Monday, July 16, 2007

A Voice Raised in Chicago

New York Times: By Bob Herbert

“I asked to come here because I wanted to talk with you about the spate of violence that’s been robbing the city’s children of their future. In this last school year, 32 Chicago public school students were killed, and even more since the school year ended. This past week alone, two teens were shot in a South Side schoolyard. ...

“In one Chicago public school,” said Mr. Obama, “a teacher was calling attendance, and when she got to the name of a particular student who wasn’t there and had missed a lot of classes, she asked if anyone knew where he was. And the answer she got was, ‘He’s dead.’ ”...

Over the past school year, Mr. Obama said, the number of public school students killed in Chicago was higher than the number of soldiers from the entire state of Illinois who were killed in Iraq during that period. ...

He said governments need to do more to combat gangs and gang violence and invest more in after-school programs that provide an alternative to the streets for vulnerable youngsters.

But he added, “There is only so much government can do.” There is also a need, he said, “for a change in attitude.”

The senator talked about the young men and boys who have gone down “the wrong path.” And he said one of the main reasons they are wreaking havoc and shooting one another is that they had not received enough attention while growing up from responsible adults.

“We’re not reading to them,” he said. “We’re not sitting down with them and talking to them. We’re not guiding them. We’re not disciplining them.”

In a conversation yesterday, he stressed that the plight of young people struggling in tough environments demands both governmental attention and a heightened sense of individual responsibility. Both are essential. ...

He also noted that there was tremendous grief across the country when the massacre at Virginia Tech happened last April, “and rightfully so.” But with 34 schoolkids dead in Chicago since the beginning of the last school year, he said, “for the most part, there has been silence.”

Think what it might mean to have this man as President.

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