On Friday morning, President Obama weighed in for the first time on the Trayvon Martin shooting. Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, the president first insisted that he would not comment too specifically, to avoid impairing the investigation. Yet he stressed that it is “absolutely imperative” that Martin’s death be investigated.
The president’s biggest message went to Martin’s parents, noting that, if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon” and that he wants to get to the bottom of it. The president’s full remarks:
Obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this; and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
I’m glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it; I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what is taking place.
I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen. That means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he‘d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americas are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
Obama addressed Trayvon Martin — an unarmed 17-year-old who was killed in Sanford, Fla., last month by 28-year-old George Zimmerman — after announcing the nomination of Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank. The routine personnel announcement shifted focus, however, when the president took a question on the Martin case.
Zimmerman, who has not been arrested, claims that he shot the unarmed teen in self-defense. Martin’s family (and a growing number of supporters) say that Zimmerman only presumed that Trayvon looked “suspicious,” and followed him with a gun, because Trayvon was black.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root’s Washington reporter.