At a reception to celebrate Black History Month, President Obama noted the third anniversary of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and offered condolences to the teen’s parents, who were guests in the audience at the White House.
Mr. Obama said Thursday that Martin’s parents were attending the East Room reception “on what’s a very difficult day for them.”
“Today on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, showing all of our kids, all of them, every single day, that their lives matter, that’s part of our task,” the president said. “Where we are today didn’t come easy. It came through thick and thin.”
Federal prosecutors have decided not to charge a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, with a hate crime for killing Martin in Florida three years ago. The boy’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she believes Mr. Zimmerman got away with murder.
“He took a life, carelessly and recklessly, and he shouldn’t deserve to have his entire life walking around on the street free. I just believe that he should be held accountable for what he’s done,” she told The Associated Press.
Mr. Obama said civil rights progress in America “happens only because seemingly ordinary people find the courage to stand up for what is right, not just when it’s easy but when it’s hard.”
He said the nation doesn’t set aside Black History Month to “isolate” or “segregate” that history, but to “illuminate” it.
The president will travel next week to Selma, Alabama, to mark the anniversary of the bloody confrontation between civil-rights marchers and police in 1965 that was a turning point in the movement and led to the Voting Rights Act.
“What happened in Selma is quintessentially an American experience, not just an African-American experience,” Mr. Obama said. “It speaks to what’s best in this country.”