by Joe Shea
BRADENTON, Fla. -- In an unscripted, unexpected and unprecedented talk with the media Friday in the White House Briefing Room, President Barack Obama told startled reporters that Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old killed by Hispanic Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, "could have been me, 35 years ago."
The President's open discussion of the plight of African-American boys like Trayvon Martin clearly took reporters by surprise. Many had to hurry from their cubicles to hear the President, and then hurry out to file stories.
Trying to extract criticism of the 20-minute discussion, Fox News hosts shortly afterwards ran into roadblocks when Robert Zimmerman eloquently praised the President, only to be followed by higher praise from fox News star Chris Wallace. The Fox anchors soon abandoned their "fair asnd balanced" effort.
The statement, carried live on CNN, was remarkable for the opportunity it offered to view the President in a highly personal moment speaking of his own experiences as a young black man. He told of locks clicking on cars as he crossed the street, and women clutching their purses nervously when in an elevator "before I was a Senator."
The President offered a variety of ways to address African-American youth in a way that would make them feel more a part of American society.
Among those were more training for law enforcement officials, convening discussions of issues raised bvy the trial and not guilty verdict delivered for George Zimmerman by a six-woman jury in Sanford, Fla., where the crime occurred, and doing some "soul searching" to understand better the deep divisions that may exist in America between the aspirations and the reality of black youth in this country.
In his statement, the President shunned the teleprompter he usually employs, and paused long and often as he gathered his thoughts. The result was a statement of remarkable perceptions that has no precedent in presidential addresses.