the white house. thanks for being here to tell us the significance with what you have done with points of life. what your father launched back in 1989 which has meant so much to so many people across the nation. >> well, thank you, first of all, andrea for having me. this is a very special day. we're recognizing the 5,000th point of light award winner. but really what we are doing is acknowledging and thankingings the 65 million americans who find their calling, their way to serve, their way to get involved in someone else's life to make the world a better place. when dad spoke of the thousand points of light in his inaugural address that we just listened to, about 20 million americans were serving. now 65 million americans are. more companies, more faith organizations, more youth, more organizations are sending volunteers to work with charities to help solve our country's problems. we all know government can't do it alone so this is a special thing. for the obamas to welcome the
bushes here shows this is one of the things in america that unites us along political lines and across race and geography. service brings us together as a country. >> and we saw some pictures just now from the opening of the george w. bush blibrary when th former presidents were all together. your father went through a difficult patch, we know. that last november and through the holiday season he was in the hospital. we were all very concerned about his health. so it is so wonderful for everyone to know that he is out of the hospital and not only out of the hospital but able to travel and back at the white house. what's it mean to you and the family to have him back there today? >> well, first of all, it is kind of remarkable because he was in really bad shape in houston. he's made a big recovery. he's physically disabled so he's not going to be able to walk and jump out of airplanes the way he used to. but he still has the kindest heart, the most loving spirit. he still has a heart for service and he would do anything to help promote and support the service
movement in america. it makes us really proud that this is an important part of his legacy going forward, that he's not only committed his life to service but that he's encouraged so many others to serve in their communities as well. >> at a time when there's so much democratic and republican partisanship and washington's in gridlock. what's the relationship between the bushes and the obamas? >> you know what? it is hard for me to really answer the question. all i know is i just had lunch with the president and michelle. i sound a little bit like a name dropper now, but mom and dad and my wife and i. they were the nicest people. they've welcomed us warmly. on the issue service, there's no divide. there's nothing that separate republicans and democrats. the first piece of legislation that the president signed into law just about was the serve america act named after ted kennedy. he came down to college station to pay tribute to my father and to support the points of light
service movement nationally. he's been a big proponent and advocate through his inaugurations of service days. he and michelle both are really bright points of light. it is really not surprising that democrats and republicans can join hands, even in these politically divisive times. >> well, neil, it is really nice to see you again. congratulations to the family and i guess they are all members of the president's club, a very special club indeed. >> thank you very much. you bet. and mystery solved -- written under the pseudonym robert galbreadth, the cuckoo's novel was released to rave reviews but it was only until this weekend the writer's real identity was uncovered by the sunday times of london. they discovered that the author was not a man at all but instead j.k. rowling.
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they will make a choice about whether or not they will pursue criminal civil rights charges. we are calling on them to do just that, because when you look at his comments and when you look at comments made by young black man who lived in that neighborhood. how they felt especially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor. >> ben jealous from the naacp today and other civil rights group as well pressing the justice department to press civil rights charges against george zimmerman. joining me now, president of the naacp's legal defense and educational fund. great to see you you. are you a law professor. you know civil rights law better than anyone that i know. we were just talking to paul
butler, professor at georgetown, about the fact that he doesn't think that the law is actually written for george zimmerman. that is may not work and that eric holder is obviously on the spop. what if the justice department does not pursue charges? >> i think the important thing is that they do the investigation. it's absolutely true that most of the civil rights statutes that might cover a situation like this tend to be focused on law enforcement, what we call state actors, people operating under color of state law or people engaged in a conspiracy, two people depriving someone of their civil rights. a hate crime law only requires body injury because of the victim's race, color or national origin. of course it is the "because of" that's the issue here. >> talk a bit about the challenge for families. for african-american families with children, you have three kids. three girls but have you nephews and girls could be subject to this as well as boys.
but it is really the parents of young men who worry about the safety of their young men on the street who could be profiled, who could be attack. >> i mean i can't overstate how important this is. i was in my church yesterday and talked to so many mothers -- and fathers, fathers trying to talk with their sons about man hood, about what it means to be able to protect were your self-and take care of yourself but also having to face this reality of what happened to trayvon and certainly in my family it is a key issue. this is a dignity issue for parents in terms of how they talk with their children about how to navigate their lives as american citizens. are you a full american citizen if you can be stalked like this on the street, have someone kill you, and then have no responsibility for it? parents are struggling. and then young people are angry. they're angry as well. because obviously wearing a hoodie is not in and of itself a crime. mark zuckerberg wears a hoodie. it is hard to imagine george zimmerman stalking him on the grounds after gated community
thinking is he acting suspiciously. we know that race is part of this and how african-american parents are talking with their children and what their children are saying to them is a key part of what's happening in america this week. it is important for white america to understand that that conversation is lapping and how deeply painful it is. >> the prosecution did not try to challenge the stand your ground law. clearly george zimmerman was not in his own home. he was, by his own acknowledgement -- or by the acknowledgement of the 911 tape -- arguably pursuing. how do we deal with the stand your ground laws which will not be changed in sflord. >> the best way we know they won't be changed is when everyone says they won't be changed. the stand your ground laws are what creates the space for people to believe they are safe. but the idea to brannish a weapon and basing your own fears on your ability under the law to be able to kill another human being who has engaged in
innocent behavior, that's what we should be looking at. whether it is stand your ground laws or any other standard in any other state we ought to look closely at that. this is a society that's got a lot of guns out there. they may even be legal guns. but it is also a society with a lot of fears, and a lot of those are rascial fears. when those two come together, people get killed. >> the president sort of trying to make an appeal, the entire nation is affected by the death of trayvon martin and really the loss that his parents have experienc experienced. >> trayvon martin is a kid. a teenager. all americans should feel for that family and feel for ourselves that he was killed. he wasn't doing anything wrong. some of the statements after the verdict i think people found by the defense team and by the family of george zimmerman, people found even more painful than the verdict. the jury did their job, we believe in the rule of law even if we are disappointed in the jury's verdict.
but some of the inflammatory statements, character assassination against trayvon martin. i think what the president is saying is let's all be americans. a child has been killed. let's take a moment to think about how are we each implicated in what happened on that day. >> we were talking also with professor butler with the fact that children are dying in our cities. young men in particular are dying at extraordinary rates in chicago, in philadelphia, in the district of columbia, though not as bad as it used to be. in our cities, young men are coming under attack and sometimes from assailants who are african-american. there is a real crisis of raising young men. >> no question. i lived in baltimore for 20 years. so we know about violence and how it is really snuffing out the lives of our children. and so it is very interesting. we look at these issues when we have something like a newtown which was a terrible tragedy that happened on one day with an assailant who came into a
school. but every day we have this incredible gun violence happening in our cities. young people since the beginning of time have been in conflict but their ability to get hands on fatal weapons like guns and to kill each other. young people who have no jobs, no direction, using gangs as a form of family. these are all issues that we have to engage but we also have to engage the issue of what happened with george zimmerman that day. we are gratified that the justice department has decided to investigate whether or not to pursue a federal civil rights claims. >> always good to see you. thank you very much. as promised, more of those remarks from eric holder moments ago. >> as this celebration unfolds, we are also mindful of the pain felt by our nation surrounding the tragic unnecessary shooting death of trayvon martin in sanford, florida last year. we are cognizant that the state
trial reached its conclusion over the weekend. as parents, as engaged citizens, and as leaders who stand vigilant against violence in communities across the country, the deltas are deeply, and rightly, concerned about this case. the justice department shares your concern. i share your concern. >> joining me now for our daily fix, nbc news justice correspondent pete williams. and chris cillizza, managing editor of postpolitics.com. pete, first to you. pressure now on the justice department. how do they handle this if they were to decide that they don't have a legal avenue to pursue here? >> it will be a while before they reach any decisions at all. they will be very serious about how they investigate it, andrea. the problem though is, as both your previous guests have noted, the law. the best fit, if the government was going to try bring charges here, is the 2009 hate crimes law. but what it says is that the person was assaulted, or in this
case killed, because of the actual or perceived race or color of the victim. in other words, based on former officials i've talked to from the civil rights decision, which would be where this decision would be made, it is not enough for the government here to show that george zimmerman followed trayvon martin because he was black, but the government would have to show that george zimmerman killed trayvon martin because he thought he was black or because his perception or the actual or perceived race or color. that's a very difficult bar and these cases are very hard to bring because the government has to show, in essence, intent, what was in his mind, something the state of florida couldn't do. and it would be very difficult here for the government to do that. so i would say based on the outside experts i've talked to, the expectations that the government could bring a case here are low. >> chris cillizza, this is all happening while the other big
story, political story, in washington is the nuclear option, the fact that mitch mcconnell and harry reid are going at each other, there there is going to be a full senate caucus tonight to discuss whether or not they should change the senate rules by majority vote to permit at least some executive appointees to get through without the filibuster. >> yeah. andrea, this is a huge story for washington that has short-term implications certainly but i would argue the longer term implications are actually kind of more important to keep an eye on. what this would do is essentially there are seven appointees that the president has made to agencies, national labor relations board, as well as the consumer financial protection bureau, that are being held up, that are in dispute. and this would allow democrats who control the majority to say, okay, we're going to end debate on this with 51 rather than the traditional 60 votes. if you listen to harry reid, he spoke this morn at the center
for american progress, a liberal think tank, he said, look, this is a small change born of necessity. we have to do this because these are the president's picks and republicans are blocking them for blocking sake. if you listen to mitch mcconnell on "meet the press" yesterday or virtually any other time he's talked about it, what he says is this is a pandora's box. once you start changing the filibuster rules for anything, you can change the filibuster rules for everything. so so much of where you think the rightness or wrongness, andrea, it tends to divide right down party lines at the moment. >> and in fact the last time this issue arose in full bloom, it was bill frist, then the republican leader, and john mccain, then and now tried to broker some sort of an agreement. this is harry reid today explaining his purpose. >> i wasn't talking about clanging the rules for nominees. i was talking about changing the rules for judges. okay? new era. >> so, chris cillizza and pete
williams, this is more debate in washington, but i think the democrats have to be concerned that if they clang the rules now, they could be losing control of the senate in the mid-term elections and the shoe could well be on the other foot. we'll have to leave it there. >> mitch mcconnell has said at much, talking about the sorts of legislation he might introduce if the shoe was on the other foot. >> chris cillizza, pete williams, thanks you, both. this programming note -- this thursday we'll have an exclusive interview with house democratic leader nancy pelosi. and we'll be right back. even be- and to keep our commitments. and we've made a big commitment to america. bp supports nearly 250,000 jobs here. through all of our energy operations, we invest more in the u.s. than any other place in the world. in fact, we've invested over $55 billion here in the last five years - making bp america's largest energy investor. our commitment has never been stronger.
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nbc news white house correspondent peter alexander joins me now. peter, as you see, there is -- look at that teleprompter in the white house prepared for the remarks of the president. as we see them getting organized. president bush 41, as we heard from neil earlier, is no longer able to walk. he is in a wheelchair but we've seen that he is much stronger than he was last winter and last fall when he had that long hospitalization. this is really a moment, because this is the president's club on full display, peter. >> yeah. i think you are exactly right. as neil bush, george h.w. bush's son, said to you just a few minutes ago, there is no divide between the bushes and obamas when it comes to the issue of national service. that's what we're going to hear during this event. shared passion between both families when it comes to volunteering. president we're told by a white house official will announce a new task force with the specific intention of trying to bring together -- look for ways to bring together the government and private sector for
opportunities -- more opportunities when it comes to the issue of expanding national service, specifically on the topic of volunteering. this official says that within the last year, the white house -- this administration specifically has made strong efforts to build volunteer groups that work with fema with when it comes to disaster relief. also working to terms of education needs in this country to help educate america's children. so this is a topic that we will be hearing from the president not just on this day but on days going forward as it is one that he brought up through the course of his administration. even on day one, the day he was naug grainaugurate inaugurated, where he launched that whole idea of a national day of service. >> the points of light is a remarkable program. co-chaired by neil bush, michelle nunn, daughter of long-time washington figure, former senator sam nunn.
neil bush told us during the lurch the obama's welcomed them. "they are the nicest people. they've welcomed us warmwarmly. on the issue of service, there is no divide." this is really a good moment. we have too few of these especially on days when we'll have the nuclear option debated in the senate in that caucus meeting tonight. but it is kind of wonderful to see as we are looking at some former pictures, prepare pictures of presidential families, most recently at the bush library, to have president bush 41 back at the white house. they are going to be coming in to the east room. we expect to hear during this hour, if they are on schedule, from president obama, then from president george herbert walker bush, and then from the recipients. let's talk about the reyip senten recipients. this is an iowa farm couple. they went to tanzania and are now involved in raising money and providing food for children -- hungry children in
15 different countries, including the united states. >> this right. this couple, floyd hammer and kathy hamilton, are from union, iowa. it was about nine years ago during a trip to tanzania where they witnessed the malnutrition of some of the children there that they launched their program they call outreach. now they provide food to those children in need in more than 15 countries, including here in the united states. so there will be a union not just of the bushes and obamas today but this union, this united effort that this family will be demonstrating today as well. what's striking is the evolving relationship between president obama and the bush family. the first four years during his first term, president obama only visited with either one of the bushes, 41 or 43, a total of five times. this will be the third visit between members of the two families, between the presidents bush and mr. obama, in just the last three months.
the most recent visit we witnessed on the national stage was actually on an international stage where you saw george w. bush walking alongside president obama where the two were together in tanzania. it was striking as noted by people there that given all the gridlock that we witness here in washington, d.c., and all the end fighting the rest of the world witnesses, observers there from the leading families and those african nations noted that to be able to see michelle obama and laura bush speaking is together and sharing moments and respect of one another as well as the two presidents, one former, one current, they thought was an important indication of the need and the success of the american democracy, even as we witness the challenges democracies face in places like egypt and elsewhere. >> well said, peter alexander. in fact, the sort of heartbreaking moment in tanzania was the wreath laying at the site of the former embassy that
was destroyed during that attack, the bombing in 1998, august 1998 during the clinton years. and that was one of the first examples of an al qaeda attack, that was tanzania and also kenya, of course. the embassies had to be rebuilt. but the suffering there was profound. of course, that was eventually traced back to osama bin laden. it was a precursor of 9/11. >> that's exactly right. as we talk about all the seriousness that surrounds the responsibilities of presidents, there is a little bit of light hearted moment we can anticipate. there are a lot of blogs anticipating what color socks president h.w. bush will be wearing today. it was only a couple months back on his 89th birthday that the president's foundation was asking people to wear exuberant socks in his honor. we'll have to wait and see what he dresses up in today.
>> they've just been announced, the president and mrs. obama, president and mrs. bush, george herbert walker bush. we're waiting for their arrival. president obama is coming into the east room. we can sort of barely see that president bush, with his wheelchair, as well. they've already shown a video. you can see michelle obama. and there is president bush. it's so wonderful to see. let's listen in. [ applause ] >> well, good afternoon, everybody. on behalf of michelle and myself, welcome to the white
house. 23 years ago president george h.w. bush began a tradition. he knew that across the country every day americans were finding ways to serve each other and give back to their communities. often with very few resources and very little recognition. and president bush knew that their good works were valuable to the people they helped, but beyond that he knew that their spirit of service was vital to our national character. so he created an award. the daily point of light award, to recognize americans who serve their neighbors and communities in innovative ways that inspire us all. and for it the rest of his presidency, nearly every single day, president bush gave someone a daily point of light award. after he left the white house, he kept going and going and going. in between sky diving and other activity, he kept going.
which should come as no surprise, since we're talking about somebody who has served his country in such extraordinary ways. and, you know, when you do a parachute jump at the age of 85, not just a parachute jump but another parachute jump, i believe his seventh, this is somebody who's not going to slow down any time soon. so today we are extraordinarily honored to be joined by the family that helped build the points of light foundation into the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. president bush, mrs. bush, neil bush, we want to welcome you. we also want to recognize michelle nunn, the ceo of points of light. it's worth applause. [ applause ]
now, this is not the first time president bush and i have come together for an event like this. four years ago i went down to texas a&m where president bush has his library to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of points of light. i appreciated the warm welcome, by which i mean the extremely loud howdy i received. i was deeply impressed by how invested the students there are in community service. but most of all i was moved by how much they love president bush. now we've come together to mark another milestone. as of this minute, 4,999 points of light awards have been presented to individuals and organizations across this country. so now i have the honor of joining president bush in
presenting number 5,000. [ applause ] about ten years ago, floyd hammer and kathy hamilton were getting ready to retire. they had been farming for years. they had earned a break. they planned to sail around the world. then their friend told them about a special place that they should visit along the way in a village in tanzania. a volunteer mission was there to help renovate an hiv/a.i.d.s. clinic. they thought it sounded like a worthwhile detour. the country was in the third year of a brutal drought. people were starving and dying, many of them were children. having seen this, kathy and floyd simply had to do something about it. so their vision of a leisurely
retirement was replaced by a new mission, fighting global hunger. today the nonprofit they created, outreach, has distributed free meals to hungry children here in the united states and in more than 15 countries worldwide. to date, more than 233 million meals. they've gotten to see many of the kids they met in tanzania grow up, healthy and strong. this work, they say, is the most rewarding thing they've ever done. i have to say having just been to tanzania with michelle, we can attest to how important this kind of work is, how it changes lives. it's also fitting that later this week on july 18th people around the world will celebrate the legacy of the magnificent public servant nelson mandela by performing acts of public and community service. as people look for examples, outreach provides an extraordinary demonstration of how service can lift people's lives. so, if the purpose of this award
is to celebrate americans who work to make our country and world a better place, not for their own advantage or for any ulterior motives, but just to serve pure and simple, i can't think of anyone more deserving than kathy hamilton and floyd hammer. before we actually present this award, i would be remiss if i didn't take a moment to honor the man who made this all possible. he hates this, but i'm going to do it anyway. much has been said about president bush's own extraordinary life of service, but i'm not sure everybody fully appreciates how much he's done to strengthen our country's tradition of service. in addition to this award, he created the first white house office dedication to promoting volunteerism. and he championed the national community service act. by washington's standards, it was a modest law. it involved little money. president bush signed it with little fanfare. looking back, we see it sparked a national movement.