In an interview with NPR, President Barack Obama said he felt “great urgency” to make progress on race relations one year after the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (video below).
During the interview, Obama was asked if politics prevented him from addressing the issue of race in his first term.
“That I don't buy,” he responded. “I think it's fair to say that if, in my first term, Ferguson had flared up, as president of the United States, I would have been commenting on what was happening in Ferguson.”
Rasheen Aldridge, a member of the Ferguson Commission and the director of Youth Activist United, said he felt that Obama didn’t “step up to the plate” early on when it came to the issue of race.
“But I remember when I was invited to the White House and he sat in the room with me and other activists and we talked about race and we talked about change that we wanted to see,” he said.
“I could see in the president's face that he was tired of having this conversation — that he really wanted to have some change happen. I think after Ferguson, the president, he's been hitting hard on race recently. And I appreciate it. I understand sometimes it is tough.”
Despite rejecting the notion that politics and a re-election campaign prevented him from focusing on race in his first term, Obama did admit that a second term allowed for certain issues to take precedence.
“Here's one thing I will say: that I feel a great urgency to get as much done as possible. And there's no doubt that after over six and a half years on this job, I probably have an easier time juggling a lot of different issues,” he said. “And it may be that my passions show a little bit more, just because I have been around this track now for a while."