President Barack Obama. (Getty Images)
David Jackson, USA TODAY
Visiting his old neighborhood in Chicago on Friday, President Obama combined the issues of economic development and gun violence by saying the latter undermines the hopes of all young people.
"Too many of our children are being taken away from us," Obama during an often emotional speech said at Hyde Park Academy, a school on Chicago's South Side.
While again promoting his gun-control proposals, Obama also said society can help curb violence by addressing other issues, including absent fathers - a situation he himself faced while growing up, he noted.
In a third follow-up to this week's State of the Union speech, Obama discussed what he called "ladders of opportunity" that youngsters can use to climb into the middle class, a set of proposals that range from an increase in the minimum wage to expanded preschool.
Obama promoted the idea of "promise zones," distressed areas where public-private partnerships would work to improve schools and use tax incentives to try and encourage business development.
The most important task, the president said, is to keep young people "safe from harm."
As he did during Tuesday night's address to Congress, Obama called for votes on plans to curb gun violence, including expanded background checks, a renewed assault weapons ban, and restrictions on the sizes of ammunition magazines.
He cited recent tragedies, including the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults; he also mourned the death of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl shot in back last month by a suspected gang member less that a mile from Obama's house.
The former resident also cited Chicago's high murder rate, describing it as "the equivalent of a Newtown every four months."
Guns aren't the only issue when it comes to youth violence, Obama said, also citing "the kinds of communities we're building." Decrying the lack of adult role models in too many places. Obama advocated programs to "promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
Turning personal, Obama said he did not want to demean single mothers, noting that he was raised by one, and "I turned out OK."
Still, he said, "I wish I had had a father who was around and involved."
Before his remarks, Obama met privately at the school with 16 students involved in a youth anti-violence program.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, introducing Obama, also drew the connection between education, the economy and gun violence. The former White House chief of staff said Chicago's future depends on "the strength of our schools, and the safety of our streets."
In the days since his State of the Union, Obama has hit the road to sell various aspects of his legislative program.
He discussed manufacturing on Wednesday in Asheville, N.C., and early childhood education in Decatur, Ga.
After Friday's speech in Chicago, Obama flew to Palm City, Fla., where he will spend the Presidents Day holiday weekend.