This story was produced by The Chicago Bureau
First Lady Michelle Obama visited her hometown of Chicago Wednesday to explain the importance of providing the city’s youth with opportunities in order to curb violence.
At the Wednesday luncheon of business executives and community leaders held at The Hilton Chicago, she stated while all the city’s youth had enormous amounts of potential, a home address and the distance of a few blocks could determine the life chances and opportunities offered to children, thus changing their futures.
Besides exposing business and community leaders to the issue of gun violence, the Wednesday luncheon also spotlighted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund, a city initiative introduced in February that will allocate $50 million to providing more community resources to at-risk youth to steer them away from violence.
The initiative has already raised $33 million.
Michelle Obama’s remarks came two days after President Barack Obama traveled to the University of Hartford, where he urged Congress to pass legislation that would tackle the issue of gun violence in the United States.
In January, the president released both executive actions and proposals to be considered by Congress to reduce gun violence. Some of these proposals included expanding background checks for gun purchases, increasing mental health resources and creating a more effective ban on assault weapons.
“Now I know that some of these proposals inspire more debate than others, but each of them has the support of the majority of the American people,” Obama said at the Connecticut appearance. “All of them are common sense. All of them deserve a vote.”
On the same day as Michelle Obama’s speech at the Chicago luncheon, a bipartisan group of senators also announced new legislation on gun background checks. The measure, as The New York Times Reported, would make background checks required for guns purchased online and at gun shows.
Two months ago, the first lady visited Chicago to see the horrific results of gun violence: she spoke at the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old King College Prep student who was shot dead in January after performing at the president’s inauguration. Obama said she discovered that Pendleton was a reflection of herself.
“What I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family,” Obama said. “Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her. But I got to grow up.”
However, what Pendleton’s death also showed, Obama said, was that if there were a few more resources offered to the boys charged with her shooting, like computer labs or basketball courts, “maybe everything would have turned out differently.”
One of the main solutions, she said, to reducing violence among Chicago’s youth is more resources and opportunities.