In the days leading up to this weekend's verdict, some predicted and prepared for riots and waves of civil unrest across the country. Some feared that the anger of those who disagreed with the jury might overshadow and obscure the issues at the heart of this case. But the people of Sanford, and, for the most part, thousands of others across America, rejected this destructive past. They proved -- (applause) -- they proved wrong those who doubted their commitment to the rule of law.
And across America, diverse groups of citizens, from all races, backgrounds and walks of life, are instead overwhelmingly making their voices heard, as American citizens have the right to do, through peaceful protests, rallies and vigils designed to inspire responsible debate, not to incite violence and division; and those who conduct themselves in a contrary manner do not honor the memory of Trayvon Martin.
I hope -- (applause) -- I hope that we will continue to approach this necessarily difficult dialogue with the same dignity that those who have lost the most, Trayvon's parents, with the same dignity that they have demonstrated throughout the last year and especially over the past few days. We should be proud of those two people. (Applause.) They suffered a pain that no parent should have to endure, and one that I, as a father, cannot begin to conceive. As we embrace their example and as we hold them in our prayers, we must not forgo this opportunity to better understand one another, and we must not fail to seize this chance to improve this nation that we cherish.
Today, starting here and starting now, it's time to commit ourselves to a respectful, responsible dialogue about issues of justice and equality so we can meet division and confusion with understanding, with compassion and ultimately with truth, however hard that is.
It's time to strengthen our collective resolve to combat gun violence, but also time to combat violence involving or directed toward our children, so we can prevent future tragedies. (Applause.) And we must confront the underlying attitudes, the mistaken beliefs and the unfortunate stereotypes that serve too often as the basis for police action and private judgments.
Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. (Cheers, applause.) These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if -- and the "if" is important -- if no safe retreat is available.
But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common-sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.
The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation; we must stand OUR ground to ensure -- (cheers, applause, music) -- we must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.
We must also seek a dialogue on attitudes about violence and disparities that are too commonly swept under the rug, by honoring the finest traditions established by generations of NAACP leaders and other nonviolent advocates throughout history; and by paying tribute to the young man who lost his life here last year, and so many others whose futures have been cut short in other incidents of gun violence, that pass too often unnoticed, in our streets. (Applause.) And we must do so by engaging with one another in a way that is at once peaceful, inclusive, respectful and strong.
As we move forward together, I want to assure you that the Department of Justice will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid. We are committed -- (applause) -- we are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that in every case, in every circumstance and in every community, justice must be done. (Applause.)
For more than a century, this organization, founded in 1909, the NAACP has led efforts to do just that, standing on the front lines of our fight to ensure security, opportunity, and equal treatment under law.
Especially in times of need and moments of danger, you have dared to seek opportunities for progress and growth, challenging this nation to aim higher, to become better, and to move ever closer to its founding ideals.
Under the banner of the NAACP, courageous men and women like W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Charles Hamilton Houston, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others whose names may be less familiar but whose contributions are no less important have raised their voices to advance our common pursuit of a more perfect union.