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A Year After Ferguson: Obama Tells NPR He Feels 'Great Urgency'

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Photo of President Obama taken at the White House during an interview recorded last week with NPR <em>Morning Edition</em> host Steve Inskeep.

A year after Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparking weeks of often violent protests in the city, the country is still struggling to deal with the issues the shooting, and others like it, have brought to the fore.

In an interview at the White House with President Obama, part of which is being broadcast today, NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep asked whether political considerations in his first term prevented the first black president from properly addressing the race issue.

"That I don't buy," Obama 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," he said.

"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. And, it may be that my passions show a little bit more. Just because I have been around this track for now for a while."

Asked about the president's response to the race issue in the wake of the Ferguson shooting, the 21-year-old director of Youth Activist United, Rasheen Aldridge — the youngest member of the Ferguson Commission, a panel appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon — tells NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that at first he was skeptical.

In the early days, he said, "The president, in my opinion, didn't really step up to the plate."

"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," Aldridge 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," Aldridge said.

For those who may not remember the chronology of events that began in August 2014, St. Louis Public Radio has an excellent immersive retrospective, here.

USA Today reports that a witness to the shooting, Dionne Henderson, still isn't sure what she believes about the incident. The newspaper writes:

"Part of her believes Wilson, who is white, shot in self defense to protect himself, but Henderson, who is black, also mourns the loss of an 18 year old and feels unsettled when she recalls his body lying in the hot sun for hours just outside her Canfield Green apartment. She is sure of one thing, however: She wants to move out of Canfield Green Apartments, as many of her neighbors have done, before the Aug. 9 anniversary of Brown's death.

"'I want to move out because soon it will be the 9th and I know people are going to be back here. I'll have to take back roads to get home,' said Henderson, a retired bus driver who has lived in the apartment complex for two years. 'In a way, I'm proud that all kinds of people can stick together and protest. But, people were also out there so-called protesting, robbing stores and stuff like that. That's the sad part.'"

And, in the August 10 issue of The New Yorker, Officer Darren Wilson speaks out on the incident for the first time since November, when a grand jury declined to indict him over the shooting. Wilson says he's never read the Justice Department's report issued in March, which found his actions are not "prosecutable violations" but nonetheless pointed to practices within the Ferguson Police Department that "both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes."

"I don't have any desire," Wilson told the magazine. "I'm not going to keep living in the past about what Ferguson did. It's out of my control."

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