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President Obama decided Thursday that he would more fully and publicly address the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a White House aide told TPM.
"The president had been talking to friends and family about the verdict and their observations," the aide said. "And late afternoon or early evening yesterday, he told a handful of his advisers that he'd like to speak publicly about it. He thought the timing was right."
Obama had been following reactions to the verdict all around the country since it was handed down, "especially in African-American communities," the aide said.
When he surprised reporters by showing up at the podium Friday at the top of spokesman Jay Carney's press briefing, he brought with him only a couple of hand-written notes on an index card, the aide said.
"He wanted to speak extemporaneously and from the heart about his views on the case and what he thought we can do moving forward. He didn't want to read off a teleprompter or do anything scripted, and he didn't want to shoehorn his thoughts into a segment with a television reporter."
The president's extraordinary and deeply personal remarks included references to his own experience as a black man in America.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," Obama said before the cameras. "There are very few African American in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me."