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Mitchell: President Obama touts fatherhood as a way to curb violence

Updated: March 17, 2013 6:50PM



It wasn’t anything that President Barack Obama said in his speech at Hyde Park Academy on Friday that may make the difference.

It was the fact that Obama came here to make those remarks.

When Obama stepped to the podium against the backdrop of rows and rows of black students dressed in their blue and khaki uniforms, sitting under red, white and blue buntings, he showed them that they mattered as much as students anywhere.

You could see that in the teen girls whose faces were bright with expectation — and in the swagger of the boys who stood up a tad straighter.

“It means that all the talk about youth violence in urban areas isn’t just lip service. It is actually something that is important and something that is close to the president’s heart,” said Gregory Hampton, 17, one of the students involved in the “Becoming A Man” program that had a private audience with Obama.

As invited guests, politicians, dignitaries and antsy reporters milled about the school’s gymnasium, the president spent an hour chatting with about 16 participants in the program for at-risk teens.

“It was an honor to sit there and talk with him. We just connected in a way. Basically [he talked about] what he went through when he was young and how he has grown up,” said Robert Scates, 18.

Obama’s presence on his home turf in the wake of the gun violence here put this issue on the same footing as mass shootings.

But instead of framing the violence as unique to urban cities, Obama paired it with America’s need to address the conditions that create a hopeless environment that can breed violence.

That was a fine political line to straddle, given his relationship with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the recent shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton that gained national attention.

But Obama nailed it.

Rather than harping on gun violence, Obama used his speech to push his ambitious “Ladders of Opportunity” agenda that he unveiled in his State of the Union address.

“[T]his is not just a gun issue,” Obama said. “It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building.”

Part of the solution is building “strong, stable families — which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood,” Obama said.

That is the kind of truth that even his staunchest opponent won’t argue against.



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