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Editorial: Mrs. Obama grieves for Hadiya

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama

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Updated: March 9, 2013 6:09AM



Michelle Obama will more than do.

The first lady is part of a powerful trio headed to Chicago Saturday to honor Hadiya Pendleton and to send a message to the nation that her family’s pain — and Chicago’s pain in the face of unrelenting gun violence — counts.

Counts and won’t be for nothing.

This page and others had called for President Barack Obama to visit Chicago or attend Hadiya’s funeral. Instead, as the Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed first reported Thursday, Michelle Obama, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett will attend Hadiya’s funeral. The beloved 15-year-old was murdered Jan. 29 in a North Kenwood park, sending the city reeling.

On Sunday, we called Hadiya’s death our Newtown moment.

“From City Hall to the private clubs of multimillionaires to every storefront church,” we wrote, “we must hear Hadiya’s cry as if she were our own daughter, and we had better do more.”

But if we’re to have a real shot at taming the violence in our city and tackling the social ills that fuel it, Chicago needs help.

Help only a message from the very top can offer.

By coming to Hadiya’s South Side funeral — not far from where Duncan, Obama and Jarrett once lived — the message is clear:

Urban violence is as much the nation’s scourge as the mass shootings that have so gripped our consciousness. The terror in Newtown is an everyday reality in Chicago, and gun-control measures, including universal background checks and a crackdown on straw purchasers, are even more needed here.

But that’s not enough, which is why Duncan’s presence as the nation’s educator-in-chief is so meaningful. Good schools, good family supports and strong communities can do far more than any tough law ever could.

“My sincere hope is that honoring Hadiya’s life will also serve as reminder of the toll our country suffers every time a bullet cuts short the youth, ambition and potential of a child,” Duncan said Thursday.

The presence of these three Chicagoans, leaders who undoubtedly feel Hadiya’s loss deep in their souls, is an important start, telling the nation that this pain is simply too great to bear.



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