President Barack Obama has broken with tradition that was set by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who spoke to the American people via radio and reassured them during the depths of the Great Depression with his signature 'Fireside Chats' from the White House. Since then, American presidents have taken to the airwaves to issue radio messages in an avuncular way in an effort to talk over the contentious debates in Washington.
Today, President Obama chose to enlist a private citizen to deliver an address on gun control. Legislation is being debated in Congress that has merited the attention of some of the most powerful lobby groups in the country, who have enlisted Senators and Representatives on one side or the other certain restrictions on firearms. Obama is calling on citizens to speak to Congress "because this shouldn't be about politics. This is about doing the right thing for families that have been torn apart by gun violence and all families going forward."
While Obama has been known to shoot a few clay pigeons, after being drawn out even by members of Congress as to whether he had ever wielded a firearm, he had not been known to speak out in favor of rights associated with the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution that sets out the rights of Americans to firearms. In his introduction to Francine Wheeler, who took his place for the weekly Saturday address, Obama wrote "But we've got a lot of work to do before Congress finishes the job. So if you believe that we can take sensible steps to protect more of our kids from gun violence and protect our Second Amendment rights, stand up and join us."
Obama wrote "Francine Wheeler is a mother. She and her family live in Newtown, Connecticut. Four months ago, her six year-old son Ben was murdered in his elementary school, along with 19 other children and six brave educators. Joined by her husband, Mrs. Wheeler shares her perspective about the steps we can take to reduce gun violence and prevent the kind of tragedy she understands all too well," wrote Obama. The president added, "because people like Francine and like you got involved, the U.S. Senate took a step forward on commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence."
Francine and David Wheeler are seen in the video, apparently at the White House. Francine Wheeler opens with the pledge that she "wants to make a difference." She quickly loses her composure and weeps as she recounts that her son, Ben, "was murdered in his classroom on December 14th, exactly just four months ago this weekend."
As David Wheeler sat sternly at her side, Francine spoke in loving terms about her dead son in a conversational tone. Whether she used a teleprompter was not noted. She appeared practiced and familiar with a camera as she spoke of the loss of her son has meant to her family. Again making an emotional appeal, Mrs. Wheeler said that since the killings of Sandy Hook Elementary School, "thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief. Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes yours."
Urging political action on the part of fellow citizens, Mrs. Wheeler said "We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common-sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer." In this she echoed appeals already made by President Obama and Michelle Obama to Congress and in their public appearances.
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