What President Barack Obama Didn’t (or couldn’t) Say

As I listened to yet another speech in which it felt like the President didn’t or couldn’t say what he wanted to say, I found my mind wandering to what he may have wished he could. In my head, it sounded something like this:

My fellow Americans,

It is with a heavy heart that I speak here tonight. To the parents, family, and friends of Michael Brown, my deepest sympathies continue to go out to you. Tonight, an unusual series of legal events came to conclusion in Ferguson, Missouri. Late this evening, the prosecutor announced that the Grand Jury did not return an indictment on Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown. It is highly unusual for a prosecutor to present an entire case to a Grand Jury, as was the case here. Attorney General Eric Holder has monitored the situation, and the case remains open on a Federal Level. As updates become available, we will be sure to bring them to you in a timely fashion.

This is not the first time I have addressed the nation like this. Just last year, in the wake of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, I spoke to you of the sadness and frustration I and others felt. America has made much progress towards racial equality. But too often, the assumption is made that no further progress is needed. On nights like tonight, it is difficult to remember that much progress has been made at all.

I know many of you are angry. I am angry too. The untimely death of a young American should always be met with righteous anger. As you take to the streets tonight, be mindful. No one should dare tell those of you with broken hearts and clenched fists the appropriate amount of anger you are allowed to have. That is for you to decide. I caution against the release of that anger against your neighborhood where your community lives and against the businesses where your neighbors work. Most of all, I hope that you stay safe, and that as you work to find an appropriate release for this grief and outrage, your frustration turns to progress.

In the face of unspeakable tragedy, the Brown family has time and again pointed forward, ever mindful of wanting justice for what has happened. They have spoken here and abroad about the need for police to be held accountable for incidents like this and to prevent such incidents in the future. In the coming weeks, my administration will begin evaluating how to assist with implementing these changes, including the use of body cameras worn by on-duty officers so that conflicting witness statements are a thing of the past. It is unacceptable that a black man is killed by police every 28 hours in this country. The origins of this problem have deep and complicated roots that date back to the founding of a nation built by slave labor. They are difficult to address and provoke strong emotional reactions. But that does not mean they should be avoided. It is a straight line from the birth of this nation to the street where Mike Brown’s body lay for hours. While that line is inching upwards towards progress, it must rise faster, and we must ensure that it does.

Today is not a day America should take pride in. But as has been the case time and again, we must turn adversity into opportunity and tragedy into transformation. I urge the police in Ferguson tonight to remember their sworn duty to serve and protect above all else. I urge protesters taking to the streets to be safe. And I urge all of you to pause and reflect on where we are as a nation and where we must be so that no other teenage boy suffers the fate Michael Brown did.

Goodnight. May God bless the grieving in Ferguson, Missouri. And May God bless all of America.

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