“Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him,” they said in a statement. “This is a beautiful tribute to our boy.”
The president surprised the White House press corps Friday afternoon, relating his own experiences to those of Martin and other African American youths.
“There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” Obama said. “There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.”
Obama also called for closer inspection of “stand your ground” laws in the wake of the acquittal of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman. Robert Zimmerman, George’s brother, thanked Obama for his “sincere” remarks, but advised him to go a step further in an interview with Fox News.
“The president talked about encouraging African American youth but I would say also youth of all colors,” Zimmerman said. “It might be in situations in their life that they don't feel like they're getting the encouragement from society that they need. That's one of the things my brother was doing before this incident."
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) praised Obama for providing “a great starting point to reignite a dialog on what should be done on a number of fronts to address the challenges confronting black youth in America.”
"As the president said, 'We’ve made progress,' but progress doesn’t mean we've closed the book," Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) said on his Facebook page. "All children deserve to walk home from a convenience store, having done nothing wrong, free from fear of being profiled, harassed or killed."
Obama supporters saw the address as a landmark moment for the president, while members of the press were surprised by the frank and lengthy delivery from a president who talks little about race.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your very personal and very presidential statement on Trayvon Martin.— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 19, 2013
Mr. President, you make me proud.— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) July 19, 2013
Thinking out loud almost RT @AliNBCNews Remarkable appearance by President Obama - no remarks, no announcement, just... talking.— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) July 19, 2013
WH official says Pres. Obama felt it important that the country hear from him personally about the "broader context" of the Zimmerman trial.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 19, 2013
That may well be the most insight you will ever get into how President Obama thinks and feels about an issue.— The Fix (@TheFix) July 19, 2013
this obama statement is so complex that a tweet would probably do it disservice— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) July 19, 2013
This may be President Obama's most extended act of public introspection. Truly unusual for any president. Historical antecedents?— Neil King (@NKingofDC) July 19, 2013
I like living in a country where a black president elected twice complains about racism.— John Nolte (@NolteNC) July 19, 2013
Shorter Obama: Look at me! America is racist.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 19, 2013