When it comes to dealing with the sticky issue of race in America, President Obama has found that leading from behind might not be such a bad idea.
He was pilloried by critics on the right early in his presidency when he said a Cambridge, Mass., police officer "acted stupidly" when he arrested the black Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. as he struggled to open the door of his home in a predominantly white neighborhood.
And Obama raised eyebrows last year, when he remarked after Trayvon Martin's death last year that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
So, it's no surprise that he took a cautious approach as he weighed in for the first time since a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon.
In a surprise appearance before reporters six days after the verdict, Obama spoke eloquently about Trayvon's family showing grace in the aftermath of the verdict, and he reiterated his understanding of the pain the African-American community feels over the outcome of the trial and the larger problem of racial profiling.
And Obama again connected himself directly to the teenager when he observed that he could have been Trayvon 35 years ago.
But the president, despite the historic nature of his presidency, also made clear that he's not the best person to be leading a difficult conversation about race.
Instead, he argued that the larger discussion of race belongs not with lawmakers in Washington but in living rooms, houses of worship and workplaces.
In such settings, Obama posited, "There's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?"
The president rightfully noted that as a nation we've made progress in our dialogue on race. But, as he noted, we're hardly in a post-racial era.
Obama, who has long contended with a portion of America's views about his "other-ness," seems to have realized that a president - even an African-American one - can sometimes serve the public dialogue on race best by merely participating in the conversation rather than directing it.