President Barack Obama extended a warm welcome and a thanks to the parents of Trayvon Martin while addressing a reception honoring African-American achievements for Black History Month Thursday in the East Room of the White House.
According to the president, the third anniversary of Martin’s death should serve as a reminder that “showing all our kids – all of them – that they matter, every single day, is part of our task.”
The president’s comment may have been a tacit acknowledgement of the “Black Lives Matter” rallying cry that has emerged in the aftermath of the death of Martin, and other African-American men such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Interestingly, Obama did not address the Justice Department’s decision this week not to pursue civil rights charges against the man who shot and killed Martin, George Zimmerman. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty of all the charges related to Martin’s death in a 2013 criminal trial.
Obama has been far more personal in the past when publicly discussing the Martin case. When the 17-year-old’s death drew national coverage in early 2012, the president said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” And when the verdict acquitting Zimmerman was reached the following year, Obama said, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
However, on Thursday, following meetings with black civil rights and faith leaders, the president appeared more focused on paying homage to the past with an eye on the future. He talked about the first family’s upcoming trip to Selma “not just as a president, or as a first lady, or as African-Americans, but as Americans” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic voting rights marches there, led by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“One day a year is not enough to honor the courage that they showed,” Obama admitted, adding that “it takes all of us to show our young people … that where we are today did not come easy.”