“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.”
Obama also got personal, addressing some of the male students in the hall with whom he had just met privately before his speech.
“Stand up, y’all, so we can all see you guys,” Obama said, adding that he was proud of them for their participation in a youth anti-violence program at the school, because some had “issues.”
“That's part of the reason why you guys are in the program,” the president said to laughter. “But what I explained to them was, I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren't as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. So I had more of a safety net.”
First lady Michelle Obama had attended Ms. Pendleton’s memorial service last Saturday, and Pendleton’s parents sat next to her at the State of the Union address. But the president has been under pressure for some time to visit Chicago himself and speak out about the gun violence there, amid the steady stream of news reports about gun deaths in his hometown, including children caught in crossfire on their way to school.