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President Biden Spoke From The White House After Chauvin's Murder Conviction

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Biden marked the important moment for the country speaking from the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America. Let's also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare. For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors - a brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a crowd that was traumatized, traumatized witnesses, a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for ultimately the whole world to see.

KELLY: Both Biden and Vice President Harris said the entire country has more work to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Here's the truth about racial injustice. It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all.

KELLY: NPR political reporter Juana Summers joins us now.

Hi again, Juana.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Good evening.

KELLY: What stood out to you as you listened to the president and vice president speak tonight?

SUMMERS: Sure, so starting with President Biden, we heard something that we have come to hear from him over the course of his career, and that is that familiar empathy. His life experience is informed by his own grief over losing loved ones. He spoke very specifically about the Floyd family and the pain that they feel in this moment, despite the fact that in many ways, this verdict may be a relief for them. But he also talked in very stark terms about the fear that many Black people in this country feel. He even, I noted, explicitly talked about the trauma of watching the trial, even if you were someone who did not live in Minneapolis, did not know George Floyd, had no personal connection, that it was in some ways very difficult to watch.

KELLY: Yeah.

SUMMERS: And then separately, speaking ahead of Biden, we heard Vice President Kamala Harris talk about the gender dynamics here, the fact that Black men in America historically have seen their lives devalued and how that must change.

KELLY: And I know that the president and vice president spoke to the Floyd family after the verdict before they spoke to the nation. Is that right? Do we know what they said?

SUMMERS: Yeah, that's right. And we know that because Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump released a video that had some of the audio of that conversation. President Biden said that he was relieved and that he pledged action. He said, we're going to do a lot. We're going to stand until we get it done. And that action, that component is what's going to be the harder part, given some of the political realities about getting kind of sort of any meaningful change done when we talk about policing in this country.

KELLY: Well, it was an important day for America, as we noted; also an important day for the Biden presidency because he, of course, ran on the idea that racial injustice is a crisis in America. Where does his agenda on it stand?

SUMMERS: You know, Mary Louise, I can't help but think back to the ways in which the racial reckoning sparked by the video of the final minutes of George Floyd's life really reshaped the presidential race. And then-candidate Biden really took up the killing of Floyd and said that it has to be a spark for reckoning with systemic racism. As for how he plans to tackle this as president, he and Vice President Harris have really pinned their hopes on a policing bill making its way through Congress. It is an expansive overhaul that passed the House in March, and there's still some bipartisan negotiation. They're trying to find a path forward in the Senate. The challenge of that, of course, is that Democrats hold a very slim majority.

KELLY: Right.

SUMMERS: There is a 60-vote threshold to really pass any sort of legislation, and that has left some activists that I've spoke to wanting to see the president do more. They're glad to see him throw his weight behind that legislation, including members of the Floyd family. But they're curious if there's more he could do on his own, given the challenges of getting such sweeping legislation passed through the Senate.

KELLY: That is NPR's Juana Summers.

Thank you, Juana.

SUMMERS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.

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