President Barack Obama talked about the importance of parenting and life in his adopted hometown of Chicago on Friday, his third and final stop across the country to highlight the “ladders of opportunity” he spoke about in his State of the Union address.
In an unusually personal speech, Obama cited broken families and communities as one source of gun violence in Chicago, a city notorious for its high murder rate. It’s also where 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was killed by stray gunfire last month. She had performed in Obama’s inaugural ceremonies in Washington.
“I wish I had a father who was around and involved,” said Obama before a young audience at Hyde Park Academy High School.
“Loving, supporting parents — and, by the way, that’s all kinds of parents — that includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents, and extended families; it includes gay or straight parents” are the “single most important thing” to strengthening communities, Obama said. “What makes you a man is not the ability to make a child, it’s the courage to raise one,” he added.
“Last year there were 443 murders with firearms in this city and 65 were people under 18,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.”
“This is not just a gun issue, it’s also an issue of the communities that we’re building,” he continued.
The December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 children, has sparked an effort to reform the nation’s gun laws — an effort that has since met reality in a wary Congress.
At his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama outlined legislation that would call for universal background checks on firearms purchases and a ban on high capacity magazines and assault weapons.
“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,” Obama said.
Prior to his remarks in Chicago, Obama participated in a private roundtable discussion with 16 students who are enrolled in a youth anti-violence program.
“I had more of a safety net, but these guys are no different than me,” Obama said, recounting the meeting. “I had problems, too, at your age. Difference was, when I screwed up, consequences weren’t as harsh as they are on the South Side.”
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site's coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.