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Obama to discuss 'ladders of opportunity' during Chicago visit Friday

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 9:58 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to talk about helping struggling families make their way into the middle class during a trip to the Chicago area on Friday, when he will also touch on the wide-ranging approach he thinks the country should take to fighting gun violence.

The president’s remarks will be devoted to the “ladders of opportunity” he thinks will help working families, like raising the federal minimum wage and investing in education, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

He’ll also talk directly about gun violence, aides say, in a visit that comes just days after the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teenager killed in a shooting a mile from the Obamas’ South Side home. After attending the services for Pendleton, first lady Michelle Obama invited her parents to join her in the balcony for the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

But the president’s emphasis this week is on promoting job creation and economic recovery, aides say, in the belief that solutions to violence and other social problem hang in the balance. He and Vice President Joe Biden have made the case in recent weeks that the solution to gun violence isn’t just about gun control, but also about improving access to educational opportunities, social programs and mental health services.

To clear these pathways to the middle class, Obama on Tuesday night proposed creating “promise zones” in 20 struggling communities, helping them develop plans and leverage federal resources to increase economic activity.

He also proposes a plan to support summer and year-round jobs for low-income youth and to put long-term unemployed and low-income adults back to work.

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