President Barack Obama's comments Friday about the killing of Trayvon Martin were remarkable in many respects, but not least because of the distance he has traveled since the equally notable speech he delivered in 2008 during the controversy about his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

When Obama — then an aspirant to the presidency — spoke in 2008, he sought to translate and explain the grievances, fears and resentments of both whites and blacks concerning the volatile topic of race in the United States. He spoke as a bridge builder who was trying to apportion something close to equal weight to the views of each side.

On Friday, he again sought to calm a roiling controversy, but he spoke as an African-American who is now president, and he spoke to explain why the not guilty verdict for the 17-year-old Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has been so difficult for so many blacks to accept.