WASHINGTON (AP) — With mugs of beer and more-carefully chosen words, President Barack Obama tried to push himself and the nation beyond a political uproar, hailing a "friendly, thoughtful" conversation with the black professor and white policeman whose dispute had ignited a fierce debate over race in America.
"I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart," the nation's first black president said after the highly anticipated meeting ended. "I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."
Under the canopy of a magnolia tree in the early evening, Obama joined the other players in a story that had knocked the White House off stride: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley. Vice President Joe Biden was with them on a Rose Garden patio.
"We agreed to move forward," Crowley said later when asked if anything was solved. "I think what you had today was two gentlemen agreeing to disagree on a particular issue. I don't think that we spent too much time dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time discussing the future."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.