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First lady says nation must 'embrace' youths impacted by violence

Hadiya PendletonCBS Corp.

First Lady Michelle Obama said the nation has to “embrace” youths whose lives are surrounded by violence and “let them know we hear” their concerns.

In a taped interview on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” television show, the first lady weighed in about violence in her hometown of Chicago and reflected on her visit in April with students at William R. Harper High School in the West Englewood neighborhood.

“One kid told me he felt like he lived in a cage, because he feels like his community is unseen, unheard, and nobody cares about it,” Obama said, recalling the two-hour, closed-door session she had with the students at Harper. “What's our obligation to these kids? We do have one.”

In choosing Harper for the visit, the White House noted that 29 current or former students there had been shot in the past year, eight of them fatally.

In the CBS interview, the first lady said she heard the Harper students “share their stories of how every day they wake up and they wonder whether they're going to make it out of school alive. I mean every single one worried about their own death, or the death of someone, every single day.”

Obama said the students’ experiences underscore a larger problem with violence in American cities.

“We have millions of kids living in these kind of circumstances who are doing everything right,” Obama said, “and we, as a nation, have to embrace these kids and let them know that we hear them, we see them.”

The first lady has become increasingly vocal about Chicago’s gun violence and murder rate. Before meeting with the Harper students last month, Obama delivered a speech in which said she identified with Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honors student who was shot and killed this year in a park near the Obamas’ Kenwood neighborhood home.

“Hadiya Pendleton was me,” the first lady said, “and I was her.”

mitsmith@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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