By Raynard Jackson
Just imagine someone in your family travelling half way across the country to help a family they don’t know nor have any connection to; while at the same time his own family is in crisis. Just imagine how you would feel if your family barely had food to eat, but yet your father goes across town and gives some of your food to a family that he doesn’t even know.
I am sure in both cases the family would feel betrayed and a bit confused; and outsiders would surely think the father has lost his mind. Is it a noble gesture to try to help your fellow man? Of course it is. But, while it might be tragic for another family to be suffering, a father’s first obligation is to his own family, then his own community, and then the world.
President Obama, in many ways, serves as our nation’s symbolic “father.” In times of crisis, we look to him for comfort, support, and direction. Remember Reagan after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, Bush 41 after the Rodney King riots or Bush 43 after 911?
Having worked around three presidents, I am fully aware that a president can’t be everywhere, all the time and he has to pick and choose how he leads a country in a time of crisis. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the moment that could be his finest hour.
I found the anemic response by this White House and this president to the senseless death of Hadiya Pendleton very tragic.
Pendleton was a 15 year-old honors student who was shot and killed last Tuesday in Chicago. She had recently performed at President Obama’s January 21st inauguration with her high school’s band and drill team. She was shot in the back at a neighborhood park. She had just finished taking her exams at King College Prep. According to police, a gunman jumped a fence, ran toward the group of girls and opened fire, then jumped in a car and left the scene. The girls were standing under a canopy to hide themselves from the rain. Pendleton was hit in the back; a male victim, 16, is in serious condition. The park is about a mile from Obama’s Chicago home.
The White House’s response was weak at best and callous at worst. When asked about Pendleton’s death, presidential spokesman Jay Carney called it a ‘terrible tragedy for someone to be killed when they had so much of their life ahead of them. The president and first lady’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton. All of our thoughts and prayers are with her family.’ When Obama was asked about Pendleton’s murder, he went into this bizarre rant about, “well, the problem is that a huge proportion of those guns come in from outside Chicago… creating a bunch of pockets of gun laws without a unified, integrated system of background checks makes it harder for a single community to protect itself from gun violence.” His response was very creepy, as though he was just a robot, with no connection with his own humanity.
Now juxtapose that with his response to the shootings in Newtown, Conn. He shed tears for those kids and takes a trip there, but for Pendleton and others who have been killed this year—just a few terse words.
This year alone, Chicago has had more than 42 murders and 506 last year. Remember, many of these murders occurred within blocks of Obama’s Chicago home, surrounded by a full complement of Secret Service agents.
He is driven through these neighborhoods with his military-style entourage, but somehow never finds the time to stop by and talk with some of the families of those who have been murdered, many under the age of 10 years old.
All lives are precious, but I am having a hard time watching my president fly to Newtown, which is about s 844 miles east of Chicago; but, he can’t walk a couple blocks from his house in Chicago.
I won’t apologize for thinking that maybe it has something to do with the zip code of the two cities or the polar opposite economic levels between the two cities. You always try to give a sitting president the benefit of the doubt, but in Obama’s case, I doubt if there is any benefit.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.