In the past, Michelle Obama has only broached the subject of gun violence and young people. Now, though, it appears that the energetic first lady is going to make the issue a mainstay in her political advocacy platform.
At a recent speech before an assembly of Chicago high school students, Mrs. Obama directly addressed the violence epidemic in the Windy City, telling the students that the country has an obligation to ensure their safety.
During her husband’s first term in office, Mrs. Obama shied away from controversial political terrain, opting instead to help veterans and push her Let’s Move! campaign, an initiative designed to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, moms and dads in a nationwide effort to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity.
However, in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, she’s been more outspoken on the issue of gun-related violence and its effect on teens.
In the Spring, Mrs. Obama appeared at three fundraisers and discussed her experiences meeting students who live in high-crime neighborhoods, saying that instead of “reveling in the joys of their youth,” the teens at schools like Harper High on Chicago’s south side are “consumed with staying alive.”
“There are so many kids in this country just like them, kids with so much promise, but so few opportunities, good kids who are doing everything they can to break the cycle and beat the odds,” Mrs. Obama said. “We need to be better for them. We need to be better for all of our children in this country because they are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they all deserve.”
In a later TV appearance, she went on to relate some personal anecdotes from the teens she spoke to.
“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. What’s our obligation to these kids? We do have one,” she told CBS “Sunday Morning.”
She’s also recycled the rhetoric of the president who has argued that if “We can do one thing to save a life, than we have an obligation to do it,” which is one of the justifications he gave for supporting certain gun-control measures, i.e. expanded background checks and bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ and magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammo.
Of course, in April, the Senate failed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster and pass those aforementioned measures.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how engaged Mrs. Obama becomes on the gun-control front. Her aides told the associated press that she’s not going to make gun violence a new and distinct issue, but is going to fold it into the work that she’s been doing to encourage youth to focus on getting an education.
But ultimately, time will tell. With Congress scheduled to examine Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and with the possibility of a revival of the Manchin-Toomey expanded background check bill, Mrs. Obama might be more vocal on the topic — or she might not, but one thing is for sure, she’ll definitely continue to speak her mind an offer an opinion on the things she cares about.
“You have an opportunity to speak to your passions and to really design and be very strategic about the issues you care most about,” Mrs. Obama said at a recent forum in Tanzania with African first ladies. “And I just found it just a very freeing and liberating opportunity.”