President, Not Preacher, but Speaking More on Race

President, Not Preacher, but Speaking More on Race

The New York Times

Peter Baker

WASHINGTON — Sitting in the Roosevelt Room with prominent African-American religious leaders, President Obama on Monday mused about how far the nation had come in the 50 years since the March on Washington led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how far it still had to go.

A president who often shies away from talking about race is set to deliver his own speech on Wednesday from the Lincoln Memorial. One thing he knew, he said, was that he could not fill Dr. King’s shoes. “He was discouraging us from comparing him to Dr. King,” said the Rev. Alvin Love of Chicago, one of the preachers who were there.

For Mr. Obama, Dr. King has been an idol, a role model and a burden since he assumed the presidency. He keeps a bust of the civil rights leader in the Oval Office along with a framed program from the 1963 march, and some of his favorite lines have been adopted from Dr. King. But as the nation’s first black president, Mr. Obama has found that no matter how much supporters may want to compare them, he cannot be a latter-day Dr. King…

…Outside events have also forced race back into the spotlight, and onto the Obama agenda. After the Supreme Court overturned part of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. went to court seeking to use other elements of the law to challenge a Texas statute. The Trayvon Martin case in Florida led Mr. Obama to make a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to talk about the sting of being trailed in stores as a young black man

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