Why Obama decided to speak out

President Obama informed his senior staff Thursday that he wanted to address the Trayvon Martin verdict after having "several conversations with his family and friends,” according to a White House official.

The president felt it was "important that he make remarks so the country could hear from him in a broader context," the official said, adding the president had been "watching the reaction around the country and in the African-American community."

Obama on Friday said it was important to consider the death of the Florida teen and the reaction to the acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman, within the context of American race relations.

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“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “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.”

The president did not prepare specific talking points to reference during his surprise appearance at the daily press briefing, according to the official.

"He didn't want to give an interview or focus on a big speech — he just wanted to speak from the heart about where he thinks we can go," the official said, noting that there was no teleprompter in the room, and that the moments that Obama appeared "pensive" were genuine.

"He was literally just speaking," said the official.

The official said Obama consulted with people “both inside the building and outside” the White House before airing his thoughts.

Speaking to the press after Obama’s remarks, White House press secretary Jay Carney was reluctant to detail who the president had spoken to about the verdict.

“Obviously, he has conversations with a lot of people, as he does on every issue, but I don't think there's any question — and you can judge by what he just said and how he said it — that he knows what he thinks and he knows what he feels, and he has, not just in the past week, but for a good portion of his life, given a lot of thought to these issues,” Carney said.

Black leaders who are close to the president were vocally encouraging the president to speak in recent days.

Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN on Thursday that the “heat will continue to rise” and that “at some point, the president must offer the moral leadership he has to offer” regarding the case.

On Thursday morning, Martin's parents publicly encouraged the president to get involved in the case.

“To say the least, at least investigate what happened. At least go through it with a fine-tooth comb and just make sure all the T’s were crossed and all the I’s were dotted, because this is sending a terrible message,” said Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, in an interview with CBS News. 

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON TRAYVON MARTIN

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