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Beryl Hits Southern Seaboard; 49 Children Massacred in Syria; Trump to Host Campaign Event; Simpson Slams GOP's Rigid Stand; Nuns Stand Up To Vatican Rebuke; Words Of Wisdom For Class Of 2012; What Makes A Good Graduation Speech; Lower Memorial Day Gas Prices; Man Readies Free Fall Record
Aired May 28, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, Ashleigh.
I want to get right down to it here.
It's official. Egypt's historic election -- presidential election comes down to a runoff. Voters are going to choose between a man who served as prime minister under Hosni Mubarak and a member of the Muslim brotherhood. Some observers say it is a choice between a leftover from the previous regime and an ultra conservative who wants to make Egypt an Islamic state.
We're going to have more on the election just a little bit later.
And President Obama leads the country in honoring the men and women who have given their lives in military service. The president took part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. In a speech just moments ago, he talked about the sacrifices in the ongoing war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are winding down the war in Afghanistan and our troops will continue to come home.
OBAMA: After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. Especially for those who have lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: If you're enjoying the long weekend along the southeast coast, don't have to tell you, you're probably getting soaked.
Tropical storm Beryl made landfall overnight near Jacksonville, Florida, knocked out power to thousands of folks, washed away most of the holiday weekend festivities.
Yes, that's right. It could actually be very close to being a hurricane when it landed. But right now, it's weakened to a tropical depression.
Jacqui Jeras is watching the storm as it moves.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, flooding, that's going to be the concern, as we head to the holiday weekend, is that a lot of travelers are out there. There are going to be heavy downpours and we're going to start to see some standing water and the some of the rivers and creeks to be on the rise as well.
There you can see trees down, power outages. Actually power companies have been doing a pretty good job trying to restore power. We're hearing, for example, in southeast Georgia only about 2,900 people remain without power at this hour.
Our storm has weakened quite a bit, so we are down to a depression now, and maximum sustained winds around 30 miles per hour. So, in the strongest showers and thunderstorms, you could see wind gusts maybe up to 40. And that is enough to, you know, get a few branches down yet.
So that's a little bit of a concern, but the primary thing will be these heavy downpours. So let's zoom in and show you some of the heaviest rain right now is right along the I-4 corridor between Tampa, up towards Orlando, and heading up towards Daytona Beach. People going to Disney, trying to get that in on a holiday, certainly not a great day for that. We could see rainfall rates really a good one inch per hour at times and that creates visibility problems on the interstates as well.
Now, where is this storm going? Well, it's going to be moving up to the north and taking this right-hand hook. It's going to be a real slow mover as it does so, and so that's another reason why some of this rainfall is going to be an issue with that flooding.
Now, this should be moving off the coast we think of North Carolina sometime on Wednesday, and as it does that, it's going to get back over the open water. That water is very warm, and it should intensify back into a tropical storm.
So, something to think about in the days ahead even as the weather improves here. We're still going to have issue with rip currents. So, if you have beach plans, stay out of the ocean water, OK? Hit the pool instead of anything else.
And here is some of the rainfall total that is we've seen so far. Highest number: 3 1/2 inches. If you get another one to three inches on top of that, that's when you run into some trouble -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Any upside to this?
JERAS: Well, the upside is that we actually need this rain, believe it or not, Suzanne. This is the drought monitor for the southeast, and look at these dark red areas in here. Those are areas that need a number of inches of rainfall to make up this drought. So it's good to get the rain in there. It's just a little bit too much probably at one time.
MALVEAUX: All right. Jacqui, have a good holiday.
MALVEAUX: Now to Syria, a new push to end the slaughter. International envoy Kofi Annan is demanding an end to the deadly violence. He's in Syria right now for talks with President Bashar al Assad. More than 100 people were killed in a massacre in the town of Houla on Friday. Almost half of them were children.
I've got to warn you. We're about to show you some images of those dead children. Obviously, this is very disturbing. It is not appropriate for all viewers, but we want to show you the images to convey the extent of this crime against humanity.
Here is Mohammed Jamjoom.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Houla, more than 100 dead. So many, so many in one day and such grief and such rage. 49 of the victims had posed no threat to anybody, least of all the regime in Damascus. They were children not yet 10 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): By God, I washed the dead bodies of nine children. One was less than 9 months old. Why are they treating us like animals? We are humans.
Did the infant carry an RPG? Was he a fighter? It was a baby. He had a pacifier in his mouth. What was his guilt? Why was he killed?
JAMJOOM: Opposition activists accuse the Syrian government and its thuggish militias of carrying out this massacre. The Syrian government blamed terrorists for the killings and called the allegations against them a tsunami of lies.
JIHAD MAKDISSI, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We absolutely deny that the government armed forces had any responsibility in committing such massacre, and we strongly condemn the terrorist massacre.
JAMJOOM: The United Kingdom's foreign minister said the world had heard that line from Syria and its backers before.
WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: It is a familiar tactic of the Assad regime to blame others for what is happening in their country, to try to get out of responsibility for the scale of death and destruction.
JAMJOOM: In Houla, more amateur video attesting to that death and destruction. Here, the bodies of more than a score of women and children stuffed into a small room. And these pictures are the ones we warned you about. Pictures agonizing to watch, children's bodies mangled and bloodied, some with skulls torn open.
U.N. observers arriving on Saturday to begin their investigation found a mass grave. With no power to stop the violence, they issued yet another call for calm and reason.
MARTIN GRIFFITH, DEPUTY HEAD OF UN MISSION, SYURIA: The first thing to do is to stop the fighting, stop the violence, so that we can then get onto helping the wounded and, of course, the bodies of those who have lost their lives.
JAMJOOM: And as outrage continues to mount around the world, the finger-pointing goes on in a massacre hard to comprehend for its callus brutality. The young continue to pay the price for a cease- fire written on paper only.
MALVEAUX: Mohammed Jamjoom, he's joining us from neighboring Beirut, Lebanon.
Mohammed, first of all, you look at those pictures. It is so disturbing to realize what is taking place in that country just over the weekend. And the children -- the fact there are now children who are being killed, what is happening today?
JAMJOOM: Well, Suzanne, it is an overwhelming grief that has overcome the residents of that town, those who remain there. And we've heard from so many opposition activists in Syria over the course of the past few days since this massacre happened.
We're talking about people who are accustomed to the scenes of brutality they've seen over the past year, emerging from this brutal crackdown that's going on in Syria, and even they say that this is something they can't get their heads around. They can't comprehend this level of violence.
The U.N. monitors were there on Saturday. They have been investigating. The Syrian government is saying that they are going to investigate, that they are going to set up a committee, a commission that will investigate this crime. They are saying that it's terrorists that are behind it.
But at the end of the day, it's a town in which a massacre has happened. It's horrific violence, and violence is still happening in Syria even though Kofi Annan is there today -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Mohammed, those people in that town of Houla, what are they doing? Are they basically hunkering down? Are they hiding? Are they simply just terrorized?
JAMJOOM: Well, we've heard that many of them who remained went to the part of the town that is in control -- that is controlled by the rebels because they are too afraid to be in the other parts of the town. There is still a palpable fear there, that's what we're hearing from activists, that this could happen again at any time.
And because there have been reports over the past couple of days of more violence, even after this horrific massacre, this atrocity that happened in Houla, there have been other parts in Syria where there is continuing violence. Even today, we have reports that 26 people have been killed across Syria. People are afraid and they want international intervention and they want the U.N. Security Council to be able to do more.
The Free Syrian Army in Syria is vowing retaliation for these crimes, and they're saying that Kofi Annan's peace plan is effectively dead and they can't abide by it anymore -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And, Mohammed, the people who are there, you have got the opposition, you've got the government forces, but just the folks who are there in their community and seeing this happen, are they starting to arm themselves? Do they feel like they need to be protected in some way but they're going to have to do it themselves?
JAMJOOM: We've not heard reports that they are arming themselves, but we've heard reports that the rebel army there is planning retaliatory strikes against the government. They're urging the international community to begin air strikes against the Syrian regime.
What we're hearing from the residents of that town, from the activists who are also in contact with the residents of that town and other towns where violence has taken place, is that they want to see an end to this. They want help from the international community, that they want help from the U.N. monitors to make sure that this doesn't happen again.
But they're uncertain, they're fearful. Because this happened and because of the scale of the brutality and because almost 50 children under the age of 10 were victims of this massacre, they just don't know if this could happen again at any time and they're very fearful -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: It's just a tragic situation there.
Mohammed, thank you so much. We really appreciate it. We're going to have more on that story in depth later in the hour.
Here is what we're working on for this hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Scandal at the Vatican. The pope's butler arrested for allegedly leaking confidence documents. As American nuns fight Rome's criticism they're too liberal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our church is being torn apart for political reasons.
MALVEAUX: And gas prices may seem like a relief, down for the 12th straight day. But we put that number into perspective.
And the commencement speech season is in full swing. Here the best advice speakers have had for graduates so far. Plus, confessions from a public speaker. Do graduates really remember the advice?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: A brutal massacre leaves more than 100 people dead in Syria, almost half of those slaughtered are children. Want to warn you about the images. They are not suitable for everybody to see.
We're showing you these pictures because we want to convey the extent of this crime against humanity. This is some of the worst violence the world has seen in Syria since the uprising against the regime began 14 months ago.
Michael Holmes from CNN international is here to help us make sense of this.
Michael, first of all, when you take a look at what happened over the weekend, do you think this is a tipping point? And if not, why not?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, some people think that it could be, that this was just sort of the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of international reaction. I don't think so. I don't see this going anywhere.
I mean, the so-called -- let's call the peace plan what it is, and that is a failure. There hasn't been a cease-fire for a single day since the Syrian regime agreed to adhere to the six-point plan of Kofi Annan's. It hasn't happen. I think it's going to keep going the way it is.
MALVEAUX: You got Kofi Annan on the ground today. He's supposedly talking with the president. I mean, what can they possibly do? What can he possibly accomplish?
HOLMES: If it goes according to how it's gone in the past he will get Bashar al Assad to agree to pull his troops back and go back to barracks, which is what he agreed to do weeks ago and has not done. Basically Bashar al Assad is ignoring it.
Send Kofi Annan in there. He's a great negotiator. He's very good to go in hopeless places. He's done it many times before and trying to get assurances.
But Bashar al-Assad has shown no indication, no willingness to actually do what is being asked of him. And it makes the U.N. look, let's face it, impotent, in the face of this. They're being ignored and people are dying.
MALVEAUX: I want to talk about what's the most disturbing part of this, is that we see now children being targeted. A lot of times when you take a look at genocide, it was a couple months ago I was in Rwanda, 18-month anniversary of the genocide there. It was horrific because here was evidence of children and women essentially who were being targeted and slaughtered.
Do you think this has the potential of becoming a genocide? Is that what we're seeing that unfold?
HOLMES: Yes, I've actually covered that in 1994, three worst weeks of my life. I was in Rwanda, covering that genocide. One of the things that made us all angry on the ground and cost hundreds of thousands of lives was nobody declared it a genocide, because genocide a word that has a definition under international law.
MALVEAUX: Very precise.
HOLMES: Very precise. If it doesn't meet that deaf significance, and Rwanda did, nobody wants to call it that because the world then is obligated to act. I don't think it's reached that point. I don't think in Syria it fits that definition yet. So, I don't think anybody is going it call it that because then under international law you're obligated to go in and stop it from happening.
And nobody is showing the nerve to go in and stop this from happening. It's for a whole bunch of reasons. It's such a complex political neighborhood, Lebanon, which is itself so fractured could easily be tipped into it this. You've got Iran neighboring as well, Iraq neighboring. The other big deal is nobody knows what would come if Bashar al Assad and the regime fail.
There's talk that he U.S. at the moment -- and you see there the neighborhood we're talking about. Arms coming in from the Turkish border and from the Lebanese.
There's talk that the U.S. is trying to engineer, make the Russians happy by saying, all right, let's do a deal where we'll get rid of Assad, he steps down, but the regime stays in place because Russia wants to keep Syria as their friend. They have their own vested interest in the regime staying there -- economic, arms, they have a naval base there, last bastion of influence in the Middle East.
MALVEAUX: We're going to see this violence continue. It's just --
HOLMES: Tragically, yes.
MALVEAUX: It's so sad. It is so sad.
HOLMES: And kids have been killed al through this.
MALVEAUX: What is the point, how bad does it have to get before you see more action from world leaders across the spectrum?
HOLMES: Exactly. But the question is always going to be what sort of action? Are we going to see NATO planes like Srebrenica in 1995? It took that massacre for NATO to go in and stop bombing there and actually put an end to this, what was going on in Srebrenica.
I can't see planes flying over Syria, NATO planes. Nobody wants to go in that hard in that country. They've also got -- Syria has got an army, too. They've got an air force.
MALVEAUX: We're going to see what develops there. Michael, thank you so much. Appreciate it as well.
Mitt Romney testing his grit in Texas tomorrow. It's the state's primary. He's looking to go over the top to clinch the Republican nomination.
MALVEAUX: All right. In a tough economy, growing a small business not an easy thing to do, but one company did it -- went from $400,000 in revenue to $4 million.
Christine Romans shows us how a group of businesswomen actually did it.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, AUTHOR, "SMART IS THE NEW RICH" (voice-over): In tough times and in a tough business, Aerial Design and Build has found a blue print for growth.
RUPILA SETHI, AERIAL DESIGN AND BUILD: There was a big need for a construction company that catered to mid-sized projects that was professional, transparent.
ROMANS: The construction firm has grown from revenue of $400,000 a year to $4 million. And from two employees to 12 in just two years.
So, how did Rupila Sethi and her partner Julie Kelley do it? They say, the first thing they did was think bigger.
SETHI: Right now, it seems like Aerial Design and Build has its own individuality and it's its own person now. It's no longer just attached to my name and Julie's name.
ROMANS: Sethi got help with that from Count Me In For Women's Economic Independence, a non-profit founded by Nell Merlino.
NELL MERLINO, CEO, COUNT ME IN FOR WOMEN'S ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE: I think what she was missing was just the push or the permission and the vision to grow it much bigger. She certainly had the capability.
ROMANS: Second Sethi says, learn to say no. The construction business is fiercely competitive, even more so since the recession. That's put the squeeze on profit margins for contractors.
SETHI: They want you to knock of your price and knock of that extra, whatever thousands dollars.
ROMANS (on camera): Right.
Do you have to turn down business sometime?
SETHI: Sometimes. Yes. The last time we had to say no --
ROMANS: What a privilege.
SETHI: It was very hard.
ROMANS (voice-over): Finally, you can't get bigger without some help.
SETHI: My advice would be to people who really want it grow their business, start by hiring even a part time employee and then a full time employee so that you can focus on marketing and doing what you're best at.
ROMANS: By bringing in more employees. Does that help bring in more business?
SETHI: Absolutely. A lot of our employees have a lot of connections that they've made over the last few years that they've worked in industry.
ROMANS: You don't advertise. It's world of mouth. It's really face- to-face, doing business with people to get you more business.
SETHI: Absolutely. We have a reputation of being on budget, on schedule, and providing quality workmanship. I think people like to hear that, and when we achieve that, they are, you know, they're very thrilled. And that let leads to more word of mouth.
ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.
MALVEAUX: Mitt Romney meeting up with Donald Trump tomorrow. Hear why critics say not such a good idea.
MALVEAUX: President Obama, Mitt Romney both taking a break from campaigning to honor the nation's military men and women this memorial day.
But tomorrow back to politics. Romney is about to officially become the Republican presidential nominee. Just one of the stories we're following with political radar.
Political editor Paul Steinhauser is joining us live.
Hey, Paul. Romney is the last Republican standing here. Expect after the Texas primary tomorrow he's going to get that magic number, 1,144. Do we think that that is going to help him really get the enthusiasm, fire up the Republicans, fire up the base, get behind him once and for all?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, Suzanne, we talked about that number so much, that meteorological number of 1,144 back during the primaries. And now that he's going to finally going to clinch, we believe he will win big in Texas and that will probably push him over the 1,144 number which is the number you needed, the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination.
But now, it's a mere formality. Listen, ever since Rick Santorum dropped out of the race way back in April, everybody has basically presumed Mitt Romney is the nominee. That's what we called him, the presumptive nominee, that all-but-certain family.
So, now just a formality. I think the race has moved on. This little boost won't be much of a boost. It's something we'll quickly mention on cable news and online but that's about it.
MALVEAUX: I think probably what's going to get more attention is the fact that he's got this event with Donald Trump tomorrow. Some are thinking, really? Trump keeps bringing up that birther issue, whether or not President Obama is born in the United States and it's been debunked.
So, George Will, conservative commentator of ABC's "This Week," here's how he put it, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WILL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do not understand the cost benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefits, what voter is going to vote with him because he's seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious it seems to me. Donald Trump is a redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your I.Q. can be very low, and you can still include American politics.
Again, I don't understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Tell us how you really feel there, Paul. I mean --
MALVEAUX: Is there any -- what is the benefit here because clearly there are folks who are thinking -- scratching their heads like what does he give you?
STEINHAUSER: You know, and George Will I guess may not have a lot of love for Donald Trump but I think a lot of people feel the same way. You never want your surrogate to outshine the candidate and this is a case where that could happen. There are a lot of minuses, maybe only a few pluses. There will be a fundraiser tomorrow in Las Vegas at Trump's hotel there for Romney.
I guess, there are a few pluses maybe that Trump will help Romney when it comes to fundraising, but Romney is doing a pretty good job when it comes to fundraising. So I don't know how much help he needs there.
And yes, the negatives, there are a lot of them, including the birther issue, Suzanne, as you mentioned. Listen, Donald Trump, we heard what happened last year when Trump was flirting with a run for the White House.
But he continues to tweet about it and even talk about it in television interviews and the Romney campaign has to come out and explain that no, we don't feel the same way.
We can't speak for Donald trump, and Romney does realize the president was born here in the U.S. and they say it's not issue. The fact they have to explain this, a negative.
So there is some damage to being associated with Donald Trump, no doubt about it -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And former Senator Alan Simpson, some money, who as well is quite outspoken, slamming the Republicans for their unwillingness to compromise when it comes to dealing with the country's debt.
Why don't you take a listen and then we'll talk a little bit about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR: You can't cut spending your way out of this hole. You can't grow your way out of this hole, and you can't tax your way out of the hole. So put that in your pipe and smoke it we feel these people.
This is madness. If you want to be a purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise the east or something, but if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise, and you learn to compromise an issue without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won't compromise and I'll show you a guy with rock for brains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Paul, has anybody listened to Simpson? You know, every single one of them, you know, gets a laugh because it is just so colorful, the language, and that's typical Simpson there.
But is anybody going to listen to him before the election? I mean, really? Are they going to look and say, you know what? We actually need to compromise and get some things done?
STEINHAUSER: Unfortunately, probably not because compromise -- simply was on the debt commission and the debt commission came up with a plan to try to bring down the deficit and part of it was a little bit of taxes increases and a lot of spending, but there was a mixture there, but a lot of Republicans do not feel that way. The vast majority of them don't, and they felt this way for a while but it's been kind of even stronger nowadays because of the power of the Tea Party and the power of grassroots conservative groups.
You know, about 95 percent of Republicans in Congress have signed that no tax pledge, under no conditions would taxes be raised, and all with you bun of the Republican candidates last year and early this year who are running for president have also signed that pledge.
So any kind of raising of taxes is basically dead on arrival when it comes to a Republican lawmaker or Republican candidate and that's one of the things that is holding up any kind of compromise here -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right, Paul, have a good day, have a good Memorial Day. Good to see you.
STEINHAUSER: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Showdown between the Vatican and American nuns. The Vatican says they spend too much time on what it calls radical feminist themes and not enough time speaking up against same-sex marriage and abortion.
MALVEAUX: The men who run the Catholic Church in Rome not too happy with nuns in the United States. The Vatican is criticizing them for straying from the church doctorate, but Sandra Endo tells us the nuns, they are not backing down.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENTS (voice-over): Letters of support are what comfort Sister Simone Campbell at a time when the Vatican publicly rebuked American catholic nuns for not speaking out more on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, NETWORK: It's this kind of support for our work that is so touching.
ENDO: In April, the Vatican released findings of their doctrinal assessment, which criticized the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group that represents the majority of the 57,000 nuns across the country.
The document says this about the group. It is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.
The report also found, quote, "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the group's work." The LCWR said it was stunned by the findings.
The report singled out for criticism Sister Simone's group Network, a liberal Catholic lobbying group of nuns. Sister Simone says it's politics at play since the nuns supported a new health care reform law, something Catholic bishops opposed.
CAMPBELL: Our church is being torn apart for political reasons, I think. At least that's how it feels to me and it's anguish. It's anguish. Where it goes, I don't know.
ENDO (on camera): In the report, the Vatican appointed a bishop to oversee the nuns' activities. LCWR's board of directors is set to meet this week to discuss the Vatican's move and come up with a response.
ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN BELIEF BLOG COEDITOR: I don't think it's going to change their core mission, which for many of the nuns in the United States is helping the poor. I think what we'll see is some compromise as they move forward on this. And it will be a long and painful process.
ENDO (voice-over): Worshippers say it's time for both sides to take pause.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would hope that the U.S. nuns would also look at it as an opportunity to kind of reflect on where they're succeeding and where they need to grow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of people are taking a hard line on both sides. I think it just needs a little fairness, a little -- just take your time and find out exactly what is going on.
CAMPBELL: Stay strong. You are an inspiration.
ENDO: Until there's a plan for a way forward, Sister Simone says she'll continue to pray for direction.
CAMPBELL: We are not alone. We don't stand alone.
ENDO: Sandra Endo, CNN, Washington.
MALVEAUX: The battle between the church and the nuns is not the only the controversy facing the Vatican.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBIE NADEAU, JOURNALIST/AUTHOR: One thing that was going on inside the holy shin and other things was happening, you know, what was the public were hearing about what's happening, any number of issues from money laundering, from corruption, from the Vatican's alleged cover-up of two particular murder cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: It's strange. It's the stuff of movies, but it's actually real. Pope Benedict's butler locked up in a Vatican jail after allegedly stealing documents and exposing scandals at the highest level of the church. We're going to dig deeper next hour.
College grads getting a lot of advice from commencement speakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: People can only define you if you let them. In the end, it's up to each of us to define ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: My guess is much of the advice not followed in the long run. Here is confessions of a public speaker.
MALVEAUX: Graduation season, time of new challenges, opportunities for the class of 2012. Well, for most high school students, it's on to college.
Many of those finishing college graduating to a struggling economy and a tough job market, they could really use some advice and encouragement. So what commencement speakers, what are they actually telling them?
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Words of wisdom.
MICHELLE OBAMA: People can only define you if you let them. In the end, it's up to each of us to define ourselves. It's up to each of us to invent our own future with the choices we make and the actions we take.
MALVEAUX: Of encouragement.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope for each one of you that your path will be long and life will be kind.
MALVEAUX: And of advice.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Remember that making your mark on the world is hard. It takes patience. It takes commitment. It comes with plenty of setbacks and it comes with plenty of failures.
MALVEAUX: For life after the dorm room. Spring is the season of graduations and of commencement addresses, and for the politicians, it's an opportunity to inspire.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role that you'll play in writing the next great chapter in the American story. MALVEAUX: And stake out a claim on young voters.
ROMNEY: Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.
MALVEAUX: Many of them casting a ballot for the very first time. But politics aside, what are the right words to send of America's future leaders and how do you top some of the best?
STEVE JOBS: Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA ENTREPRENEUR: That is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy you have to give something back.
CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN/TELEVISION HOST: I'm sorry, what the hell is this thing? It looks like you stole it from the set of survivor Nova Scotia. Seriously, it looks like something a bear would use at a meeting.
MALVEAUX: All right, a little humor can help make a commencement speech memorable, but for graduates the speech is usually something you have to sit through before you get to the fun, the good stuff.
Our guest with some insight on what makes a good graduation speech, Scott Berkun, he is author of "Confessions of a Public Speaker."
So Scott is joining us from Seattle there. You may most people don't even remember the commencement speaker or what they said. Why?
SCOTT BERKUN, AUTHOR, "CONFESSIONS OF A PUBLIC SPEAKER": Well, usually people have been sitting around for a long, long day before the commencement speaker ever gets up there, so it's an audience that's really not looking to hear very much. And people just -- most people who get up there to do a commencement speech, they're focused too much on their piece of it, when they're really at the end of a long day. And most commencement speeches go on for much too long and they say very predictable, very safe things to everyone.
MALVEAUX: All right, so how do you make a speech memorable? What would be some of your tips?
BERKUN: Well, the first thing would be to keep it short. And whenever we're told we have to go listen to a lecture, we all know that it's going to be boring and we plan -- we prepare ourselves, we brace ourselves for a long, boring speech. But as soon as we're asked to talk, we think about all the things we can say. And so my first recommendation to people, whatever amount of time you're given, you're not -- you're not obligated to use all that time. So I'd always recommend trying to use half of that time and whatever time you have, divide it into three or four pieces that you can focus on making each individual one a story onto itself. So less time and divide and conquer.
MALVEAUX: And what makes that -- what makes a speech memorable? I mean even beyond the commencement speech. Because you have a lot of folks who essentially, you know, I mean they're going to be facing a pretty tough economic situation when they get out of college. What can you tell them?
BERKUN: Well, the mistake a lot of speakers make, commencement speakers and speakers in general, is they feel obligated to bring in famous quotes from famous people and they try to buffer themselves by telling other people's stories. But if you're someone speaking at a commencement address, a day that's filled with lots of pomp and circumstance and generalities, what people really want is a specific, personal story. And so to give some -- the speeches we remember, we saw someone speaking that told something true about their past and that allowed us to connect with their story and the message. And so if you want to have a memorable speech, think about how your own personal story can be of value to the people who are there. Weigh on that more than quoting other people or famous speeches from the past.
MALVEAUX: Good advice, Scott. I want you to check this out. Creighton University's commencement speech. Had a chance to deliver it a couple of weeks ago. Tell me what you think I could have done differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So while your path might not be a traditional one, it will take you to where you belong. And it is for this reason that, second, I urge you today, a day that marks both the beginning and an ending to a period in your lives, just to listen. To listen to who you are and to listen to your heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: All right, Scott, how'd I do on your, you know, scale there?
BERKUN: Pretty good. I mean it was only a 15 second sound bite. I'm assuming that wasn't the entirety of your speech, but (INAUDIBLE) be good because --
MALVEAUX: Let me tell you, it was way too long. I do think it was way too long. I probably could have cut it in half. But what did you think?
BERKUN: How long was it in total?
MALVEAUX: I do think it was --
BERKUN: I thought it was good.
MALVEAUX: OK. OK. It went beyond 15 minutes. It did go beyond 15 minutes. And they said keep it at 10. I mean --
BERKUN: That's fine. I think 15 to 20 is good. I think tying together the connection that people have, it's supposed to be a commencement, it's an ending and a beginning and so you brought together a good metaphor for them to think about. And it's a common metaphor people use. I hope you preceded that by a story of your own about how you dealt with the transition of moving on from college yourself. That's usually where people -- the things people will remember is seeing someone actually share something true about themselves that they can connect with.
MALVEAUX: Yes. And I want to bring up this one here, because this was like famously the fastest commencement speech ever. This was Dr. Seuss famously delivering this at Lake Forest College. This was back in 1977. Reading, "Oh, The Places You'll Go." And he said here, "out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening, too. Oh! The places you'll go." Is it really that simple, Scott?
BERKUN: I think Dr. Seuss probably scores way higher than most commencement speakers in terms of entertainment value and brevity I think.
MALVEAUX: All right, Scott, thanks again. Really appreciate it. Good advice for those who have speeches to give and public announcements and all those good thing and for the rest of us who have to stay up and awake during all of those, too. Thanks, Scott.
BERKUN: Thanks for having me.
MALVEAUX: Memorial Day drivers enjoying relief at the gas pump, but it's all relative. Why prices don't match up to Memorial Days in the past.
MALVEAUX: All right, if you sat in Memorial Day traffic at any point this weekend, a small consolation, it actually costs you less to actually sit in the traffic. The average price of gas in the country right now is $3.63 a gallon. It is the third highest Memorial Day price ever, but still 29 cents lower than the peak price we saw back in April. Want to bring in Alison Kosik in New York with the very latest on this.
So, you know, cheap gas, it's all relative. I guess we're all just spending our money to get there or to idle in the traffic. Is it getting any better?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is getting better. So the national average of $3.64 right now, it is down 30 cents from a year ago around Memorial Day. So it is getting a little better. Of course, as you said, it is all relative. Look what we're paying here in New York City, $4.13 a gallon. We're not the only ones. People are paying out the nose, of course, still if you live in California, if you live in Oregon, if you live in Washington. So, yes, there are places that are above that average, but it is getting a little better there.
Suzanne. MALVEAUX: What's the trend here? Is there a trend?
KOSIK: There is. And the trend is that we're going to see prices probably move just a little bit lower, but not much. Because what usually happens after Memorial Day, Suzanne, is these refineries start making these summer blends of gasoline, which means they're cleaner, but they also are more expensive to refine. So you're going to see that price at least maybe go down a little bit but not too much because that new blend is really going to keep prices elevated at the level they are now.
MALVEAUX: Are you seeing a lot of folks out there, Alison, over the holiday?
KOSIK: There are. There are a lot of people filling up today. You know, I talked to them about whether or not they notice on their bill, you know, when they fill up their tank whether or not they notice what we're talking about, how gas prices, you know, let's say are 30 cents lower than where they were a year ago. And you know what they tell me? They tell me, you know what, I really don't notice. That I still think that gas prices are really high because it's only a few pennies. And although, you know, on the sign when we see the sign, you know, go down ever so slightly every so often, you know, it's nice to see, but they say they really need to see it come down a lot more, maybe even 50 cents. Then they would notice a real difference when they have to sign for their bill at the gas station.
MALVEAUX: All right. Alison, thanks. Have a good holiday.
KOSIK: You, too.
MALVEAUX: A man from Austria trying to do the unthinkable. We are talking about free fall from 120,000 feet. That is almost 23 miles above the earth. See how he's preparing for this amazing feat.
MALVEAUX: Most of us can barely imagine what it feels like to sky dive, but how about doing a free fall from 23 miles up? That's right. Believe it or not, somebody's actually getting ready to try it. Our Brian Todd, he has met the guy who wants to do this.
Wow, Brian, why is he doing this and tell us what this is -- I mean what will this accomplish?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, he's going to break a 52-year-old record for altitude jumping. You know with NASA ending the shuttle program, the future of manned space flight a bit uncertain, this could be what's really needed to get us all pumped up about space exploration. We recently spoke with Felix Baumgartner. He's an Austrian daredevil who, later this summer, will attempt the longest ever free fall from the highest ever altitude, from 120,000 feet above sea level. That is more than 22 miles up.
Now, to get there, he's got to get into a space capsule and be pulled to the edge of space in a massive balloon. Once he gets to that altitude, he just steps off. He'll spend about five and a half minutes in free fall, then his parachute's going to open up when he's still about 5,000 feet up, if all goes according to plan.
This is sponsored by Red Bull. It's called the Red Bull Stratus Project. Baumgartner and his team have prepared for this for five years. I caught up with the man they call Fearless Felix at Washington's Air and Space Museum. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Five years now in the making. You're getting pretty close. You scared? You nervous?
FELIX BAUMGARTNER, PLANNING 23-MILE-HIGH JUMP: Actually I'm not scared and I'm not nervous because we did so much preparation. We rehearsed everything. I mean just getting out of the capsule is a procedure where it includes 43 steps. And we have been properly trained every step.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, this altitude free fall mark is not the only record Felix is going to break. No one has ever broken the speed of sound, accelerating with just the human body outside a plane or a spacecraft. But if this jump goes as planned, Felix Baumgartner's going to break that mark going 690 miles an hour. Suzanne, I don't know what you did this weekend. I didn't do anything nearly that interesting.
MALVEAUX: No, sat by the pool there. I mean you have to have a Red Bull. You've got to have a Red Bull to do what this guy is going to do.
TODD: Yes, a few.
MALVEAUX: Yes. More than a few.
MALVEAUX: Tell us about the other guy who set the previous record, because there's a pretty cool story behind that, too, yeah?
TODD: It's a great story. The man who set that record was Air Force Colonel Joe Kittenger. He jumped from 102,000 feet. And that was in 1960. He's not only still alive, he's a consultant on this project with Felix Baumgartner. We interviewed him as well. We're going to have all that at 5:00 today, Suzanne. It's a great story. These two guys were amazing to talk to.
MALVEAUX: Yes, pretty awesome. Pretty inspiring there. Brian, thanks. Good to see you.
TODD: Thank you.