WH 'Beer Summit' a Teaching Moment for Nation

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Some say it could be called the saga of the policeman, the professor, and the president.

But the White House's 'Beer Summit' offered for many a teaching moment on race and getting past stereotypes.

President Obama met with Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House Thursday to clear the air about comments he made over Gates' arrest by the officer in Massachusetts two weeks ago.  

The meeting was dubbed the "Beer Summit" as the men, including Vice President Joe Biden, sat around a table in the Rose Garden sipping from beer-filed glass mugs and munching on peanuts and pretzels.  

CBN News spoke with Bishop E.W. Jackson of Exodus Faith Ministries for his take on what role the church should play in improving race relations in America. Click play to hear his comments, after this report.

"I am thankful to Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley for joining me at the White House this evening for a friendly, thoughtful conversation," Obama said, reflecting on the meeting. "Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentlemen spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them," he added.

The media frenzy followed President Obama's comments on the arrest of Gates, burying the president's desire to keep health care the country's top headline.    

A new poll shows many Americans don't think the president handled the issue correctly. Forty-one percent disapprove of how President Obama dealt with the dispute, while only 29 percent approve.

Some point out the real dividing line wasn't race, but class, with a rich Harvard professor looking down his nose at a working-class police officer.

Obama took plenty of hits for appearing to make it about race. President Obama said he wanted this to be a "teachable moment" for America.

Obama's Backlash
     
One of those who may have been taught the most was Obama himself who learned unless you have all the facts you can't just throw around words like, "The Cambridge police acted stupidly."

Michelle Malkin, Fox News contributor and conservative blogger said there was a backlash.

"...a backlash that I find heartening," she said. "That Americans are not intimidated by racial bullies. And that's exactly what President Obama was in this case."

Obama climbed his way out of the situation by calling for the "Beer Summit" and admitting his fault in the situation.

"To the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate," he said.

Teachable Moment

But what is fortunate for the country is a chance to see men of different colors sitting down at a White House picnic table, chatting, being civil and getting past the stereotypes to see their shared humanity.

"It's a good thing for the president to deal with it," poet Maya Angelou said. "It is a good thing for each of us to come out and sit down and talk."

Sen. Anthony D. Galluccio, D-Mass., saw a new start.

"Morale has really turned around since the President invited them so I think it's the beginning of a new conversation on this issue," he said.

It is a teachable moment to remember that God is no respecter of persons and in Him there is no Greek or Jew, there is no black or white.
    
As for the working man in this drama, what does Officer Crowley hope for?

"(I'm) hoping we can move on and get back to work," he said.

Some looking on in the public feel the same way.

"I'll be very glad to move on," a Washington, D.C. woman said. "I don't want to hear anything more or at least not very much more."

A man in the city said he wanted the same thing.

"Let it all heal," he said. "Let's get this behind us."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.