It was billed as the beer summit. White Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley and black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Junior met over some cold beers at the White House, with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden looking on. It was the first time Crowley and Gates met since Crowley arrested Gates at the professor's Cambridge home for disorderly conduct, an arrest that has sparked a discussion about race relations in the United States. The charges against Gates have since been dropped.
Details of exactly what was said at the table in the Rose Garden are not known. Photos and video of the get-together showed the men chatting amicably as they sipped their beers.
Sergeant Crowley described the meeting as cordial and productive, and that he and Professor Gates are already planning to meet again to continue the discussion.
"Professor Gates and I bring different perspectives to these issues," said Crowley. "We have agreed that both perspectives, should be addressed, in an effort to provide a constructive outcome to the events of the past month."
Gates said in a statement there's reason to hope many people have emerged from the incident with greater sympathy for the daily perils of policing, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling.
"Let me say that I thank God that I live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, " Gates said in a statement printed in "The Root," an on-line magazine of which he is Editor-in-Chief. "Thank God we live in a country where speech is protected, a country which gurantees and defends my right to speak out when I believe my rights have been violated; a country that protects us from arrest when we do express our views, no matter how unpopular," Gates added.
President Obama found himself embroiled in the incident when he was asked about it at a White House news conference last week. It was the president who suggested and hosted the get-together.
"I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart," the nation's first black president said after the meeting ended. "I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."
This program aired on July 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.