Obama wraps State of Union speech tour in Chicago

President Obama steps off Air Force One at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, February 15, 2013.
February 15, 2013 12:26:37 PM PST
President Barack Obama is wrapping up his post-State of the Union tour by talking about how government can build "ladders of opportunity" into the middle class.

One student said she thinks the president's words will have a significant impact and this is just what the immunity needs. Barricades were set up around the school, and inside there was a sense of anticipation.

"I'm hoping to hear mostly about the effects of gun violence and how it sort of corrupts our community," said 18-year-old Hyde Park senior Vichina Austin. She will be in the school gym when President Obama addresses a crowd of 700 invited guests and students.

Obama is expected to touch on the plight of gun violence in the wake of the shooting of honor student Hadiya Pendleton, killed near her home.

"I believe the violence of Chicago has gotten to the point where a major leader has to come the to us and talk about how it's impacting us," Austin said.

Hyde Park Academy Principal Antonio Ross says the feeling inside the school was electric in anticipation of the president's visit. In addition to speaking to the crowd, Obama will meet privately with 20 young men to discuss the challenges of growing up in a rough neighborhood.

"This particular group of students he's going to meet with today, they've been in the program for a couple of years. I'm excited to see how they respond to the president. Normally, they are extremely Powerful," Dr. Ross said.

The president's brief trip home is part of a three-day push of his second term agenda, which comes on the heels of his State of the Union address. While he'll talk about the economy and education, many will be waiting to hear about his thoughts on the violence in his own back yard.

"A lot of our students come from the Englewood area, so they experience gun violence on a regular basis. We're hoping this visit from the president kind of echoes what we are already doing here at the school," Ross said.

The president will arrive at O'Hare International Airport at about 1 p.m. Then he will head straight to the high school. His stay in Chicago is expected to be about three hours.

During remarks Friday, Obama takes up proposals to raise the federal minimum wage and pair businesses with recession-battered communities to help them rebuild and provide job training. He also was to talk about creating jobs for young people from poor families, and encouraging fatherhood and low-income couples to marry.

It remains to be seen whether the proposals have enough support to get through Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed unmoved by Obama's appeals to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 to help workers paid at that rate escape poverty. Doing so, Boehner said, would cost jobs.

In this week's State of the Union address, Obama appealed for help for urban and rural areas that have been plagued by high rates of youth unemployment or decimated by the loss of factories. He called on Congress to offer incentives to companies that hire people who have been unemployed for extended periods of time.

He promised that his administration would partner with 20 hardest-hit towns, working with local leaders to direct resources to public safety, education and housing, and proposed new tax credits for businesses that hire and invest. The president who grew up without a father also pledged to try to make it more beneficial financially for low-income couples to marry, and to do more to encourage fatherhood, including through working with the religious community and the private sector.

"America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny," Obama said in the speech Tuesday night. "And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them."

Obama's visit to his hometown follows the weekend funeral of a Chicago teenager who was killed days after she performed during Obama's inauguration in Washington.

Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot last month about a mile from Obama's Chicago home. Police say the majorette was the innocent victim of a gang-related shooting.

Michelle Obama attended Hadiya's funeral in Chicago last Saturday. Her parents then sat with the first lady Tuesday during Obama's State of the Union address.

Although the purpose of Obama's visit was to promote economic and jobs proposals outlined in the speech, he was expected to also touch on the subject of gun violence, given the setting.

The trip was the third stop outside of Washington in as many days for Obama since Tuesday. On Wednesday, he traveled to Asheville, N.C., to make the case for raising the federal minimum wage. On Thursday, he flew to the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Ga., to push his proposal to provide preschool for all 4-year-olds.

After Chicago, Obama was headed to Palm City, Fla., to spend the long, holiday weekend relaxing with friends, the White House said. He was to return to Washington on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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