Invoking the memory of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, an emotional first lady Michelle Obama today delivered a passionate and personal plea for stricter gun control laws and additional resources for the nation's youth.
"Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her," the first lady told business and community leaders in her hometown. "But I got to grow up and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine.
"And Hadiya, well we know that story," she said. "She went to a park with some friends and got shot in the back."
Opportunity and community resources, Obama said, made the difference in her life between "growing up and becoming a lawyer, a mother, the first lady of the United States and being shot dead at the age of 15."
The first lady's call for action, her most public and comprehensive remarks on gun control to date, comes two months after she attended the funeral for the honor student, who was gunned down a mile away from the Obamas' Chicago home.
Becoming visibly emotional, the first lady said she struggled with what to tell Pendleton's friends the day of her funeral. "It is hard to know what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend," she recalled.
"I started by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way to doing something truly worthy with her life," she said, fighting back tears, her voice cracking. "I told them that there is a reason why we are here on this earth. I urged them to use of their lives to give meaning to Hadiya's life. I urged them to dream as big as she did, and work as hard as she did, and live a life that honors every last bit of her god-given promise."
As Congress prepares to vote Thursday on whether to proceed to debate a gun control bill, the first lady said her husband's "common sense" proposals deserve a vote. "If there is even one thing we can do, even one step we can take to save another child, then don't we have an obligation to try?" she asked, firmly entering the political debate.
"I want to urge you to come together and do something worthy of Hadiya Pendleton's memory and worthy of our children's future," she said. "We need to show them not just with words, but with action, that they are not alone in this struggle."