A National Conversation: Obama Hosts Town Hall Meeting

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - As our nation confronts yet another wave of gun violence many of our leaders have lent their voices to urging peace and empathy. On Tuesday in Dallas President Barack Obama gave a speech calling for unity at the memorial for five slain police officers.

On Thursday Obama was back in Washington D.C. to host a town hall meeting to address race relations in the country. The President opened with an overarching statement, “The question is how do we channel what I believe are good spirits and good feelings and a sense of common humanity, who do we channel that into our institutions and how our police are structured and trained and how the community is working with them so that these things don’t happen with the kind of frequency that they do."

Obama took questions from the son of Alton Sterling and the fiancée of Philando Castile.

Also in attendance was Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who initially called Dallas protesters hypocrites for running from gunfire while expecting law enforcement to protect them during last week's shootings. Patrick expressed displeasure with some of Obama’s rhetoric following the shootings, "You said 'The tension between the police and between Black America is only going to get worse.' Words matter, your words matter much more than mine."

Obama addressed Patrick's concerns, "This is not just stuff I make up. I'm aware that my words matter deeply here. The data shows that there are disparities in terms of how persons of color and whites are treated in the aggregate…those aren't good for building trust or making people feel as if they are being treated fairly, and that's not good for police either."

Obama even shared his own experiences being pulled over by police, "The overwhelming majority of the time I deserved to be pulled over because I was going too fast and the police officers were courteous...there have been a couple of times in my life where that was not the case.”

Obama warned that even though we’ve come a long way in race relations, there’s still more work to be done, "I think it is not as bad as it used to be but it's still there and there's a history to that and I think it’s important for us not to completely overreact every time something happens. On the other hand that presumption can also lead to very dangerous situations."