Obama talks race relations, retirement with David Letterman

Obama talks race relations, retirement with David Letterman
President Obama with host David Letterman during a break at a taping of "Late Show" in New York on May 4. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Obama insisted that race relations have improved during his presidency despite a series of flashpoints like recent riots in Baltimore.

In an interview on "Late Show With David Letterman" on Monday, the president said the expansion of social and traditional media brings greater attention to these situations, but argued that only makes it more likely the nation can address systemic problems.

"When you see something on video it's a lot harder to deny, and communications have improved -- and that's a good thing," he said. "The first step in curing any problem is being able to diagnosis and acknowledge it and not hide from it. We still have racism in our midst. We still have problems of ignoring poverty in our midst. Kids are locked in to situations where it's very hard for them to pull themselves out unless they get some help. The more we're aware of it, we can solve it.

"The one thing I know about America is when we decide to solve a problem, we can solve it. And this is solvable," he said.

Monday's was Obama's eighth visit to the Ed Sullivan Studio for an appearance on Letterman's show, and the last before the comedy icon ends his decades-long run on the late-night airwaves.

First Lady Michelle Obama also paid a visit just last week to help mark the end of Letterman's "Late Show" tenure, bringing with her as a special bonus the "President’s Own" Marine Corps Band.

The president mixed serious topics like the recent events in Baltimore and a discussion of a pending trade bill with lighthearted discussion of his and Letterman's looming retirements -- though his own is still more than a year away.

"I was thinking you and me, we could play some dominoes together," Obama suggested. "Go to the local Starbucks and swap stories."

Obama added that he'll still "be a pretty young guy" when he leaves office and still hopes to continue public service in a different capacity, lending his time and effort to causes like empowering minority youths and advancing solutions to climate change.

The Letterman taping was one of several stops for Obama in New York on Monday. He began the day with remarks at an event launching the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a private spinoff of his White House initiative focused on young men and boys of color. He also attended a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.

Follow @mikememoli for more news out of Washington.