February 15th, 2013
09:39 PM ET
10 years ago

Chicago students see a guide in Obama

Chicago (CNN) - To these young men, President Barack Obama is a model of what they could become - if they can avoid violence, unemployment and other pitfalls that have derailed some residents in their communities.

High school students enrolled in the Chicago schools' "Becoming a Man" program sat down with the president Friday in their school before he delivered a speech about the blight of gun violence on communities and the economy.

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Student Vontate Stewart said Obama described his own struggles of the past and how he overcame them.

"He told us how he grew up and the situations he had been in and how he handled them," Stewart told CNN after their meeting. "And he just gave us ideas how to handle situations and let us learn from the situations he had been in. "

Their conversation "was helpful and very motivating," Stewart said.

His peer, Ronald McCormick, joined this program after a conversation with a teacher when he landed in detention. He was not a chronic troublemaker, but has seen his grades improve and said the conversation with Obama resonated with him.

"I got good advice about how he talked about how he dealt with his anger issues, his problems. So we had a good experience with him today," McCormick said.

That teacher, Marshaun Bacon, said Obama gave the young men in his program an "example of the power of hard work, self-determination."

"So now I'm going to challenge the group to say, now that the president has spoken to you, now that you have seen the best in what you can do, how are you actually going to go out and do those things?" Bacon said. "Each man will have that challenge and will work at it individually, but also as a group. 'What is our next move?' 'How do we continue to exemplify the best of what we can do?'"

Obama was born in Hawaii but raised his own two daughters within a mile of the Hyde Park Career Academy where he spoke.

"That's really what I've come here to talk about today - raising our kids," Obama said. "I'm here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life; building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond; and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm."

The president spoke about the "hole in that child's heart" that comes from gun violence. In neighborhoods across the country, "it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town - that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born."

Chicago saw more than 400 gun deaths last year and just last month, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down near her school a week after she participated in the festivities around Obama's inauguration. His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, attended the teen's funeral and two men have been charged with her murder.

Obama introduced the "Becoming a Man" program students in his speech and called them "exceptional young men" - especially so, he said, because of their own struggles.

"What I explained to them was I had issues, too, when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving," he said. "So when I screwed up, the consequences weren't as high as when kids on the South Side screw up.

"But these guys are no different than me and we had that conversation about what does it take to change," Obama continued, later adding that "for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don't see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected."

Student Allen Ester said Obama told the group, "if we gonna change it's gotta start within ourselves."

"I had lost a couple friends due to gun violence and you know to the streets, or whatever, so I really think it's time for a change - not just me but with a lot of people … in Chicago," he told CNN. "It really ain't safe out here right now."

Bacon, the teacher, said he hoped the students who met with Obama would carry the conversation with them.

"He talked about the fact that he had to make a commitment to stay the path that he was on. He talked about times where he was discouraged and he thought about giving up but it stuck to it, and he's done pretty well for himself," Bacon said. "So I'm hoping our guys can emulate that same example, and who knows what is in store for them.

"Maybe we're looking at one of the next presidents."

Filed under: Gun control • President Obama
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Scott

    Headline: Chicago students see a guide in Obama

    Poor kids have no concept of what a real man truly is.


    February 15, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  2. Whatup

    "if we gonna change it's gotta start within ourselves." ..oh well....i guess proper grammar isn't taught there...

    February 15, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  3. Dweezil22

    The country only needs so many community organizers.

    February 15, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  4. Bert Lancaster

    A guide in Obama eh? The comedy just writes itself. Blame others, lie, give away other people's money, and you too can be successful!

    February 15, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  5. nuclear mike

    There was nothing new said and nothing to be done for a culture that does not want to change...just more "jive" from a bully pulpit in a place where that is all there is...

    February 15, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  6. ken

    News Flash ! Obama is not from Chicago. He has no idea what it means to be a kid there anymore than I do.....

    February 16, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  7. Thereburg

    A better guide for them and everyone is Dr Ben Carson check out his speech he made last week it's on You Tube going Viral CNN ABC NBS CBS will not aknowledge it. Afraid we might get educated as to what is really happening to this country.

    February 16, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  8. Just Me

    There is the good; the bad and the ugly in all of society our forefathers understood that having just freed themselves from the tyranny that was being imposed by the British government of that time. Thus they included the Second Amendment so that the individual could have personal protection. And societies do go through cycles just like the rest of the universe. Right now we are in the government can protect us cycle and at some point it will swing the other way. Freedom is never taken it is always given away. And that's why I know the neighbors around me. I own a dog not only because I love him; but he would be enough of a distraction for anybody coming in for me and mine; to grab my eight shot, shotgun (Mossberg 590) and I don't care who you are and what you are wearing; you will not stand up to four shots of Double 0 Buck and four shots of the PBX1. And remember just because you're paranoid; does not mean they are not after you. 🙂

    February 16, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  9. CNNTom

    You mean using executive orders to bypass our liberties... great.

    February 16, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  10. jb

    Weird that the city with the toughest restrictions on guns has the most gun related crimes and deaths. When you're not able to defend yourself is when you become a victim. That's my stand.

    February 16, 2013 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  11. Jeeper

    Talk about setting your goals low. Wanting to model yourself after obama? Things are really crappy in Chicago.

    February 16, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  12. hkirwin

    LOL....yeah they really seem to be following in his foot steps.

    February 16, 2013 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  13. John Merrick

    Can you imagine Mitt Romney doing this - of course not.

    February 16, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  14. Al

    At least the people in the area that Obama was at knew that they were safe for that short period of time. Thanks to the vision that Chicago mayor Rahm Israel Emanuel using the vision of his mentor Barack Hussein Obama II. They have managed to disarm a city, granted you can have a weapon in your home, but leave it there so when you go to the store and you have a 76% chance of encountering one of the many thugs in Chicago who is carrying a weapon so that they can rob the citizen and if they feel the need they will shoot and kill them. Yes, Obama could be an inspiration to young people, there will be many of those children that will not make it adulthood, there will be more that will have had been shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all because the mayor does not want to attack the real problem, THUGS and GANGS.

    February 16, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  15. mike

    Any example ... any role model ... is better than none at all. Barack Obama is no less dishonest than any other Chicago mobster from History, but at least he doesn't resort to blatant violence.

    February 16, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  16. HenryMiller

    "To these young men, President Barack Obama is a model of what they could become..."

    Why would anyone want to become a scheming, arrogant, jerk?

    February 16, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  17. Paolo

    Obama a guide, a mentor, are you kidding ?

    Obama is a fraud, a liar, he is lazy, he never takes responsibility, he can't lead, he makes no logical sense.

    Aside from avoiding crime, these kids need to be able to discern between ethics and idiocy.

    February 16, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  18. TAJ

    A guide? You bet. Right into the EBT line.

    February 16, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  19. Paolo

    Mr. Obama is great, look at how well Americans get along with each other, blacks and white living as one, look at how peaceful the Middle East is and how our enemies are now our friends, look at how strong America is financially and how everyone has a well paying job. Look at how our military is overseas planting flower gardens. Look at how honest and ethical our leaders are in Washington, all this because of our savior and lord, Obama. He is our guide.

    February 16, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. empresstrudy

    Obama was child and teenager in Hawaii

    February 16, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  21. logicnothuff

    The Guide?? Lie about everything. Ignore all fundamental science about economics and industry. Pretend like you're not a communist when your entire life has been all about advancement of communism and violent overthrow of capitalistic societies.

    February 16, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  22. pevanb

    yep -lie your way to the top

    February 16, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  23. widow

    I hope they emulate what Obama pretends to be also.. Who wants to be a selfish uni dimensional thinker like Obama really is.

    February 16, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. dd

    Chicago students have already voiced their concern. The killings in Chicago are rooted in the rule of the Chicago Drug Gangs. They say that more gun laws will do nothing to stop the violence. Why doesn't Obama listen? Because Chicago Democrats need the drug flow seems to be the only answer. Campaign money or dependence – who knows? Obama is an ex druggie. He probably knows. The Black culture in Chicago is a mess. No parents, single parents, criminal parents (Jesse Jackson family) produce a less than 50% HS graduation rate and a 20% read at grade level rate. Bad schools can't be closed because the Democrats fear for more violence when the kids are transferred across drug gang boundaries. Who is running Chicago? Is it the same guy who is running the US? An empty chair!

    February 16, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  25. Ed1

    This is just stupid 50 kids are killed by being backed over by a car or truck every week (50) so does the mean we outlaw all cars that don't have backup cameras.

    Obama is using kids to get his agenda passed and that's it wake up people less kids are killed by guns than just about any other tool you could find to kill with.

    Obama is a snake oil salesman and a very good one that got him re-elected. His STOU was filled with lies that were caught by fact checks but the main stream media will never tell you that only what King Obama wants you to hear.

    February 16, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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