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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
06:12 PM ET

Newark Mayor Cory Booker 'grateful' Obama spoke 'from the heart'

Newark Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker applauded President Barack Obama's personal comments on race.

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, Obama tried on Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

"I was grateful that he came forward, not with some practiced speech, not reading from a teleprompter, but speaking from the heart in a way that could touch other hearts," said Booker.

There is a line that politicians have to walk when it comes to talking about issues related to their own personal experience, with the risk of alienating, or at least not communicating, with some of the people listening.

"To have the president start from a very human experience but then to bridge out a little bit and help other people understand, most importantly, that we are all in this together, that we all share a common destiny, that the challenges of an inner city African-American boy does relate to our lives and we are invested in that outcome, no matter what our opinion," said Booker.

In his remarks on Friday, Obama identified with Martin.

"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," Obama said.

He then went on to note a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to "a lot of pain" in the African-American community over the verdict.

Booker, who is also African-American, said he has experienced some of the things Obama talked about.

"I wrote a very emotional article in my student newspaper at Stanford after the Rodney King verdict, and really expressing the pain it was having that kind of suspicion directed toward you, having interactions with the police, being accused of stealing a car that I was driving that was my own.  And you know, that builds up.  And it's really frustrating, it's really challenging," said Booker.

Booker said he grew up with a lot of privilege.

"The challenge for me now is I see that a lot of these racial disparities that are experienced ... manifest itself into pretty awful realities for other Americans, especially those that are struggling in poor communities," said Booker.

Booker pointed to the disproportionate number of African-Americans jailed in New Jersey, relative to the general population.

"We all have to understand, that whether we want to point fingers of blame, the reality is, we all should accept responsibility, especially if we'd all understand that every child born in America is born equal and born with no higher proclivity for crime," said Booker.

The U.S. senate candidate said that in order to create a climate of change, Americans need to know more about each other, and understand that they are in this together.

"In some senses, I think the president was just talking to America in that way, let's understand each other. Let's find deeper knowledge and love for one another," said Booker.

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