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updated 8/25/2013 12:07:14 PM ET 2013-08-25T16:07:14

DAVID GREGORY:

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And good Sunday morning, thousands of people gathered here in Washington Saturday to recreate the March on Washington where Dr. King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. And it was exactly 50 years ago today, August 25, 1963, that Dr. King and executive secretary of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins, appeared right here on Meet the Press. Many of you either already ahd the chance or will have the opportunity to see that special program as we have made it -- the original broadcast -- available across the country. Our roundtable joins us in just a moment, but first, joining me now, the only living speaker from the March on Washington, Congressman John Lewis. He spoke yesterday in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

[TAPE: JOHN LEWIS]

JOHN LEWIS:

You cannot stand by, you cannot sit down. You got to stand up. Speak up. Speak out. And get in the way. Make some noise

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman Lewis, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, thank you very much, David, for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

What a moment. We actually have the two images. There you were 50 years ago as a 23 year old, speaking so powerfully. And 50 years later, an elder statesman, sir, if you don't mind me saying.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

I don't mind.

DAVID GREGORY:

I pioneer of the civil rights struggle. That had to be quite a moment.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

It was a the moving moment to stand there in the same spot 50 years later, where Dr. King and others stood. I think in the past 50 years, we had witnessed what I like to call a nonviolent revolution in America. A revolution of values, a revolution of ideas, and our country was a better country.

DAVID GREGORY:

The president will speak on Wednesday in the same spot. He'll make 50 years since the "I Have a Dream" speech. We've talked over the years and you told me about a year and a half in your view, a lot of people can't get comfortable with the idea of an African American president, even though what a testament to the progress and the dream that Dr. King had. And you ever said during your speech yesterday, there are forces, there are people who want to take us back. What specifically are you talking about?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I hear people over and over again saying they want to take our country back. Take it back where? Where are we going? We need to go forward. We make so much progress. When I was growing up, I saw those signs that said, "White Men," "Colored Men," "White Women," "Colored Women," "White Waiting," "Colored Waiting." Those signs are gone.

When I first came to Washington 1961, the same year that President Barack Obama was born, to go on the freedom rides, black people and white people couldn't be seated on a bus or a train together to travel through the south. So when our children grew up and their children grew up, they would night see those signs. The only places they would see those signs would be in a book, in a museum, or on a video.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you see some of the same trappings of resentment and fear in our modern-day politics? Is that what you're warning of when you see some of those forces coming back?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well I think that some forces want to create this sense of fear. They think the country is moving too fast, and maybe becoming too progressive. The country is not the same country. (UNINTEL PHRASE). People coming together. And in a short time, the minority will be the majority.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there backlash that comes with that in your judgment?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I think as Americans, we must be prepared to make the adjustment and not be afraid. Be courageous. Be embracive. Embrace the change.

DAVID GREGORY:

As you look at Dr. King's message 50 years ago, and we remember that it was a March on Washington for jobs and freedom, one aspect of Dr. King's dream has not been realized. And that is economic equality. He spoke on this program 50 years ago, he said, "You've got to have social equality before you can have economic equality."

There is more social equality for African Americans, and yet look at the statistics. Back in 1963, the rate of unemployment among African Americans, twice that of whites. That was 1963. The page you're headed to today, it's still twice that of whites. That's got to trouble you.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

It is very troublesome. We have a lot of work to do. The dream is not yet fulfilled.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you blame anyone in particular? Because through Republican leadership and Democratic leadership, you still see the state of affairs.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, this president, Barack Obama, has been trying to get the Congress to move in a dramatic way to create jobs, to put people back to work. But it's all of our responsibility, not just those in elected positions, but it's the business community, educational institutions, we all must play a role in putting people back to work.

DAVID GREGORY:

Final question. The president will speak in the very spot that Dr. King spoke 50 years to the day. One of his critics, Tavis Smiley, African American who's criticized the president consistently. He talked about his hope that the president would be King-like, but not King-like. He doesn't want him to just echo the words, but wants a specific set of proposals. What do you expect from the president?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, the president is the president. He's not a civil rights leader. There's a difference. President Johnson, President Kennedy, it was said to us from time to time, when I met with President Kennedy and later with President Johnson, part of the so-called "Big Six," they would say, "Make me do it. Make me say, 'Yes' when I may have a desire to say, 'No.' Create the climate, create the environment. It is left up to the civil rights community to get out there and push and pull."

DAVID GREGORY:

You're a living testament to the idea that you've got to make some noise in this society. And you've done that. And I really appreciate your time here this morning.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS:

Well, thank you very much.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you, Congressman. Revenue Al Sharpton organized the march yesterday along with Dr. King's eldest son. Sharpton spoke to the tens of thousands gathered on the Mall on Saturday.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON (ON TAPE):

We believe in a new America. It's time to march for a new America. It's time to organize for a new America. It's time to register and vote for a new America. We are on our way. We are on our way. We are on our way.

DAVID GREGORY:

And our roundtable is now here, welcome to all of you. Including Doris Kearns Goodwins, who I just want to point out, has been well, alive and well. You've just been in hibernation working on your new book. So it's good to see you.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWINS:

Correct. I'm glad to be back.

DAVID GREGORY:

Revenue Al Sharpton, a significant day yesterday for you and others associated with that march. Fifty years ago, 50 years after the March on Washington, how did Dr. King's message relate today?

REVEREND AL SHARPTON:

I think his message relates in the sense that it charted the way for where we are, a black president, black attorney general who spoke at the march yesterday. But it also raised a challenge for this generation, that we talked about yesterday. The Supreme Court just took away the section for the Voting Rights Act, which means that we challenge the Congress now to come with a new Voting Rights Bill, because this is the first time in 48 years that we do not have free clearance in areas that have a history of discrimination.

A jobs bill, the economic inequality today is the same as it was 50 years ago. So I think this generation of civil rights leaders and the civil rights community must challenge the economic inequality, the regression on voting rights, as well as deal with some of the gun violence and internal problems in our home community.

DAVID GREGORY:

Dr. King, again on this program 50 years ago, he spoke about the highway of freedom and all its dimensions, moving up that highway of freedom. Doris Kearns Goodwin, you were there 50 years ago, which is remarkable, since you're only 27 now. And I spoke to Taylor Branch, the historian of the era. And he talks about Dr. King has a modern-sounding father. Here's a portion of my conversation with him.

TAYLOR BRANCH (ON TAPE):

The founders confronted at the beginning of America, hierarchy, kings, monarchs, and they figured out a way to promote it equal to citizenship and to found us on the idea that we have equal votes and equal souls. And they moved us in that direction. And so did Lincoln and the best, highest patriots have done that. And that's certainly what the civil rights movement did and Dr. King did.

DAVID GREGORY:

The meaning of that moment today?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think there's no question that Taylor Branch is right. There are just straight lines from Martin Luther King backward to Lincoln, backward to the founding fathers. They created an ideal of a country, founded on the idea that all men were created equal. They knew all men were not created equal. We had slavery.

But they knew we would force ourselves to move toward it. Lincoln moved us further through the Civil War, ending slavery. Martin Luther King, 100 years later, got us even further to that ideal. What was so special about that march when I was a college student, I remember the day, I remember the singing, I remember the worry beforehand about whether there'd be violence.

But most of all I remember the exhilaration, a feeling I was part of something larger than myself. We were helping to make the country a better place. And despite the fact that the '60s degenerated into riots later, assassinations, a Vietnam War, there was something about that hopefulness in the early '60s, it stayed with me my whole life. And that's what you have to recreate today. The idea we can change the country, nonviolent movement, leadership, did it then, Civil War did it in an earlier time, the framers did it in the beginning, we have a generation that can do it now.

DAVID BROOKS:

Can I just pay tribute to the two men who really organized the march? And that's Bayard Rustin Philip Randolph. They were men who, especially Randolph, a man of immense dignity who believed in peaceful, direct action, as Doris just said. You go after your opponents, you go relentlessly after them, but you always do it with superior emotional discipline and self control.

And you force them, the racists in that case, to display their own evil. And you transfer the whole debate that way by your superior dignity. And that was part of what the march did. It took a strategy which was deeply thought through, and it expressed to the nation and it showed how you'd make social change.

DAVID GREGORY:

And Sheryl Wudunn, you won a Pulitzer Prize covering China, particularly the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. The resonance that you saw covering Tiananmen Square of that 1963 march?

SHERYL WUDUNN:

Oh, absolutely. Look, Martin Luther King's speech was the greatest speech of the 20th century. So it had to have impact and around the world. In China, it's a little bit too strong to say that it inspired the demonstrations there. But the underlying need for better jobs, better life, and also freedom, was very strong.

A Chinese student leader actually invoked Martin Luther King as his role model during the Tiananmen Square movement. But most kids, they would say something like, and I remember one student telling me, "Democracy, yes, I don't know much about it, but I know we need more of it."

DAVID GREGORY:

It's interesting Reverend, the tension at the time. And again it plays out in this special rebroadcast on NBC when you saw Dr. King with Roy Wilkins. To David's point, you saw Dr. King so poised and unflappable, facing questions of the potential violence in Washington. But there was tension about the value of that kind of demonstration, mass demonstration in the street and how it made African Americans look and appear to a largely white America.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON:

Oh, it's ironic that people don't understand Mrs. King, who I got to know well, I was too young to know Dr. King, talks about how controversial he was during his lifetime and those tactics of Randolph and Rustin. And people always said, "You're causing violence, you're stirring things up, and you're moving too fast." And I think that upon his death, people gave him credit for things that he never heard in life.

And in many ways, we hear today some of the same kinds of attacks, certainly no one's on the scale that they were. But the same kinds of things that why don't you all do it another way when these are the ways you dramatize the problem? Marches on not set to solve a problem. They're set to show the problem and force someone to solve it.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're going to come back with all of you in a few minutes, because in addition to marking history this morning, we wanted to try to expand that conversation and talk about (MUSIC) the American dream. That's what Dr. King talked about. It was rooted in the American dream. So we'll have more on that with you in a few minutes.

Coming up, two rising stars in their respective parties, Democratic Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, and Republican Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, what the American dream means to a new generation of politicians. And later we'll have the latest on the developing situation in Syria, new developments this morning, we've got it covered. We're back here in 60 seconds.

* * *TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED.* * *

CORY BOOKER:

The truth of the matter is that the dream still demands that the moral conscious of our country still calls us, that hope still needs heroes. We need to understand that there is still work to do.

DAVID GREGORY:

That was Newark Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker speaking yesterday in front of the Lincoln Memorial. He joins me now. Mr. Mayor, welcome.

CORY BOOKER:

Thank you very much, it's good to be back.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you back. We're talking about the legacy of the "I Have a Dream" speech, and Dr. King's dream. Here you are trying to become the first African American Senator from New Jersey, there's one other African American Senator in the United States Senate, one African American Governor, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, African American president, and attorney general. So much progress, but still uneven when it comes to elected office. Do you think that's how Dr. King saw the dream playing out 50 years later?

CORY BOOKER:

Well, I think that these positions are important. But I think the matter in what drove the march, my mom was involved in its planning, both my parents lived here in D.C. at the time, I was born here in Washington, what really drove the march was not simply propelling people to elected office, it was dealing with the larger issues of inequality. Not only racial inequality, but frankly the challenge we faced then in our nations till now and the dramatic differences between rich and poor and the challenges we have and had then in America and we still have now with poverty.

DAVID GREGORY:

It's interesting, John Lewis just said it, Al Sharpton has said it, they always make a distinction when they say, "Look, the president's the president." What Dr. King harnessed was the power of the grassroots, the power of people coming together saying, "This is worth fighting for. This is worth being an activist for." And as a newer generation of leader, you have dispirited it, about the younger generation.

You told this to the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. "I'm so frustrated," you say, "when I see how difficult it is to get people to take relatively simple steps, proven to make a difference. Not to take a freedom ride, not to march against club and gas-wielding state troopers, not to storm beaches in Normandy or Iwo Jima, but just to take small, increased steps of service that along with others, doing the same, could make a significant difference." A lack of activism and polarized politics. That's a wicked combination.

CORY BOOKER:

It is. Well look, something clearly I learned from the generation that came before me in the civil rights movement, that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. The challenge I often see in America now is we get caught in this idea that democracy's a spectator sport, that you could sit on your couch, root for your team, red or blue, but not realize that politics is a full-contact, participatory endeavor.

09:18:29:00             And that we as a people can never allow our inability to do everything, solving poverty, to undermine our determinations to do something. And so I'm a child of a generation that said, "I'm going to do something to make this world a better place."

DAVID GREGORY:

It is interesting. You talk about the income inequality as the lasting legacy of a dream unfulfilled. You're the Mayor of Newark. Unemployment there is over 13%. It's endemic in a lot of our cities, we have that kind of failure. And a lot of critics would say, a lot of democratic leadership there. These are really hard things. Why have you not been able to make more progress in this particular area?

CORY BOOKER:

Well, this goes back to your point about partisan politics. Politics is this zero-sum gain. The spirit of King taught me that love multiplies and hate divides. We've got too much division going on in our politics. Where people come together, you make remarkable results. Well, Chris Christie and I disagree on most things.

But if we just sat back in our relative partisan positions, we wouldn't have gotten anything together. The fact that we've come together right now has created the largest economic development period in Newark in over a generation. In fact, we are 3% of the state's population with a third of all the development in New Jersey is going on in Newark, in commercial multi-families. Our biggest boom, period, because we found ways to get together.

Another great point about this it the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. I have lots of disagreements with their leadership. But we said that one of the biggest problems in America is mass incarceration. It's one of the most expensive governments that's gone out of control and it fails.

They release those people and the majority of them come back. And so we found ways to get together and do reentry programs of dramatically-reduced recidivism. And so that's the challenge we have. We have a politics in this country that's failing its people.

DAVID GREGORY:

So take it to Washington. If you're a senator, how would you forge compromise in modern-day Washington over the tension of spending restraint and necessary improvements to lessen inequality?

CORY BOOKER:

Well, this is the challenge we have to get back to in America. If we want to forget the partisanship and we just want to go a balance-sheet analysis of our country, America right now, as a recent Harvard study shows, social mobility, the ability for people to leave their social station in life, is actually getting worse in this country. We're falling behind our peer nations.

And we're paying the price of it. You want to stop government costs, we're paying for failure. You think education is expensive, the cost of ignorance is incredible, prison costs, healthcare costs. So what we've found in Newark and what I think Washington D.C. we need to see more of is people understanding that strategic investments and our country's greatest national resource, which is the genius of our children, produces incredible polar--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But it's still not working.

CORY BOOKER:

Because we're stuck in that anti-King stance. Where again, hate divides. Where I simply think we are in a zero-sum gain. If your side wins, my side loses. When we saw a spirit in this country that needs to be rekindled, it's forget about a Republican or Democrat, right/left. We need to stop pulling right/left and start figuring out ways to go forward. And I believe that American people need to start demanding this from their politicians again. Not people who could stake out their partisan differences. But people who would stake out points, who can unite people and move us forward.

DAVID GREGORY:

I've got just a couple seconds left. But I think it's a special part of our discussion this morning. We look at your parents, two of the early executives at IBM, first African American, black executives there. What does their journey tell you about the American dream?

CORY BOOKER:

It shows me that my dad born to a single mom, poor, below the poverty line in a segregated environment, like the majority of my children in Newark are born, that it took a conspiracy of love, activists coming forward to break him out of the that cycle of poverty. That now, more than ever, we need to rekindle that conspiracy of love.

And people that understand that we have a Declaration of Independence in America, but this testimony of America is also a declaration of interdependence that when we realize that we need each other, that when a child fails, we all are less of it, when a child succeeds, we all benefit from that genius. And so that's what we need to rekindle, to reignite that conspiracy of love in our country, so that kids now born in those same circumstances can't unfortunately have less of a chance to break out of them, but the same opportunities my dad did.

DAVID GREGORY:

Cory Booker, Mayor Booker, thank you for your perspective. I really appreciate it.

CORY BOOKER:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll take another break here. Coming up (MUSIC) in just a few minutes, our special roundtable is back plus a live report from Richard Engel on the developing situation in Syria, where there are developments this morning. As part of NBC's Dream Day, marking the anniversary of the March on Washington, we've asked various thought leaders, politicians, and celebrities to finish the phrase that Dr. King made famous, "I have a dream that…" We're going to hear some of those, including Snoop Dog and Mitt Romney. That's a combination. Coming up next after this break.

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DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back. Here at NBC News, we're marking the anniversary of the March on Washington by asking you and others to share your dream by finishing Dr. King's famous phrase, "I have a dream that…" We've received submissions from a wide range of people already, including Mitt Romney and the rapper formerly known as Snoop Dog, now called Snoop Lion.

SNOOP LION (ON TAPE):

I have a dream that that America's community can be a safe home for young men and women to achieve their life goals, that violence and hate will not be a factor on the streets, where we can all live in a world based on peace and love, no guns allowed.

MITT ROMNEY (ON TAPE):

I have a dream that what made America great will make our kids great. That superb schools, inspired churches, and parents that put their kids above everything else will lift our children and preserve the greatness of America.

DAVID GREGORY:

We invite you as well to submit your own using the hashtag #DreamDay (MUSIC) and you can go to NBCNews.com/DreamDay to see some of the others we have received. Coming up next here, new developments this morning on the Syrian crisis. Syria now says it is granting U.N. inspectors full access to the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack this week. That's developing this morning. I'm going to speak with NBC's Richard Engel. Plus, what is the state of the American dream? Our special roundtable returns as we have that discussion. Back in one minute here.

* * *TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED.* * *

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back. Before we get to our roundtable, the latest now on the developing situation in Syria. The White House this morning is saying there is, quote, "Little doubt chemical weapons were used in Syria as President Obama weighs military action against the country."

And also this morning, a wanting from Iran that quote, "Crossing the red line on Syria will have severe consequences." NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel joins me now from Turkey. And Richard, you've got additional information about what's happening in the ground in Syria.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Several new developments, David. We've spoken to the commander of the Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, and he confirmed to us that large weapons supplies have arrived to the rebel force. They came through Turkey, and we're talking about tons of weapons that they hope will change the momentum of the battle.

General Idris also told us that he believes that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president personally ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians in those outskirts of Damascus last week. When we asked why, he said two reasons, one that Syria was responding to a failed assassination attempt against Bashar al-Assad when there was an attack on Bashar al-Assad's personal convoy in Damascus earlier this month.

He said that infuriated him, and he ordered his military counsel to draw up options including the use of chemical weapons. The second reason, according to General Salim Idris, was that the rebels in this area that was attacked, which is right on the outskirts of Damascus, had recently acquired their own weapons. They had taken some missiles from the regime, and that Syria found this unacceptable.

That it couldn't have such well-armed rebels right on the outskirts of Damascus. And that these two things combined, the failed assassination attempts, and then these heavily-armed rebels right on Bashar al-Assad's doorstep led the Syrian president to take this action.

DAVID GREGORY:

A developing story, and our Richard Engel is right on top of it, joining us this morning from Turkey. Richard, thanks. I also want to go the White House this morning and check in with our correspondent there, Kristen Welker. And Kristen, as I've been mentioning, another development this morning is that Damascus is saying they'll allow weapons inspectors in, this is a big point, because the White House wants verification of whether this was a chemical attack.

KRISTEN WELKER:

It is, David. And I just spoke with a senior administration official who confirms that the administration is aware that the Syrian government has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors into the area in question. However, they have some concerns. They don't believe the inspectors will get in today. They also say that area has been shelled for five straight days. So there's some real concern that any evidence may have been lost or destroyed in all of that shelling.

But there's another headline coming out of the White House today, David, and that is that administration officials say at this point, there is very little doubt that chemical weapons have been used inside Syria. Now we know that President Obama met with his national security team on Saturday, there will be high-level meetings throughout the day, as the administration tries to determine exactly how to respond.

President Obama has called the use of chemical weapons a red line. He has ruled out putting boots on the ground, but we know that he's considering a range of options, including and possibly limited airstrikes. So that is the situation right now from the White House, David, as we continue to monitor this breaking news. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Kristen Welker, thank you very much on on ongoing story in Syria. We've got breaking news this morning, but also a time for some reflection. We're looking back 50 years since the "I Have a Dream" speech. And we wanted to have a broader conversation of the broader American dream, the state of that dream today. The president took this on when he was speaking about college education last week. Here's a portion of what he said.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (ON TAPE):

Times have because wages and incomes for everybody have not been going up. Everybody's pretty anxious about what's happening in their lives and what might happen for their kids. And so they get worried that if we're helping people in poverty, that must be hurting me somehow.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thinking, David Brooks, about the zero-sum aspect of our politics. But the big question is, what is the state of the American dream today?

DAVID BROOKS:

It's become harder. I want to pick up on what Cory Booker said earlier, the phrase of conspiracy of love. We talk a lot about jobs and wages and all the economic policies we do well here in Washington. But inequalities show up phenomenally early, by age two and three. And it's the interplay of economic stress and social and emotional stress.

And so getting the economic pieces right, but it's also right to get policies and have families that would have secure attachments, constant and disciplined love, large vocabularies, lack of stress and dysfunction in the home, those are the things that leaves permanent scars and make it impossible for kids to graduate from high school. So we have a firm argument on economic policies. We're not good in talking about the word "love" in Washington. If you use that word in a congressional hearing, they look at you like you're Oprah. But that is what we need to do.

DAVID GREGORY:

Look, we know, Sheryl, that people around the world still want to come and live in America. This is a country of enormous wealth and influence and opportunity still today for all the tough stuff. But is the American dream still what it has always been?

SHERYL WUDUNN:

Look. The American dream is still available, but for the well-educated. So a couple of doctors coming from China or India, in the middle class, they can come here and they can live the American dream. But for an inner-city, single mom, who lives in a bad neighborhood with bad schools, that's a challenge. And that's the problem right now.

So the civil rights scandal isn't Jim Crow laws, it's actually that a poor, minority kid living in inner-city Chicago, he has nowhere to go. Whereas the rich, white kid living in the suburbs with first-rate schools, he's got everything. And education is the escalator out of poverty. But unfortunately, that escalator is broken for the kids who need it most.

DAVID GREGORY:

What the president was speaking of, Doris, is this idea that there's huge inequality in the country in terms of median income. We have a chart here. This isn't purely an economic discussion, but this is one of those data points that really illustrates the point. You look at the bottom 10%, it's like a straight line. It's not going' up.

For the top 5%, it has steadily progressed, as you go back-- and look to 1963. I don't have to tell you, you look at that chasm among women, it's also horrible 50 years later. And the feeling that there's not as much opportunity to move out of that state of affairs.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWINS:

The fact that studies are showing now that people born in poverty are likely to be trapped in poverty belies the whole idea of what America was founded on. The idea that if you come here, you use your talents, you work hard, you'll have a more generous life for you and your children. We have to make a national commitment again.

I think the lesson of the civil rights march, there must have been doubts that you could change an entire system of segregation. But they overcame that doubt. We now have to overcome the doubts so we can change poverty. There was a national commitment to poverty under L.B.J. He had a multi-pronged approach. He had model cities, he had work studies, he had job corps, he had education.

The War in Vietnam cut it short, there were some flaws in that. He once said, "We're going to crawl, walk, and run, we're going to get this thing." We need to recommit to that. And it's not a zero-sum gain. Poverty is for us as a classless, supposed, society, one of the scourges on our system.

DAVID GREGORY:

Reverend, is that a blind spot for this president? That he has focused maybe too much on the middle class, not large on poverty?

REVEREND AL SHARPTON:

I think it's a blind spot on the Congress. When you can't pass a jobs bill, when you can't deal with any of the economic inequality that the president has addressed and talked about, what we're really seeing in this present Congress, is they're trying to revolt any remnants of the great society that came out of the '60s with Lyndon Johnson.

We could head start this week. We are retreating on the very thing young people need to step out of poverty. So you can't in one hand say that we want to see young people advance and have one America. But we're going to take away the thing that could bring us there. And I think the other part of that is that we've got to deal with the American dream must always correspond with people being able to have the individual dreams align with it. So a dream for an immigrant or a dream for a woman or a dream for a gay, all of that must not be encompassed in the American dream.

DAVID GREGORY:

You talk about today's Congress, Raul Labrador is joining us as well, a congressman, a Republican from Idaho. Congressman, good to see you back on the program. Part of what we're talking about here is the tension between what government should do to address the idea that the American dream is perhaps a little bit out of reach.

And as I ask you about the state of the American dream, I know your own unique story, born in Puerto Rico, you moved to Las Vegas, you became a Mormon, a single mother, and went to military school, you practice immigration law. I would argue that you would argue the American dream is alive and well for people like yourself.

REPresentative RAUL LABRADOR:

I would. And it saddens me actually to hear some of the things that I'm hearing here, because I think the American dream is alive. I was born four years after the March on Washington. I was born to a single mother who lost her job because she got pregnant by me, who decided to give me life. But the most important thing that she decided is that she was going to give me a good life.

I didn't go to military school when I was a young man because my mother was rich. I went to military school because she decided to sacrifice. She decided to go without some things in her life so she could put me in a military school. Then she couldn't afford that anymore, so she put me in another private school.

And eventually, when she wanted to move to the mainland, she decided to put me in a bilingual school because she thought that the only way I would be successful in life is by gaining an education, by being better educated, by learning English. I remember when we moved to the United States, she told me something that was so significant in my life.

She said, "In private, we can speak Spanish. But when you're in public, you need to speak English because I want you to speak English to the best of your ability." These are things that she thought about. I spent the last 24 hours, I watched Martin Luther King's speech three times over the last 24 hours. And it was fantastic.

And the rhetoric that he used, the words that he used, and the message that he used was the message of hope. And unfortunately, what I've been hearing from your panelists is not a message of hope. It's a message of despair. And I think we need our leadership to actually be more hopeful.

DAVID GREGORY:

Sheryl, what is the optimistic case? Facts are facts, and again the challenges of the American dream being within reach are still facts that government has to deal with, that individuals have to deal with. What is the more hopeful case though about the American people?

SHERYL WUDUNN:

Well, I think that the problem is government gridlock. It really is. Head Start, as the reverend said, 57,000 kids have been shut out of Head Start. And illegal immigrant children have no way to move up. The chances of an American moving up is worse. It's one out of 12, versus in Britain, it's one out of eight. So what does that mean? That means as Washington dithers, America burns.

And that's really important. The government used to be the provider of opportunity. Mass education, local community high schools, secondary and tertiary education. The president mentioned Head Start, and that may be the single most critical thing that actually could help us build the American dream again. But as Washington dithers, America burns.

DAVID BROOKS:

Head Starts, not a successful program? Well, let me play the positives. Listen--

SHERYL WUDUNN:

I actually-- the bill--

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, let me play at the positives, because I want to ask you something Congressman Labrador just said. We are still an amazingly talented country. You go to schools, you've got kids named Juan Hernandez Goldberg floating around there, mixtures of all these different ethnicities. We're really tolerant compared to other countries. And we still have these fantastic stories.

I just had lunch with a woman named Katie who was from a not great family, she's homeless, spends part her time homeless, decides she's going to enlist in the navy, the enlistment officer says, "No, you shouldn't enlist in the navy, you should go to Annapolis." She graduates this year number one academically in her class, she gets a Rhodes Scholarship, she runs track, she's a Marine. You run across these stories all the time and they still are endemic to the way we live.

SHERYL WUDUNN:

There's no question that those inspiring stories still exist. The question is, is there a generation where too many people are not having that inspirational moment? I grew up in the World War II generation. There's a reason why that generation-- my father had an eighth-grade education. He left work because he was orphaned. He had a mathematical ability, he became a bank examiner, we had a house in the suburbs.

I was part of a whole generation in the '50s that moved up together, why? There was full employment in World War II, there was the G.I. Bill of Rights, there was an income tax that was passed, there was a sense of commitment at that point to bringing that generation, going, "That's eroded." And it started eroding in the '70s and the '80s for the middle class and the poverty. It doesn't mean that you always have these wonderful people that come up.

But how many people with talent are not being realized? Lincoln used to be haunted about a poem of a person who had great talent and was in his grave in an unmarked grave because he never had the chance. And there's too many of those kids without chances.

DAVID BROOKS:

All of these realities are true.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

SHERYL WUDUNN:

Very true.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON:

Two small things quickly. I think that as you hear Dr. King's speech 50 years ago, is yes, it was of hope. But it was pointed at what we had to fight. He talked about governors whose lips dripped with the words of interposition and nullification, which is no different than we're talking about changing stand your ground laws today.

He talked about America gave blacks a better check. So let's not act like all he talked about was poetry. He directly went at issues that we're raising today. And I agree with David that we are tolerant more than other countries. The question is not to compare us on how we are to other countries, it's compare how we treat some Americans to other Americans inside our country.

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman, just a few seconds left. Some final thoughts from you on this?

REPRESENTATIVE RAUL LABRADOR:

We're still the greatest nation on the earth. If you listen to what Martin Luther King talked about, he talked about making sure that we were not bitter about what was happening in America, but that we had hope. It was a beautiful speech. And I think that the leadership, or the African American leadership needs to start thinking about that hope that Martin Luther King gave us instead of trying to get the community to think that everything is hopeless and without a future. I think when we tell our young people that in America they cannot succeed anymore, you will see more and more young people not succeeding. And what we need to do is tell them that they can succeed.

(OVERTALK)

REVEREND AL SHARPTON:

The quick response is that is why we must-- yes, and to tell them to do what Dr. King did. You can change America. You can fight what's wrong. And we are not hopeless. But we also know from the champion of hope, hope needs legs to it. And you need action.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, different perspectives here. Just the beginning of this conversation, I know. Thank you all very much. I want to add a programming note here. Many of our NBC stations will be showing a special rebroadcast of our 1963 Meet the Press featuring Dr. King and N.A.A.C.P. Director Roy Wilkins. It aired 50 years ago today.

Please check your local listing for details. History coming alive from our archive. Coming up next, (MUSIC) an update on that wildfire that's now reached Yosemite National Park, we want to check in on that. And a little later, my live interview with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, possible 2016 G.O.P. Presidential contender. We're back here in just a moment.

* * *TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: COMMERCIAL BREAK NOT TRANSCRIBED.* * *

DAVID GREGORY:

An update now on some breaking news. A state of emergency is still in effect in San Francisco because of a huge wildfire on the edge of California's scenic Yosemite National Park. The so-called Rim Fire has burned more than 125,000 acres and it's threatening thousands of rural homes, along with two groves of giant Sequoia trees. The fire is just a few miles from a key reservoir that provides water to 2.5 million people in the San Francisco area.

Power lives serving the city are also threatened. Video shot from water-dropping planes shows the sheer magnitude of the fire. At last word, it was only 7% contained, even though more than 2,500 firefighters are on the front lines. Next here, he's been mentioned as a possible candidate (MUSIC) for the White House in 2016. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is here to give me his blueprint for the American dream, after this.

* * *TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED.* * *

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back. Joining me now, Republican Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, welcome back to Meet the Press.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here in person. You, as a potential nominee in 2016, you've taken on your party. You said, "Look, the American dream's got to be within reach to everybody and we as Republicans need to find a way to provide a blueprint for Americans to get their vote with changing demographics in the country." You said at one time calling your party, the "stupid party" for some of their remarks made in the 2012 campaign.

So I want to ask you about the battles that are brewing in terms of this tension between spending restraint and making more investments. The president speaking a couple of days ago said, "Look, there is no more deficit crisis. The deficit is coming down." Here are his other remarks.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (ON TAPE):

We don't have an urgent deficit crisis. The only crisis we have is one that's manufactured in Washington. And it's ideological. And the basic notion is, is that we shouldn't be helping people get healthcare and we shouldn't be helping kids who can't help themselves and whose parents are under resourced. We shouldn't be helping them get a leg up.

DAVID GREGORY:

This is about the role of government and helping people reach their version of the American dream.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

So, a couple things. Obviously, I disagree with the president. I think we still have a deficit and a debt crisis. Debt's nearing $17 trillion. Which is the bigger point. I want to pick up on something some of your earlier guests said. When it comes to the American dream, I think the next great civil rights fight is really about making sure that every child has a great education.

Look at all the disparity numbers, and it really comes down to making sure that every American has a chance to get a great paying job, starts with a great education. Let's be honest. We all like to say we're for equal opportunity and education. But that's not the reality in America. If your parents have the means, they'd probably move to a good neighborhood with good public schools.

Or they're saving their dollars to send you to a good private school. There are too many kids in this country today trapped in poor neighborhoods with poor, failing public schools. In Louisiana, we're doing something about it. Ninety percent of our kids in New Orleans are in charter schools. In five years, we've doubled the percentage of kids doing reading and math on grade level.

We've now taken our program statewide so the dollars can follow the child. Too many people are still standing in the way. The teacher unions fight against that just on Friday. Department of Justice said they were going to go to court. Now listen to this. We've got a scholarship program. Hundred percent of the kids are low income. Hundred percent of the kids are in failing schools, C, D, or F schools. Ninety percent of the kids are minorities.

8,000 of those parents have chosen to take these dollars and send their kids to better schools, to other schools, where they can get a better education, where it's a better fit for their children. Now the Department of Justice using the same rules that were there to prevent discrimination against minority children is going after some of these parents and some of these kids and saying, "We don't know that we want to allow you to make this choice. We want you to have to go to a federal judge." We need to provide a great education for every child.

DAVID GREGORY:

And forging compromising on issues like that is still going to be difficult, as is finding the real, true message of the Republican party, as the Republican party tries to win back the White House and overall control of Congress. General Colin Powell was on this program earlier this year and he spoke about another challenge that faces the party that he says is really intolerance. This is what he told me.

COLIN POWELL (ON TAPE):

There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.

DAVID GREGORY:

You've heard John Lewis say that there's still not a lot of acceptance of an African American president. Calls for impeachment this week that some have chalked up to racism. What's your view of a dark vein of intolerance within the G.O.P.?

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Well, first of all let's talk about--

DAVID GREGORY:

Is that fair even?

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Well, I have a lot of respect for General Powell. I think our party at its best, at its core principles, looks at people and treats them as individuals, not as members of special interest groups. Let's talk about some of these specific examples. Let's talk about impeachment, for example. Look, I reject that kind of talk. The reality is I didn't like it when the left spent eight years trying to delegitimize President Bush, calling to question his election.

I don't think we should be doing that to President Obama. The reality is, one of the great things about this country is we do have a peaceful transfer of power. I disagree with this president's policy. And stop talking about impeachment. Let's go out there and let's have a legitimate debate. Let's fight his policies. Let's try to repeal Obamacare. Let's try to promote school choice.

Let's fight against more government spending. And we've had decades of this government programs, entitlement spending, you still see the disparity in numbers, you still have those numbers you showed earlier about the African American unemployment rate, about the challenges in joining the middle class. The reality is, it's time for a new approach. So let's not talk about impeachment, let's actually talk about the policies we disagree with.

DAVID GREGORY:

On Obamacare, you even have the speaker of the House saying, "The president's not going to lose his signature achievement." That efforts to defund Obamacare, even to threaten a government shutdown, simply are not going to work.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Well, look, one, I don't know why we would negotiate with ourselves. This is not about politics. I think Obamacare is bad for our healthcare system. My background's in healthcare policy. I care deeply about healthcare. The president himself said, "If you like your healthcare plan, you'll be able to keep it." He said, "If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep it."

It turns out that's not going to be true for millions of Americans. He said he was going to bend the cost curve down. Turns out premiums are going up by some estimates as much as 30% across the country and in certain markets and some much more than that.

So I don't know why we would take any option off the table. I don't think this president or the Democrats are going to want to shut down the government. That's a false choice. That's a threat coming from them. I think Republicans should use every tactic, every option we can to repeal and replace Obamacare.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what would the impact of shutting down the government mean?

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Again, look, I think this is a false threat from the other side. I don't think you have to shut down the government to repeal and replace Obamacare. But I don't think Republicans should be taking options off the table. I think we should be fighting to defund it. The reality is-- is that let's have that debate. I don't think Republicans should be negotiating with ourselves and saying, "We're not going to do this, we're not going to do that." Let's look at every option and get rid of Obamacare.

DAVID GREGORY:

I've just got a few seconds left, but I want to ask you as well, first Indian American governor, we have a picture of you going to Disneyland, where else? As a kid, your American dream has been realized. What does it mean to you as a newer generation of politician?

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

You know what? It's amazing. My dad's here in the audience, one of nine kids, only one who got past the fifth grade, came here with his pregnant wife, what's amazing to me is he had the confidence, didn't know anybody, went to the yellow pages calling people, had the confidence he could get a job, he has an accent, not a Southern accent, he's got an accent. What's amazing to me, he has lived the American dream. I want my children to have to those same opportunities. This is the greatest country in the history of the world.

DAVID GREGORY:

Governor Jindal, thank you for being here. I appreciate it very much.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll take a break here, be back with special images to remember, dedicated to the American dream. After this.

* * *TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED.* * *

DAVID GREGORY:

Some of our images to remember. That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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