CHICAGO – Michelle Obama says people worried about youth gun violence have to do more than simply tell children they care about the problem and then wind up “going to these funerals and mourning with these kids when there’s still work to do.”
“They’re looking to us to make the hard choices for them,” the first lady said Thursday. She suggested there are better ways for her to help than becoming publicly involved in Congress’ debate over gun laws that the president seeks.
Providing more creative outlets for children can help, she said in an interview with reporters who accompanied her on a three-city tour for the third anniversary of “Let’s Move,” the anti-obesity program
“Kids need to be engaged, not just intellectually. They need more than just to do well on test scores. They need to have something else in life to look forward to,” the first lady said, adding that opportunities to draw, sing, dance, act and play a sport can help them channel negative energy in a more positive direction.
On a two-day trip to highlight her national campaign to combat childhood obesity, Obama changed out of a dark-colored business suit and into a coral-and-black workout outfit to jump up and down with thousands of Chicago middle school students who were brought to the McCormick Place convention center for what amounted to one very large aerobics class.
Obama had announced a new public-private partnership, called “Let’s Move Active Schools,” to help schools find low- or no-cost ways to help students get the recommended hour of daily exercise. The line-up included such star athletes as Bo Jackson and Colin Kaepernick, as well as Olympians Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, Serena Williams, Allyson Felix and Ashton Eaton.
She took a few minutes to talk seriously with the kids before she joined the fun, urging them to do their homework and make good life choices. She recalled her upbringing in a Chicago family of four that wasn’t rich and having to share a bedroom with her older brother.
“If you guys remember just one thing from our time today, it’s this: Although I am the first lady of the United States of America ... I am no different from you,” she said.
Obama hinted in the interview with reporters she’ll do more to encourage schools and other organizations to provide opportunities for children in a time of declining budgets.
“More and more of our schools are having to eliminate the things that give kids passion and a reason to be in school,” she said. Obama added that kids are sharp enough to know when teachers and public officials are just talking the talk.
Mrs. Obama came home to Chicago earlier this month to attend the funeral of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed by gunfire near the Obama home after returning from performing for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Pendleton’s parents later sat with the first lady for Obama’s president’s State of the Union address.
A month after the December slaying of 20 elementary school pupils in Connecticut, Obama asked Congress to send him legislation banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and requiring criminal background checks for all gun purchases.
Congress has held hearings on the issue, but lawmakers have not taken any action on gun legislation.