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GOP convention TRANSCRIPT: 5/25/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Lawrence Gostin, Mark Thompson, Tom Rogers, Tiffany Cross, Hitha Herzog, Teyana Taylor


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A good Memorial Day to you. I am Ari Melber. And we have a special show for you right now.

As America honors those lost to wars fought often far from home, we are also honoring the nearly 100,000 Americans who now died right here at home from this virus. It`s larger than the American death toll in the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars combined.

Today, the president was in Arlington National Cemetery in Fort McHenry. While for the first time in months, Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, made a public appearance, paying respect to the War Memorial in Delaware, both wearing masks, a contrast to President Trump, also a contrast to many other Americans who broke the CDC guidelines over this holiday weekend. Many skipping mask, others gathering and sometimes packed areas.

Meantime, the politics of the pandemic area continue, new protests cropping up that back Donald Trump`s calls for a more swift reopening. Now, summer is beginning and that means different things to different people. You know, in some parts of the county, there are certainly safe ways to try to reopen gradually following the guideline. Other areas need a lot more time.

Either way, an attempt to reopen does carry risk. We`ve learned that much. Take reports out of Missouri, that nearly 150 different customers at risk from the virus after two hairstylists were diagnosed as positive. In Montgomery, Alabama, the healthcare crisis has become so acute, there may not be enough ICU beds for patients.


DR. LISA WILLIAMS, PULMONARY CRITICAL CARE SPECIALIST: I`m used to taking care of sick patients. I`m used to seeing death in the ICU. But the volume of death and not being able to help my patients is just heartbreaking.

I mean, to be honest with you, every day, I`m on the brink of tears. I want to know when this is going to end, because it`s tough. And I don`t think people realize taking care of people that are dying that you can`t help.

MELBER: Let`s get into all of it. I`m joined by Mark Thompson, Host of the Make It Plain podcast. He`s interviewed many candidates for president and has covered a lot of these issues. Tom Rogers has written for Newsweek as a Media Executive and an Attorney, and has worked in Congress among other things. And Lawrence Gostin, a University Professor at Georgetown Law and Director of the O`Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law with an expertise on Infectious Diseases and advising the WHO.

Plenty of experience all around. Lawrence, I`ll start with you. What do you think is the best way for people to understand, coming out of this long weekend, that staying home forever is not the solution, nor what the CDC requires, but we are seeing a kind of a burst in some places that suggest people are not finding the middle ground?

LAWRENCE GOSTIN, UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW: Hello, Ari, happy holiday to you and all of your viewers. You know, there are ways to go out and be safe. We want people to be happy. We want them to enjoy themselves. But there are ways to do it. Doing it outdoors, distancing yourself, wearing a mask. These are all ways you can really enjoy your food, you can enjoy company and be safe.

Remember, we`re doing this not just for ourselves. We`re doing it for our parents, grandparents, neighbors and others. And so it`s so important, particularly on Memorial Day, which is a somber day, and we`re going through a somber period. We need to actually -- we don`t want to get back to where we were before. But that could happen.

MELBER: Mark, on the political side, take a listen to this protester.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The number one purpose is to fight the tyranny that this shutdown, has caused and to fight the tyranny that the governor is imposing on the American people in the state of New Jersey. We don`t believe in his executive orders. We don`t believe in him legislating by executive order. The people need a voice.



REV. MARK THOMPSON, PODCAST HOS, MAKE IT PLAIN WITH REV. MARK THOMPSON: Well -- and it`s good to be with you, Ari, and good to be on with a fellow Georgetown Hoyer. We are all praying for Coach Patrick Ewing. I would hope we would get to the point where we would show people actually protesting some of these governors who are trying to force re-openings and who are not taking care of their citizens.

For example, in Alabama, the Green County Democrats, the Alabama NAACP and others led by John Zipper (ph), and others are having caravans of protest against the governor of Alabama for not expanding Medicaid. Because one of the things that`s going to have to happen once we get out of this is a reexamination of healthcare policy all the way around. And we see now more than ever before the need for Medicaid expansion, Medicare/Medicaid for all, if not, universal healthcare. And that is a result -- that`s what`s causing so many deaths.

And let me also just say, this is Memorial Day. We honor those who have fallen because of wars. Wars come about because of policy, good or bad. And so the deaths in this coronavirus pandemic are a result, many of them, because of Donald Trump`s policy or lack thereof. So those who have fallen because of COVID-19 on this Memorial Day, I think, are just as worthy of the same honor, because they lost their lives because of policy, and lord knows Donald Trump is waging war himself against democracy.

MELBER: And we`ve heard from our experts about which aspects of this are consequence of policy and which may have been inevitable given how many different countries were hit and have had the toll.

Tom, I wanted to bring you in on the politics of all this. Joe Biden out today, as we mentioned, and he is wearing a mask, which is the contrast to Trump, he`s got an ad taking on Trump for being, basically, in his view, MIA on the golf course while the deaths mount. Where do you see, as we go past from war day into what will be, what always is, the heartbeat of a presidential campaign waged in different circumstances, virtually? What do you see Joe Biden doing now?

TOM ROGERS, NEWSWEEK, EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Ari, we have two rampant viruses going on this Memorial Day weekend. We have the coronavirus, which has infected the bodies of some 2 million people across the country, and then we have the Trump cult virus, which has infected 45 percent of the body politic. Fortunately, it seems as if over 50 percent of the country has antibodies to the Trump cult virus. But it is a virus that causes people to be ignorant, ignorant because of Trump`s misinformation, ignorant because of his scapegoating and blaming others, ignorant because he`s effectively telling people to ignore his own government`s guidelines of how the public health crisis ought to be handled.

And the issue for Biden is, how do you create a narrative that makes that abundantly clear. I don`t understand the Trump re-election reasoning. This is supposedly being managed by him, because he thinks it`s the better path to re-election, as if 100,000 dead isn`t good enough to get re-elected, but if he moves that toward 200,000 dead, that`s a sure bet toward re-election. And I don`t understand with Joe Biden leading among elderly Americans by some 17 percent, a key demographic that Donald Trump must win that Hillary Clinton ran on and lost by 7 percent -- excuse me. The --

MELBER: I`ll tell what, I`ll bring Mark in and come back to you.

But, Mark, on that very point, you have -- I want to read a little bit of where we get into fudging these numbers at the state and federal level. You have states like in Georgia where officials say they had to correct what was described as a, quote, processing error that wrongly showed a downward trend in new daily infections, making it appear as if new infections had dropped two weeks straight. It was the third error in three weeks. And that fits into what Trump`s critics have said is a pattern of trying to just message and reality-show the underlying horror, the underlying facts.

THOMPSON: Yes, and people should pay more attention to that, because this is very dangerous. And as people return to the outside, I know it was a nice weekend, a nice day, that`s not the answer. But the only way we can stop this is by people continuing to remain inside, continuing to remain distant, continuing to wear masks. And that`s the only reasonable thing.

You know, it`s true, this is disproportionately affecting not only African- Americans and other people of color and poor, working class people, but it`s affecting some of Trump`s base. But they`ve been transparent. They`ve said that some of them are worth sacrificing, again, as if this is some foreign war, that some of them are going to have to lose their lives for an economy that may not even come back, because I don`t know that people are going to be ready just to run back in some of these stores or some of these businesses. Some businesses have said they`re not going to open up for the rest of the year.

So it`s really ridiculous, what`s going on. It`s almost sickening. It`s malicious when it comes to people`s lives. And that`s exactly why we all really need to close ranks and be sure that we send Donald Trump home in November.

MELBER: Mark, Lawrence, and Tom, my thanks to each of you kicking this off. Let me tell everyone what we have coming up in this special show, Joe Biden making his first appearance, everyone talking about. Meanwhile, his coming choice of running mate and breaking with custom, Biden has already publicly pledged to pick a woman.

Some Democrats though saying, there`s more riding (ph) on this picks than usual. We have that story in our broadcast tonight.

And a special report on the warning that Trump wouldn`t hear how Bill Gates, publicly and privately urged a better preparation for pandemic. It`s very interesting and very important.

And at the end of this hour, what does graduation mean in the age of zoom? Why is Barack Obama getting involved? The singer, Teyana Taylor is here to talk about her project for the class of 2020.


MELBER: Now to our special report tonight. The coronavirus pandemic is upending our lives in ways many people could not have imagined. Work and socializing now mostly confined at homes, schools obviously closed, most long-term plans cancelled.

And while some in the federal government seemed caught off guard, this very problem is something some leaders didn`t warn about. One of the world`s most accomplished innovators took to a public stage five years ago warning about pandemics. It all sounds quite prescient now to hear Bill Gates` advice then.


BILL GATES, CEO, MICROSOFT: If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it`s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.

We have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrence but we`ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We`re not ready for the next epidemic.


MELBER: That was 2015, Gates going public with the evidence showing the U.S. was not ready for this kind of pandemic.

So as part of our ongoing special coverage, right now, we turn to our report on these public warnings, what they reveal about the U.S. response today and more critically, how they can inform our approach in the future and potentially save lives.

Of all the experts out there, in areas ranging from medicine to disaster prep, Bill Gates excelled in several critical fields, computer innovation, which requires original thinking, business, which excels on ruthless execution, and then his current chapter, public health philanthropy, where Gates takes on all kinds of medical challenges around the world with both his skills and his money.

Gates became the richest person in the world by leading a tech revolution and he became increasingly famous as a nerd with a can-do spirit. Here he was on David Letterman back in 1995, sporting a hardhat and lab coat.


DAVID LETTERMAN, THE DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW: What are the things that you`ve designed for the house that you`re really very excited about?

GATES: I`ve got a trampoline room that I can go and use.

LETTERMAN: A trampoline room?

GATES: That`s right.

LETTERMAN: This is like an actual trampoline or like a computer?

GATES: Non-virtual.


MELBER: Trampolines are not the item many billionaires brag about buying but Gates isn`t the typical billionaire. He`s different in ways that are especially relevant now. Take his intellectual hunger. The young entrepreneur once recounted how he vacationed only about once a year and used that time to dig into obscure academic research.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like most of us, Bill says that he escapes the office about once a year. But that`s where the similarities end.

GATES: I spend at least a week a year where I go out and just read people`s PhD theses and things that are going on in the field.


MELBER: You`ve got to read those PhD theses. This is one reason that Gates has seen around so many corners. He reads ahead into the research to see where things might go. And now that he does philanthropy full-time, he`s been deploying his money and platform to press challenges that some corporations and governments don`t get around to tackling.

The Gate Foundation presents ideas, papers and money, as you`ve probably seen, to governments around the world.

And Gates has had his own run-ins with Donald Trump. At one foundation meeting, Gates recounted a classic story where Trump was attending a horse show in Florida. Gates` daughter was there too. And she noticed that Trump took an extra car ride to leave the area so he could make one of his special helicopter entrances at the event. This is footage MSNBC`s Chris Hayes first reported.


GATES: 20 minutes later, he flew in in a helicopter to the same place. So, clearly, he had a been driven away and when he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter --


MELBER: Now, whatever Gates thought of Donald Trump`s to impress, Bill Gates still took the opportunities, controversial or not, to advocate pandemic policy with Donald Trump.

Here they were at Trump Tower right after Trump`s election in December 2016, Gates explaining he was pushing science and health policies at that very meeting.


GATES: I saw him in Trump Tower. I said, hey, science and innovation is a great thing, you should be a leader who drives innovation. And that conversation was about a broad set of things, in energy, in health, in education.


MELBER: People have all kinds of ideas. Few get a private audience with the president.

And while Bill gates is not out here telling everyone, I told you so, the evidence shows that in many ways, he did. Listen to Gates` prescient warnings from 2015.


GATES: We need to get going, because time is not on our side. In fact, if there is one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic, it`s that it can serve as an early warning, a wake-up call to get ready.

If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic.


MELBER: It was time to get ready. Many governments didn`t listen or didn`t want to spend the money. Gates specifically outlining the type of potential virus that would be most infectious. Notice how it eerily predicts parts of COVID transmission.


GATES: You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they`re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): You yourself can be carrying it and you might not know it. It would be the worst thing in the world is to go to church to worship and to next to someone and infect them.


MELBER: That was crucial knowledge.

And regardless of the saying that you may have heard, knowledge actually is not always power. It really depends on what people do with knowledge.

Gates took his knowledge and he went back to meet with Donald Trump again in 2018. He advocated the Trump administration get serious and back a universal flu vaccine. He tried to prod the president with a kind of flattery, saying a universal flu vaccine could be kicked off and energized by you, Mr. President. What a great legacy.

Now, Gates later said Trump sounded interested, but there wasn`t much progress. We can tell you, by September of last year, Trump signed an executive order that created a flu vaccine task force that was headed by someone already on the job, Health Secretary Azar, and that effort didn`t come with any legislation, let alone any new money to prepare for pandemics.

Now, Gates also says Trump offered him a possible role as a science adviser, something Gates declined, in favor of just offering the science advice publicly and privately that we`re telling you about.

Now, the government can take it or leave it. This is Gates` exact role today. And he`s speaking out again now with advice for anyone who is listening, and it includes rebutting some of the newest claims by President Trump.


GATES: It`s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest we can have the best of both worlds.

What we need is the extreme shutdown to -- so that, in six to 10 weeks, if things go well, then you can start opening back up.

It`s very tough to say to people, hey, keep going to restaurants, you know, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner, just we want you to keep spending, because there`s some -- maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is what really counts.


MELBER: That was a stark way to put it.

Gates was staying as the body count rose, but before videos and pictures like this went virile, the footage of the human wreckage of virus in America, a country that has so many, but is reduced to scenes like this.

Now, since Gates` expertise stands at the intersection of innovation, business and public health, it`s worth nothing that he`s one of the business titans emphasizing that, while the economic toll is severe, that comes second to the challenge that cannot be reversed, this virus continuing to kill so many people.


GATES: It is really tragic that the economic effects of this are very dramatic.

I mean, nothing like this has ever happened to the economy in our lifetimes. But money -- bringing the economy back and doing money, that`s more of a reversible thing than bringing people back to life.



You know, that is a fundamental piece of wisdom from a very rich man. Your life is worth more than all the money in the world.

It echoes something that many already have admired about Bill Gates, that he embodies success without flaunting it. As the great Andre Benjamin once put it, Bill Gates don`t dangle diamonds in the face of peasants when he`s Microsoftening the place. Consider your surroundings, or you leave without a trace.

The point is, real strength doesn`t need to flaunt itself. And considering your surroundings is crucial for staying alive. That applies to staying safe right now, as well as for preparing for next pandemic.

As Gates also explained back in 2015, as he would later try to warn Donald Trump, the medical science shows a path for what we all need to do. And with that in mind, tonight, Bill Gates gets the final word.


GATES: The problem was that we didn`t have a system at all.

In fact, there are some pretty obvious key missing pieces. We didn`t have a group of epidemiologists ready to go.

A large epidemic would require us to have hundreds of thousands of workers. The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola. It didn`t get into many urban areas, and that was just luck.

Next time, we might not be so lucky. It would spread throughout the world very, very quickly. If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic.


MELBER: Some important truths to keep in mind.

Meanwhile, the big decision facing Joe Biden -- when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Now, here`s something you just don`t see much these days: Joe Biden in public.

The former vice president marking Memorial Day, you see here, with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, laying a wreath at a ceremony in Delaware, and, very clearly, both of them wearing masks.

Now, that is ceremonial and somber. But Biden`s next big decision is political. Who will run alongside him on this Democratic ticket?

He already publicly pledged to name a woman, which, when you think about it, it`s actually a big deal. That alone would make for a historic victory, if they won, because no woman has ever served as vice president.

But in this Trump era, marked by racial tensions, and after a primary where Joe Biden`s political career was rescued by black voters, first in South Carolina, and then really, as we saw demographically, in many other parts of the nation, we can report for you, tonight, there are increasingly pointed calls for Joe Biden to ensure through his choice that the Democrats do not run a so-called -- quote -- "all-white ticket."

This issue actually just arose in Biden`s interview with radio host Charlamagne on Friday. Some potential candidates have probably confirmed that they are under consideration.

That includes Val Demings. And there is talk of Biden`s former primary rival Kamala Harris, as well as Georgia Democratic leader Stacey Abrams, who`s campaigned with Biden just recently. They, of course, appeared with Lawrence O`Donnell in a town hall on MSNBC.

Also in the mix, we hear about Senators Warren and Klobuchar.

Now this short list is stoking debates among Democrats, some civil rights leaders faulting Klobuchar`s work as a prosecutor and her general performance among minority voters in the primaries.

Then, of course, you can always go beyond the short list.

There are politicos and activists throwing out all kinds of other names right now, including some prominent figures who have not ever run for office and, frankly, may not be interested, some talking up online former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and others talking up even Michelle Obama herself, conjuring the idea of another Obama-Biden ticket, although insiders note that is a nonstarter, we`re told, for the former first lady.

This is a big story we`re going to keep an eye on. We have some special guests coming up.

Right now, a quick break and, when we come back, a lot more in our special show tonight.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special Memorial Day coverage. I`m Ari Melber.

And I`m joined right now by Tiffany Cross. She`s a resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of the forthcoming book "Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives and Saving Our Democracy."

You view on what Joe Biden should do with his selection?

TIFFANY CROSS, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Well, hi, Ari. It`s good to be with you. And happy Memorial Day.

I just want to first put this in context, Ari, and say, look, this is not a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Donald Trump is costing tens of thousands of lives in this country. So, I want to be really clear about that point.

But I do think that Joe Biden has proven that he does need a (AUDIO GAP) running mate to get him -- help him usher over the finish line. I think what we saw with Charlamagne`s "Breakfast Club" interview is a common mistake.

And even though he`s been a great candidate on some issues, and the voters, the Democratic voters across this country elected him and helped resurrect his campaign to be the Democratic nominee, I don`t think that he has the support that he needs to.

And so because this will essentially be a choice between Joe Biden or stay home, not a choice between Joe Biden and Trump, I think he needs to have (AUDIO GAP) that will energize the base and encourage people to get out.

MELBER: Right.

CROSS: He`s not just asking for our vote. He`s asking for our dollars, our organizing, our canvassing, our door-knocking. And we have to think down- ballot.

MELBER: Right.

CROSS: So, I think, personally, that he should have a black running mate.

MELBER: Let me jump in and say -- yes.


MELBER: And you make a very practical point, which is disagreeing with the way that Joe Biden initially framed it in the interview.

And he very quickly came out and walked that back and changed his frame. But I think you make an astute political point here, which is, no one gets to take for granted that people who have a preference are going to vote. Getting people to mobilize and vote is one of the most difficult parts.

CROSS: Right.

MELBER: And for your further analysis, since you raise that point, here is what Charlamagne, this influential radio host, said afterward in a discussion here on MSNBC to that end. Take a look.


JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY": What if Joe Biden says, no, I`m picking Amy Klobuchar, she`s my running mate? Then what -- then what do you do?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, on top of possible Russian interference and voter suppression, Dems have to worry about voter depression.

And that`s people staying home on Election Day because they just aren`t enthused by the candidate. You can`t act like this is the most important election ever, but run a campaign from your basement, and not make some real policy commitments to the black community, not listen to some of the demands that the black community are making.


MELBER: Tiffany?

CROSS: Well, I think Charlamagne raises a good point. And congrats to him for a great interview.

But we also have data to back this up, Ari. Amy Klobuchar will not excite voters, when the talk of her as a candidate for vice president feels so disrespectful to the base who energized and resurrected his campaign.

But when you look at the data, look, Joe Biden was supposed to be the great white hope that would energize the Midwest white voters, the euphemism that the media has for white voters, the suburban voters.

And so I don`t think that she adds anything to the ticket. And when you look at -- there was a report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign that found that black women were overwhelmingly increased as candidates and as voters.

So, when you had a black woman on the ticket at the state, local and federal level, they accounted for a disproportionate amount of the winners. So, I think, when an election is so critical at this point, and there`s so much riding on it, you need everything you can to energize the base and encourage people to cast a ballot, when they`re facing, Ari, an unholy trinity of things that will depress and suppress the vote.

We have got GOP-led voter suppression. We have got foreign election interference that specifically targets black voters. And now we have the fallout of COVID-19.

So, that unholy trinity really can wreak havoc on our democracy. And I think black voters have been so traditionally brutalized throughout the history of the country, that they`re afraid to make demands, that there are so many people who feel like, well, don`t make a lot of noise because we just need to win.

But when we sit at the epicenter of political power, if not now, then when? So why not have Joe Biden`s help us help him assure him over this finish line? Because we are disproportionately the people who hold up this candidacy, this party and this democracy.

MELBER: Really interesting getting your perspective on it, and particularly everyone taking a minute to, even if you put aside a tense moment in the interview, digging into the substance, not recoiling from a conversation that may be difficult to have for various reasons.

CROSS: Right.

MELBER: And you have led us on that. I think that`s important for everyone to listen to you and hear this out, because this is a big, big debate that`s going to continue through a very high-stakes presidential race.

Tiffany Cross, thank you so much.

CROSS: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely. We will see you again.

Up next: A new analysis shows the virus` impact on the economy now dwarfs the Great Recession. And there is other cause for concern.

Also later night, a look at graduation, Zoom graduation, Barack Obama getting out there, and this video from Teyana Taylor.

We`re going to explain how it all comes together with an uplifting segment later in the hour.


MELBER: Every state is now in some phase of reopening. The coronavirus crisis is already dealing a devastating blow, though, to a country with an economy that`s not anywhere near fully reopening. Two months of these stay- at-home orders and shutdowns plunging us into a downward spiral that numerically rivals the great financial recession from 2007 to `09.

Look at the unemployment numbers alone. During the recession that we`ve previously lived through, unemployment peaked around 10 percent over 18 months. Right now, you got an outbreak that`s caused unemployment to spike to 14.7 percent in April alone.

Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett on the economy says it`s not dropping soon.


KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: You`ll end up with a number north of 20 percent in May.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North of 20 percent. Wow.

HASSETT: That`s right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it`s possible that unemployment will be in double digits in November?

HASSETT: Yes, I do. But I think that all the signs of economic recovery are going to be raging everywhere and the only thing we`re going to really be debating as economists is, you know, are we going to get back to where we were, is it going to be kind of a long haul to get there.


MELBER: So, let`s dig into this because it affects your life for a long time. I`m joined by Hitha Herzog. She`s research officer at H Square Research. She`s also the author of "Black Market Billions: How Organized Retail Crime Funds Global Terrorists."

Thank you for joining me today.


MELBER: There are so many different numbers that fly around. This is a story that affects everyone because we`re all living through the recession. But what do you see as key for people to understand in the areas that you study?

HERZOG: So I tend to cover retail. And I also look at the way the consumer is spending. So what we really have to differentiate, and I think this is what everyone who -- we`re watching the numbers and wanting to know what`s going to happen to the economy needs to know is that what is happening with the economy is very different than what`s happening with the stock market.

So what you are seeing, basically the stock market is playing a game of catch-up. So what you`re seeing right now, these economic numbers that are being reported, the unemployment at 14.7 percent, the unemployment rate that may be going to 20 percent, I mean, that`s not far off, and also the people that are applying for unemployment insurance in the 30 million range and it`s probably going to go up next week, this is -- this is serious stuff.

And while, you know, I think the market is anticipating the economic recovery to be very sharp and quick, that`s actually not going to happen.

MELBER: And if you say it`s not going to happen, it goes to the selection we just saw where you have a Trump adviser saying however bad it gets, by November, they are banking on signs of recovery. So, bad, but they`re going to argue, going up in the right direction.

How bullish are you on them achieving that versus it being tougher because the whole presidency could hang in the balance?

HERZOG: Right. There`s no doubt that I`m sure the president and his advisers are working feverishly to get this happening, because of course the election is happening. But we have a whole four months in between to get the small businesses up and running. And if you think about it, the small business is really what is the heart of this country.

And if you have small businesses struggling to get their PPP loans together or even get their workers back, it doesn`t really matter how quickly we can reopen these local economies, these state economies, if your workers can`t come back and they can`t help sustain your business, then you have a real problem. And I think that`s what we have to focus on.

MELBER: So let me ask you about retail, which you work on.

A lot of us here going into the summer, this is a time where people make adjustments, like, in a normal life you go out and you buy some of the stuff for any summer travel or hot weather, et cetera. Are you seeing in the retail sector any concrete efforts to try to encourage people to come back safely? I mean, you can`t just go into a bustling mall the same way you used to, yet we`re told by the experts there are ways to reopen with social distancing. How does that look in the field that you specialize in?

HERZOG: Well, a lot of the retailers have implemented ways to shop online, for example. And we have retailers like target who spent a lot of money on capital expenditure, making sure that online spending and their online efforts to go ahead and buy product and the logistics are top notch. So you`re seeing these big box stores really stick the landing on that. When you talk about malls too, you are seeing malls and commercial spaces make sure that they are implementing social distancing.

But at the end of the day, it`s all about the consumer. And they need to feel safe, that they can go out --


HERZOG: -- and even be around to shop. You also have this other very major thing, there are 30 million people out of work. So when you have those kind of numbers, and you`re asking people to go out and shop and spend, you`re going to have a little bit of arrested development when it comes to spending this summer.

MELBER: Hitha Herzog, thank you so much. Interesting to dig into that perspective we don`t always hear in that sector of the economy.

We have something very special coming up, singer, dancer, designer, and entrepreneur Teyana Taylor joins us next on her special project for a group that`s had this tough this year, the class of 2020. See you soon.


MELBER: Memorial Day is usually graduation season. This year, though, young Americans graduating under obviously different circumstances. Most schools and colleges closed months ago impacting 25 million students. For those graduating, the traditional ceremony is giving away to virtual gatherings and other ways to mark the milestone.

Some prominent Americans have been stepping in to try to make these moments more special, including President Obama who just addressed the class of 2020, joking how they may have been attending Zoom university and then getting serious. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Even if half the semester was spent at Zoom university, you`ve earned this moment. You should be very proud.

If the world is going to get better, it`s going to be up to you. With everything suddenly feeling like it`s up for grabs. This is your time to seize the initiative. More than ever, this is your moment, your generation`s world to shape.


MELBER: Obama was addressing real virtual graduation ceremonies.

We`re also seeing popular culture tackle this pandemic era from new songs by Neil Young and Cardi B, to this music video from singer Teyana Taylor. It features this year`s students graduating under these novel conditions with home made videos of young people dancing in masks celebrating their big day on Zoom and FaceTime. It also pays tribute to the grit and spirit on display now.

And Taylor personally talks to the students sharing something they have in common. How even without a pandemic, she also did not have a graduation, either.


TEYANA TAYLOR, SINGER: Me being in the business, I didn`t really get to graduate. I graduated in Starbucks. So, I never had this opportunity. So, I wanted to celebrate with you guys and say congratulations.



MELBER: You made it.

And joining us live right now is that very artist, Teyana Taylor. The famous singer, dancer, designer --


MELBER: Hi -- and entrepreneur.

I`ll tell everybody, she`s been in the industry since 15, signing her first label deal with Pharrell Williams and starring on MTV and VH1 and now works with iconic label Good Music.

And the longtime professional choreographer and dancer became even more world famous as the star of the 2016 Fade music video with Kanye West, the video that doesn`t show Kanye but stars Taylor and her husband. As a fashion entrepreneur, she`s led campaigns for Rebook, Jordan and Adidas where her work broke the record for the company`s fastest selling collaboration ever, and she joined us to discuss the graduation music video in a forthcoming project "The Album".

Teyana, thanks for joining us. How are you doing?

TAYLOR: Thank you for having me. I`m doing well. How are you?

MELBER: I`m pretty good.

Obviously, these are tough times but there`s also a lot of important ways to uplift. Why was it important to you to make this video, what are you saying to students right now?

TAYLOR: That they made it. You know, I felt like a lot of people were letting the pandemic dim their light, and I wanted to, you know, catch that before it happened, you know? Like I said, I didn`t get the chance to graduate, and I wasn`t even going through a pandemic. I was home-schooled.

So, when it was time for me to graduate, I was literally in Starbucks and I got my cap and gown.

So, I knew how it felt to not feel celebrated, you know, or not walk across the stage. I knew the importance on that, and going through a pandemic where you can`t leave the house. You can`t graduate in Starbucks, if that was -- you know, that`s not even an option to do that.

So, you know, I wanted to do something for the class of 2020. The song is actually a few years old. I always wanted it to be a graduation song, and it`s just crazy how -- hold on, baby, it`s just crazy how time -- sorry. It`s crazy how time --

MELBER: No, you can bring it in. This is -- we`re talking about -- about young people. How are you doing?


TAYLOR: They do see you, baby. Right there.

MELBER: Yeah, we see you.

TAYLOR: Yeah, you right there on TV, too.

You know, it was just about celebrating them and letting them know that no pandemic can dim the light. You made it, especially putting in all those -- all those years of hard work and then to like not be able to physically celebrate that, I know is a lot, you know. It`s definitely a lot because it`s a lot of hard work being put in.

MELBER: Is that something that has always stayed with you feeling like you did sort of, as you mentioned, miss out on that or did you like that you had a different childhood, different home-schooling and obviously, went on to great things?

TAYLOR: No, I mean, it always bothered me. It bothered me even more once I had my daughter because it was like -- I can`t even tell you what to do, how to do it, how to get you ready for prom. You know, those special moments that we want as, you know, teenagers and as young adults and different things like that, you know, so I missed out on a lot of moments due to me being in the industry.

I`m extremely grateful, though. You know, I`m not bitter about it, but it`s definitely, it`s sad as a female you want to experience those things. You see it on TV. You want that.

But like I said, most importantly, putting in the work and not really feeling celebrated and I graduated with honors, you know. So it`s just like, it was cool.

My mom and them had a surprise dinner for me but it`s still nothing like walking down that stage and all your classmates and, you know, like it`s --


TAYLOR: It`s a sense of accomplishment.

MELBER: For sure.

And what`s also striking here is there are so many traditions that we can tend to take for granted in daily life. No one thought a year ago that this much of in person life would be cancelled for any reason, even though people go through all kinds of other types of adversity. So, we`re all kind of adjusting to that.

And I was thinking about that when we saw President Obama`s address to basically all of the students, your new video is an address to the students with the zoom in it. And we were looking back at past addresses where that can be very meaningful. People can remember for decades not only being in that gathering but the type of people who step up and speak.

I want to play for you just a few of meaningful quotes we`ve heard from past commencement addresses. Take a look.


OPRAH WINFREY, MEDIA MOGUL: Your life journey is about learning to become more of who you are and fulfilling the highest, truest expression of yourself as a human being. That`s why you`re here.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Man`s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable and we believe they can do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is to create a world that lasts two hours. Your job is to create a world that lasts forever. You are the future innovators, motivators, leaders and caretakers.


MELBER: We are losing some of those opportunities to hear those kind of addresses in person. What else is it that you would want to say to everyone out there and these students who you`ve said made it and for young people who look at you and think -- gosh, I would love to have as successful and varied in what looks like a very interesting artistic life like the one you built for yourself through your career.

TAYLOR: I mean, like I said, I feel like the song made it really got straight to the point. You know, right now is for -- it`s to uplift them. You know, it`s no big, long, super words.

You know, it`s like you made it. You did it, you. Nobody else did that for you. You did that, you know what I`m saying?

And it`s just like they need to know that we see it, we`re proud. We support you. We`re proud, whether it`s from home, from the backyard, it doesn`t matter.

We see you and celebrate you, and that`s why I did that video in the pleasure of being in someone`s backyard. And, you know, and having iPads set up and involving everyone and not doing a fake casting call, not, you know, really having real graduates be part of the video, you know, so they know that they`re celebrated. We can`t physically be there, you know, but we celebrate you and you made it.

And that`s what everybody -- that`s all the graduates, it`s nurses that have graduated. It`s all types of people that`s graduated, you know, and I just wanted them to know that we celebrate them and this song has always been for that.

So, it`s crazy that the year that I released it is during a pandemic --

MELBER: Right.

TAYLOR: -- when I always wanted to celebrate grads. I never had the opportunity, you know.

MELBER: Right, and the timing on that is striking.

TAYLOR: (INAUDIBLE) and iPads in it.

MELBER: Yes, exactly.

Teyana Taylor, we`re at the end of the hour. The new album is called "The Album".


MELBER: And that does it for us. Keep it right here on MSNBC.