Michelle’s special push to combat Chicago violence
BY LYNN SWEET Twitter: @lynnsweet March 27, 2013 9:38PM
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, left, mother of shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton stands next to Michelle Obama, center in the joint congressional box of the U.S. House of Representatives before the State of the Union speech by President Barack Obama. Tuesday, February 12, 2013. | Courtesy ABC Network News
Updated: April 29, 2013 12:11PM
First Lady Michelle Obama comes home on April 10 to address youth violence in her city — and bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new $50 million fund to help at-risk kids.
I’m told that Mrs. Obama’s White House team reached out to Emanuel’s City Hall — asking how she can be helpful — after she attended the Feb. 9 funeral in Chicago for Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot to death Jan. 29 about a mile from the Obamas’ Kenwood home.
Out of that call came the idea for Mrs. Obama to headline the first major event for Emanuel’s “Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund,” launched last month and tasked with raising $50 million over five years to bankroll a variety of programs aimed at reducing youth violence.
That Mrs. Obama is lending her support to the initiative is significant in particular because — campaigns aside — she rarely makes public appearances not connected to her signature issues of combating childhood obesity and helping military families. This will also mark the first time that Mrs. Obama is making a visit home to help a Chicago charity.
Mrs. Obama was last in Chicago on Feb. 28 to mark the third anniversary of her signature “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity drive with a massive event at McCormick Place.
The Pendleton murder deeply touched Mrs. Obama, who attended Pendleton’s funeral with her fellow South Siders, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Mrs. Obama also hosted Hadiya’s parents in her box for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Obama, speaking at the Hyde Park Academy on Feb. 15, in a post-State of the Union swing, highlighted the city’s soaring number of shooting deaths. Said Obama: “Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.”
Leading the fund-raising drive are Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds and Allstate CEO Tom Wilson. Reynolds was an early and major fund-raiser for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Mrs. Obama will speak at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, at a lunch hosted by Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff. The theme is “Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago.”
The audience will include civic, business and philanthropic leaders. Some of the guests will have already donated to the fund; others are potential donors who need more prodding.
To date, according to Emanuel’s press office, some $25 million has been raised.
Mrs. Obama will press for more.
Said the White House in announcing her visit, “Mrs. Obama will be urging Chicago’s business leaders to invest in expanded opportunities for youth across Chicago’s neighborhoods.”