President Obama urges action on gun violence, preschool, jobs, wages
CHICAGO (AP) - President Barack Obama is portraying his State of the Union proposals as elements of a concerted effort to build "ladders of opportunity" into the middle class.
In remarks Friday at Hyde Park Academy in his hometown of Chicago, Obama says by reducing gun violence, expanding preschool access, raising the minimum wage and improving job training, the U.S. can ensure every child has a chance to succeed.
He's also calling for initiatives to encourage marriage, strong parenting and responsible fatherhood.
Obama's address in Chicago is the last leg of a three-day tour to rally support for the ideas he presented Tuesday in his address before a joint session of Congress. Republicans are already voicing skepticism about many of his proposals.
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.
Arriving in Chicago on Friday afternoon, Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff, before participating in a round-table discussion with 16 students who participate in a youth anti-violence program targeting at-risk young men.
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, and they were present Friday for Obama's speech in Chicago.
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.