Saturday, September 27, 2014

Obama On Holder: "We Will Miss Him, Badly"

A night of the warmest praise for the attorney general at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual dinner.

Larry Downing / Reuters

WASHINGTON — When civil rights activist Wade Henderson, a recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair's Phoenix Award made his remarks Saturday night, it wasn't perhaps then yet known to the thousands in the room that Attorney General Eric Holder was, in fact, in attendance.

But when Henderson commented on the privilege it was to be in Holder's company, that all changed. Those around the attorney general began to stand and applaud. Before long, the entire room was on its feet in a scene that seemed to almost embarrass Holder, but signaled his importance within the administration and with black lawmakers, on the eve of his eventual exit from the country's top law enforcement post.

For his part, Holder, who was flanked by Valerie Jarrett, stood and waved. It was the emotional highlight of the evening in which President Obama spoke forcefully about changing the justice system, especially as it related to the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenage who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

Later, in his own remarks, Obama opened by paying tribute to Holder, someone "who served the United States as a prosecutor, as a judge, and as Attorney General of the United States."

"He has been a great friend of mine. He has been a faithful servant of the American people," the president said. "We will miss him, badly."

Obama acknowledged Brown's parents in attendance, but not before saying that he would not comment on the investigation. He tied his comments on Ferguson to news that an announcement is forthcoming in which he will launch a White House appeal to the local level in search of commitments to help better the lives of young black and Latino boys as part of his My Brother's Keeper initiative.

On Thursday, BuzzFeed News reported President Obama would reveal more details about his plan for the program, which he says will pull from federal, nonprofit and private-sector support.

Obama seemed relaxed, and was joined onstage by First Lady Michelle Obama after a lengthy introduction from Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah. Immediately, he made an allusion to his now infamous sartorial choice last month in the White House Briefing Room to address matters of national security.

"If it wasn't black tie I would have worn my tan suit," Obama said to laughter, eventually cracking a smile and then a short chuckle. "I thought it looked good."

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