President Obama gave a stirring speech at Hyde Park Academy yesterday in his hometown of Chicago, a little over a mile from his home. He repeated his State of the Union theme that America "deserves a vote." However, he told the packed hall that "no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country."
President Obama went on that "when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can't fill -- only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole."
"In too many neighborhoods today -- whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America -- it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town; that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born," President Obama said as the crowd listened intently. "There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. And for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected."
In many ways President Obama was speaking of himself, having grown up without a father. He got personal saying that he grew up without a father and as the "son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out okay."
"At the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved. Loving, supportive 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," President Obama added.
He addressed that issue earlier meeting with a group called Becoming A Man (BAM), run by Youth Guidance. The Chicago Tribune reported that Obama met for more than an hour with a group of students involved in a youth mentoring program at the school called Becoming A Man, run by Youth Guidance.
"He told us there are other ways to deal with anger than picking up a gun," said Trai Germain, 17, who added that anger is the primary reason for the violence. "They are angry because they are struggling every day and waking up and not having anything."
Another youth that was there said it was "transformational" to meet with the President as he talked on a very personal level.
In the same way he connected with the audience at Hyde Park Academy.
President Obama pointed out that in Chicago alone "last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under." He added that that was the "equivalent of a Newtown every four months."
He talked about the public opinion polls that favor common sense laws to stem the gun violence and said that the "overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun."
He again repeated his plea from the State of the Union address saying that these "proposals deserve a vote in Congress. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote."
"They deserve a vote," as he thanked those members of Congress who are working together in a serious way to try to address this issue of gun violence.
He also addressed the issue that it is not just a "gun issue."
President Obama added that it is "an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. And for that, we all share a responsibility, as citizens, to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny. You can succeed if you work hard and fulfill your responsibilities."
President Obama stressed the need to "grow our economy and create more good jobs. It means we’ve got to equip every American with the skills and the training to fill those jobs. And it means we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them."
A recurring theme in his State of the Union address was this "ladders of opportunity."
President Obama also advocated for early childhood education saying that "every dollar we put into early childhood education can save $7 down the road by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, reducing violent crime, reducing the welfare rolls, making sure that folks who have work, now they’re paying taxes. All this stuff pays back huge dividends if we make the investment. So let’s make this happen. Let’s make sure every child has the chance they deserve."
Obama also said he wants to help the 20 hardest hit communities in America to "get them back in the game."
Obama went on to explain the plan. "First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back."
"Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up," Obama went on.
"Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods."
"Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence -- because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don't feel safe. If they don't feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don't want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine."
"And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families."
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.