Obama: Americans Are Not as Divided as Some Suggest

“This is not who we want to be.”


President Barack Obama said on Saturday that America “is not as divided as some have suggested,” after a week marked by violence that included two police shootings of unarmed black men and a mass shooting that claimed the lives of five police officers and injured seven more in Dallas on Thursday night.

“This has been a tough week,” Obama told reporters during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, where he attended his last NATO summit. “First and foremost for the families who have been killed, but also for the entire American family.”

“There is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion about next steps, but there is unity in recognizing that this is not how we want our communities to operate,” he continued. “This is not who we want to be as Americans.”

“There is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion about next steps, but there is unity in recognizing that this is not how we want our communities to operate.”

He also spoke about the US commitment to the NATO alliance, NATO’s importance for international security, the possible impact of Brexit on trade, and global concerns about terrorism.

“In this challenging moment I want to take this opportunity to state clearly what will never change, and that is the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common defense,” he said.

Asked about his reactions to the announcement from FBI Director James Comey that the agency would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton in the criminal investigation looking into alleged misconduct over her use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state, Obama replied, “I will continue to be scrupulous about not commenting on it.”

Obama’s remarks were dominated by the events of the past week and the problems of violence and race relations in the United States. “I’ve said this before: We are unique among advanced countries in the scale of violence that we experience. And I’m not just talking about mass shootings, I’m talking about the hundreds of people who have already been shot this year in my hometown of Chicago,” he said.

Calling the attacker in Dallas a “demented individual,” the president emphasized that his actions do not define the American people. “They don’t speak for us,” he said. “That’s not who we are.”

Obama noted that the troubled history of racial bias in America’s criminal justice system still lingers, and said he will reconvene a task force created following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to come up with practical solutions that can make a difference.

When reflecting on his legacy, especially regarding race relations, he said he hoped his daughters and their children would live in a more equal and just society.

“You know we plant seeds,” he said. “And somebody else maybe sits under the shade of the tree that we planted. And I’d like to think that as best as I could, I have been true in speaking about these issues.”