President Barack Obama has adopted a new style of governing for his second term in the White House: Get with the program – or get out of the way.
It’s a refreshing change from his conciliatory approach to Congress in previous years. And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Obama is using his White House bully pulpit to push for tougher gun control legislation that calls for strict background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons. He’s not pleading with Congress to act on his suggestions; he’s demanding that Congress move forward to keep America safe.
For the first time in a State of the Union address, Obama moved beyond gun control: He shined a bright light on urban gun violence in America which has been neglected by Capitol Hill legislators for decades. Much of mainstream society has ignored crime in inner cities, and, let’s be real, black folks generally don’t like to discuss the root causes of black-on-black crime either.
By inviting Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton as guests in the First Lady’s box for the president’s address, Obama brought the issue of urban gun violence to the national stage and skillfully linked his gun control lobbying to inner city crime.
“One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old,” the president said Tuesday in the most emotional part of his State of the Union address. “She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”
“Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence,” Obama said. “They deserve a vote.”
Last weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama attended Pendelton’s funeral in Chicago and although she didn’t say a word at the funeral, her presence spoke volumes.
On Friday, the president will travel to his hometown of Chicago to talk more about gun control at a time when police have charged two black gang members with Pendleton’s murder. One of the suspects confessed, saying Pendleton was not the intended target.
Pendleton’s death clearly struck a nerve: The Obamas are from Chicago and they have two daughters, Sasha, 11 and Malia, 14.
“Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children,” Obama said. “It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different.”