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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 19th, 2013
06:36 PM ET

Analysis: Will Obama's speech on race 'lower temperatures'?

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The Martin family issued a statement in response, saying, in part, "We applaud the President’s call to action to bring communities together to encourage an open and difficult dialogue. Our family is committed to this dialogue through the work of the Trayvon Martin Foundation."

Former White House communications director for Obama Anita Dunn said Obama was trying to address the issues and give "context to both sides, to try to reduce the polarization and the divide around them."

"I think that as he watched the conversation unfold this week, that he felt this was an appropriate time to step forward again, it felt very spontaneous," said Dunn.

"I don't think there was a big grand strategy here," said Kevin Madden, CNN contributor and former adviser to Mitt Romney. "There were elements of the president's speech where he seemed genuinely reluctant."

Obama also went out of his way to balance the arguments he made.

"I think that he was trying to lower the temperature somewhat, but I think there are going to be a lot of critics out there that say that being so personal about it ... that he'll be doing the exact opposite," said Madden.

Washington Post columnist Clinton Yates said the speech was historical.

"This is one of the most important, if not the most important thing he's said while he's been in office," said Yates.

"To take the context of race and explain it as the reality that exists for many people of color in America is something a lot of people simply don't want to believe is true. But when the president stands in that room and makes that statement, it is a very forceful comment about the state of affairs so far today," said Yates.

For more of the discussion, including analysis of conservative responses to the president's remarks, check out the video above.

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