The First Lady’s attendance at the late Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral, and the President’s phone call to her family, show that they rightfully recognize her death as an utter tragedy.
But President Obama’s voice and leadership is still needed to address the systemic obstacles that threaten the lives and impede the life chances of our young people.
Reports that the first lady was “heartbroken” to learn of Hadiya’s death, remarks from the White House press secretary and a phone call President Obama placed to Pendleton’s family signify that the White House has taken the matter to heart.
But, truth be told, these efforts fall short.
Obama has rightfully been praised for his thoughtful and compassionate responses to the horrific shooting tragedies that have plagued his presidency. He has been present, hands on and outspoken. His response to the Sandy Hook shooting, in particular, was evidence of his ability to move beyond rhetoric toward swift action and meaningful public policy. Unfortunately, Obama has not demonstrated the same type of bold leadership as it relates to his home town, and many are challenging him to begin to do so.
The President cannot solve the gun violence crisis on his own.
However, as the President of the United States, he has the ability to command the attention of the country, raising their consciousness about the life and death issues facing young people in Chicago.
As the president, Obama sets the tone for what is recognized as a national crisis, a tragedy and a priority. He does this through speeches that greatly shape public opinion and help set the country’s collective agenda. He also does it through his physical presence, marking sites as significant and worthy of national attention. We must not forget, however, that the president’s silence and absence also speak volumes to the American people.
In response to Chicago’s gun violence crisis, The Black Youth Project started a petition, asking that President Obama make a speech addressing gun violence in the Windy City.