This post has been updated.
Michelle Obama’s decision to attend the Saturday funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honors student who was shot in Chicago only days after coming to Washington to perform with her high school marching band at the inauguration for President Barack Obama, is an important overture by the Obamas both to the city of Chicago and African-Americans, illustrating their concern with a killing that has galvanized both communities.
The White House announced Thursday that the first lady will fly to Chicago for the funeral,along with top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, both of whom are also Chicagoans. Activists in the city, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had for days urged the president himself to come there and give a speech, even launching a Change.org petition on the issue. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has been asked about Pendleton’s shooting repeatedly at his daily briefings.
Her shooting has come to symbolize the kind of everyday violence that affects many communities around the country and the huge spike in homicides in Chicago over the last year, two issues that have received far less national attention than the mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut.
Neither Obama has said much publicly about the shooting of Pendleton or the more than 500 people in Chicago killed in homicides there in 2012. At the same time, the first lady’s decision is not surprising, as the Obamas often involve themselves on matters that galvanize the African-American community, such as when the president bemoaned the shooting of Travyon Martin last year and and famously declared, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Correction: The original version of this post suggested the first lady is speaking at the funeral. She is not.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @PerryBaconJr.