Gun control is still at the center of the American political discussion, and First Lady Michelle Obama recently entered the fray to offer her perspective on the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
Voice cracking with emotion, Michelle Obama gave a speech Wednesday at a youth violence conference in her hometown. She said that her husband, President Obama, is currently “fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass common-sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence.”
“These reforms deserve a vote in Congress,” she said to applause.
Michelle added a personal dimension to her speech, recalling her attendance at the February funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old majorette who was shot and killed in Chicago just days after performing in Washington for President Obama’s inauguration.
“As I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me, because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family,” she said.
“Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family, and the most blessed life I could ever imagine. And Hadiya — well, we know that story.”
Michelle also talked about her own childhood, growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1970s, where she admitted she had a few advantages over her peers, like good mentors who pushed her to succeed.
But, “In the end, that was the difference between growing up and becoming a lawyer, a mother and first lady of the United States and being shot dead at the age of 15,” Obama said.
She lamented the dual nature of Chicago, arguing that many children in the impoverished South Side don’t see the city the way the rest of us do.
“Instead of spending their days enjoying the abundance of riches this city has to offer, they are consumed with watching their backs. They are afraid to walk alone because they might be jumped. They are afraid to walk in groups because that might identify them as part of a gang.”
She included a bit of encouragement for Chicago teens growing up in poverty, as well as danger.
“My parents were working-class folks. There isn’t much distance between me and you. . . . In this world today, if you stay focused, you can make it happen. The best thing you can do in life is really be serious about education.”
Here’s a partial video of Michelle Obama’s speech. Don’t mind Lawrence O’Donnell.