The president called for improvements in public safety, school reform, tax breaks to promote hiring, and the replacement of run-down public housing. He also repeated his call from the State of the Union to boost the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and establish universal access to public pre-kindergarten.
And he called on Congress to pass gun control legislation, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December. But on the issue of guns, he added that there’s only so much government can do.
“When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child's heart that government can't fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole,” Obama said.
“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.”