In a speech in which he said he understands the frustrations of people who feel they're not treated fairly under the law, President Obama also stated, "I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities."
The president had been scheduled to speak about immigration policy during his appearance at Chicago's Copernicus Community Center. But he began his remarks by calling for calm in Ferguson, Mo., responding to the fiery unrest that has followed a grand jury's decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of Michael Brown.
Obama said he had a message for anyone who wants to work toward improving the situation: "Your president will be right there with you."
Echoing some of the points he made last night after the jury's decision was announced, Obama said, "If any part of the American community doesn't feel welcome, or treated fairly, that's something that puts all of us at risk. We all have to be concerned."
Obama also said, "Nothing of benefit results from destructive acts. I've never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned."
He said of people who vote, mobilize and organize, "That's how you actually move something forward."
President Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to organize a series of meetings between police, community leaders and clergy.
The president discussed that plan Tuesday afternoon with Holder, who has ordered a separate federal inquiry into the Ferguson shooting. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports that Holder plans to visit five pilot cities to create connections between the police and minorities.
Obama touched on that plan, saying many communities could benefit from it. "The problem is not just a Ferguson problem. It's an American problem," Obama said.