Obama: Black Youths Need More Guidance

The president made an impromptu speech on race Friday in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict.

(Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Barack Obama's popularity ratings have slumped in the six months since his re-election.

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President Barack Obama said Friday that more needs to be done to help young black Americans – and that he was going to lead an effort to do it.

"How do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? It's something Michelle and I talk about a lot," he said, as part of an impromptu speech on race in the wake of the Zimmerman trial. "Is there more that we can do that we can give them a sense that their country cares about them, and values them and is willing to invest in them?"

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Obama said he did not intend to create a "grand federal program" to address the issue, but instead would encourage business leaders, lawmakers, clergy, celebrities and athletes to ensure young black Americans feel they are a full part of American society.

His comments came less than a week after a not guilty verdict was handed down for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Civil rights groups have previously criticized Obama for not doing enough to help African-Americans, citing high levels of unemployment and incarceration in the black community. In December, the National Urban League was one of several groups who released a "black agenda" for Obama's second term, including: working for parity for blacks in education, health care and the economy; reforming the criminal justice system and protecting and defending voting rights.

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Obama defended his decision not to create a black agenda to Black Enterprise Magazine in August 2012, saying: "I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of the United States of America."

Those comments stood in stark contrast with the tone Obama struck on Friday, when he said that if he the White House succeeds in doing more to invest specifically in young black Americans, "I think that would be a pretty good outcome of what was a tragic situation."

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