Nightly News   |  July 19, 2013

Obama changes the conversation about Trayvon Martin

One of the reasons Obama’s speech on Friday was so notable was because it was arguably the most personal Obama has ever gotten on the issue of race. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> so let's talk about what we witnessed today. starting with our white house correspondent, kristen welker, who was at the white house this afternoon. and kristen , we can't emphasize enough what a shock this was, he was not expected. this was the regular daily briefing and the first couple of rows as we showed were vacant.

>> right, it was a huge shock, brian. i've covered the white house for more than two years now and this is the first time that president obama has come out unannounced usually we get some type of a warning. one white house official telling me they didn't want reporters sitting around speculating what the president was going to talk about. they wanted this speech to be straight up. that's what it was. it was extemporaneous, you saw him talking, no teleprompter. this was unique because it was so deeply personal. some of his most personal comments about race it date. he spoke about race in 2008 when he was a candidate. this was a second-term president speaking. he was a little freer to talk about some of his own experiences. his experiences being racially profiled, brian. and a little bit of background. white house officials say president obama has been watching reaction to the zimmerman verdict since it was handed down within the african-american community. and all across the country, he spoke to his family about it. spoke with advisers, he decided to speak about it on thursday. effectively changing the conversation.

>> kristen welker on the white house north lawn tonight.