Photo gallery: President Obama speaks at Chicago’s Hyde Park Academy

Alejandro Pallares, Video Editor

President Barack Obama returned to his South Side roots Friday, calling economic opportunity and community development crucial in keeping children safe from gun violence.

After much cheering, squealing and cell-phone picture-taking from the Hyde Park Academy students in attendance, Obama turned to a more somber topic: the epidemic of gun violence in his hometown.

He welcomed the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot to death in January, just weeks after singing at Obama’s inauguration.

The president acknowledged the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, comparing the tragedy to the dramatic spike in Chicago homicides.

“Last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under.  So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months,” he said.

Evanston resident and gun-control activist Carolyn Murray lost her 19-year-old son Justin to gun violence in November. Murray attended the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday and was invited to hear him speak in Chicago.

“I was elated that he brought it back to Chicago, up close and personal,” she said. “We need some help. It’s not working.”

— Manuel Rapada and Ciara McCarthy

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