First Lady Michelle Obama walks softly and carries a big stick.
She mourned the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton Saturday and also highlighted gun violence in America without uttering a single word at the funeral.
And it was the right thing to do.
Obama paid her respects to Pendleton inside a packed church on Chicago’s South Side where Pendleton’s friends gathered to remember her as a loving teenager who had plans to attend Harvard.
Pendleton was shot and killed on Jan. 29 when a gunman opened fire on her group of friends who were sitting in a Chicago park. She performed at Obama’s inauguration just days before she was murdered.
Although Michelle Obama didn’t know Pendleton, the teenager’s death clearly struck a raw nerve: The Obamas are from Chicago, she has two daughters, Sasha, 11 and Malia, 14, and her husband, President Barack Obama, is urging Congress to enact gun control laws calling for strict background checks for all gun buyers and bans on assault weapons.
“It’s personal for us,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama who attended the funeral, told The Washington Post. “The first lady and I grew up in Chicago. It could have been our daughters. So, as residents of Chicago, residents of the South Side, our heart just goes out to her family.. . . We may not have known her, but she’s a part of our family, too.”
And while Michelle Obama grieved for Pendleton on Saturday, former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh took to Twitter to condemn the first lady for attending the funeral.
“Heartbroken” Michelle Obama attending funeral of Hadiya Pendleton. I guess the other 553 murder victims didn’t break her heart,” Walsh tweeted.
“Most of the 553 Chicago murder victims in 2012 & 2013 were young black males. Is she attending this funeral to make a political point?” he asked.
Yes, the first lady made a political point. And why not? Chicago’s homicide rate skyrocketed to 500 last year for the first time since 2008. The crime wave is spiraling out of control so fast that some law enforcers claim that Americans have a greater chance of being killed in Chicago than U.S. troops do in Afghanistan.
Forty people were killed in Chicago in January. It’s a crisis that calls for immediate attention.
Walsh chose the funeral of a slain black teenager to mock the first lady, bring up race and accusations of political posturing?
Walsh is heartless, disrespectful and racially insensitive. I’m glad he no longer represents the state of Illinois in the U.S. Congress. There’s no place on Capitol Hill for Walsh’s kind of outdated thinking.
The First Lady’s presence at Pendleton’s funeral signaled to America that the White House cares about the Pendleton family and deplores gun violence, which is disproportionately claiming the lives of black teenagers, and black boys in particular.
Before the funeral, Obama met privately with Pendleton’s family and 30 of the slain teen’s friends. The family also received a handwritten note from President Obama on the back of a funeral program.
“Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya’s passing,” the president wrote. “We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless, Barack Obama.”
The first lady made the right decision to attend Pendleton’s funeral. She didn’t say one word, but her presence was powerful.
I hope Congress was watching.
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