19 Jul

Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 19, 2013
Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:33 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session. The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there’s going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week — the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case — I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

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. 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. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family. But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do.

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and, in turn, be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three — and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?

I’m not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I’ve got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with a final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they’re better than we are — they’re better than we were — on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Thank you, guys.

1:52 P.M. EDT

25 Jun

Dr. John Cox Considering Bid for State Superintendent of Public Instruction


Dr. John Cox Considering Bid for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

            Dr. John Cox, D-Peggs, is assembling an exploratory team to evaluate a potential candidacy for State Superintendent.  “Numerous educators and friends of public education have approached me to become a candidate.  They are concerned with the current direction of public education and are convinced that with the proper leadership Oklahoma’s children will prosper academically” said Cox.


A career educator, Dr. Cox is beginning his twentieth year as a School Superintendent and his twenty-eighth year as an educator.  He also serves as an adjunct professor of education at Northeastern State University, teaching leadership and administration courses to aspiring principals and superintendents and educational research to master’s candidates.


Dr. Cox has an earned Doctorate (ED.S) in Educational Administration and an Educational Specialist (ED.S) from Oklahoma State University, and Masters Degree in Counseling and Bachelors Degree in Mathematics Education from Northeastern State University.  He serves as President of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools (102 schools) and Vice-Chair of the Oklahoma Schools Assurance Group (488 schools).  He is a lifetime member of the OSU Alumni Association and the NSU Alumni Association and serves on the NSU Alumni Association board.  Dr. Cox also participates on the NSU College of Education Advisory Board and he is a Co-Chair on the Vision Committee sponsored by the Oklahoma State School Board Association (OSSBA) and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA).  Dr. Cox served on the ACE Steering Committee as the State Superintendent’s appointee and has participated on the State Superintendent’s Advisory Group.


“I appreciate those who have encouraged me to run for this leadership position.  It is time to stand up for the great things we are doing in public education and continue to work hard for the betterment of our children. I look forward to having conversations with the people of Oklahoma about the future of public schools and quality public education”, said Cox.


For further information or questions, you may contact Dr. John Cox at [email protected] or 918.720.4019.

28 May

“C” is for Caring


Oklahoma’s 2013 legislative session was officially ended last Friday – one week early – after all of the local newspapers had been put to bed. That was disappointing because today, they do not have to explain why nothing will be done on Medicaid or considering the need for safe rooms for new school buildings and remodeling of older structures or the many other social and safety problems this state has.

The state had insufficient funds to furnish long overdue pay raises for public employees, to adequately fund public education system or give essential support to local volunteer firefighters. Yet, a few Million Dollars were available to finish a couple of museums. We had a few Million more to support for-profit-private charter schools which directly reduced public school funding while praising an “increase.” It’s sad that the “increase” is still less than the loss of educational dollars over the last 5 years while the new student population has grown by over 30,000!

A very apt analogy of the present school system in Oklahoma was posted on the internet today. The anonymous education author is a hero to this writer and the words should be shared.

“C” is for Caring. Today, as parents were leaving my school for the summer, I realized something that the corporate puppet masters of public schools may have overlooked. Parents want some of our schools to be “C” schools, where corporate measures of success are moderated by virtues that can’t be measured.

I realized this as one parent of 2 adorable children was leaving. The parent looked the part of a suburban, mini-van soccer parent. But I know the back story of those kiddos and know that one of the students will not likely be the corporate version of an “ideal” student – no AP classes- no gifted or talented – no National Merit Scholar.

“C” school parents don’t worry that their kids will be excluded because of their inability to meet the corporate version of “excellence.” “C” schools provide a fertile soil of acceptance for children to grow to their ultimate ability regardless of challenge. And parents of children with unique learning challenges may rather send their child to a “C” school than a school where “high achievement” is typical.

Parents also want their children to learn from teachers who model unconditional commitment to teaching all students who (enroll) with economic and cultural challenges. By observing this, day in and day out, children witness the level of painful commitment it takes from some adults to walk alongside the most challenging of children. And witnessing this makes children more caring and more equipped to serve their community in difficult situations.

“C” is for Caring and it’s good enough for me.

This teacher should be awarded a public service medal. More public school instructors need to speak out on the problem of for-profit corporations taking over the curriculum to be taught and the testing of students. One size does not fit all and to try forcing that on young minds should not only be a crime, but the lawmakers who support it should be held accountable at the ballot box!

The Stephens County Democratic Party (SCDP) will meet May 30, 2013 at the “Harvest Gate” Restaurant, 3015 N Highway 81, Duncan OK. The no-host dinner will start at 6:00PM with the business meeting starting at 6:30PM sharp. (NOTE: This is a change in starting time for business meeting.)

There will be an overview of the recently held Oklahoma Democratic Party Convention along with a discussion of the last two years legislative sessions, the effects on Oklahoma’s financial solvency and reductions in benefits to our less fortunate neighbors.

Not registered to vote yet? Attend the meeting. Registration forms will be available. Assistance with any questions will also be available. Plan to attend and enjoy good fellowship.

Kenneth Wells
Stephens County Democrat

24 May

Memorial Day 2013

In observance of Memorial Day, the Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters will be closed this Monday, the 27th.  We will reopen with normal business hours on Tuesday, May 28th.  We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.

21 May

Tornado Relief

In the wake of the recent tornadoes that hit Shawnee, Newcastle and Moore the Oklahoma Democratic Party is gathering items to go into bags for the many people affected by the recent tornadoes.  In an effort to do so we are asking individuals, churches, sororities, fraternities and social groups to bring items listed between 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m., to the headquarters:

Oklahoma Democratic Party Headquarters
4100 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

General Hygiene Products:

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Face wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

Women/Girl items:

  • Feminine hygiene products
  • New underwear (in women’s and girl’s sizes)
  • Brushes/Combs
  • Hair ties
  • Lotion
  • Socks (in women’s and girl’s sizes)
  • Razors
  • Body wash/Soap

Men’s/Boy’s items:

  • New Underwear (in men’s and boy’s sizes)
  • Combs/Brushes
  • Razors
  • Shaving  Cream
  • Socks (in men’s and boy’s sizes)
  • Body wash/soap

Baby/Children items:

  • Diapers & Pull Ups
  • Socks
  • Formula
  • Baby/Toddler food
  • Small toys
  • Books
  • Lotion
  • Baby Wipes

Other items:

  • Snacks
  • Water/Sports Drinks
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Work gloves
  • Shovels/Rakes/Tools
  • Face masks
  • Trash bags
  • Large plastic tubs with lids
  • Permanent markers
  • Gift cards (Walmart, Lowe’s, Target, Home Depot, etc.)

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