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'We’re Not Forgetting,' Obama Tells UHart Audience
During a speech at the Chase Family Arena on Monday, President Barack Obama calls on Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence.
University alumna Nelba Marquez '97, whose daughter, Ana Marquez-Greene, was killed in the Newtown tragedy, holds up a sign saying "Love Wins!" as President Obama greets Newtown families after his speech.
Aja Wilson, a 2010 graduate of The Hartt School and a current grad student in the Barney School of Business, performed a stirring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of Monday's program.
President Barack Obama delivered a high-profile speech on gun control Monday at the University of Hartford, calling on Congress to pass “common sense” measures to reduce gun violence.
Obama spoke to an enthusiastic and often boisterous crowd in the Chase Family Arena at the Sports Center, marking the first time in its history that the University has welcomed a sitting president to campus.
See a transcript of President Obama’s speech.
The audience included students, faculty, and staff of the University as well as guests invited by the White House, including families of the 20 children and six adults who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December. Obama was introduced by Nicole and Ian Hockley, who lost their first-grade son, Dylan, in the Newtown shooting.
The president made reference in his speech to the University of Hartford’s two close connections to the Newtown tragedy.
“One of your recent alumni, Rachel D’Avino, was a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook,” Obama said. “Two alumni of your performing arts school, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, lost their daughter, Ana – an incredible, vibrant young girl who looked up to them, and learned from them, and inherited their talents by singing before she could talk.”
Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, together with their son, were in the audience, as were members of D’Avino’s family.
“Newtown, we want you to know that we’re here with you. We will not walk away from the promises we’ve made,” Obama said. “We are as determined as ever to do what must be done. We’re not forgetting.”
Obama praised the strong gun control legislation that was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly last week with bipartisan support, and said it is time for Congress to do the same. Ninety percent of Americans support universal background checks for gun buyers, Obama said, and a majority of Americans support his other gun control proposals, such as banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“And yet, there is only one thing that can stand in the way of change that just about everybody agrees on, and that’s politics in Washington,” Obama said. “Some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms.
“Think about that,” Obama continued. “They’re not just saying they’ll vote ‘no’ on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.”
With that, the audience at the Sports Center began loudly chanting “We want a vote! We want a vote!”
“Connecticut, this is not about me,” Obama said. “This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. This is about these families and families all across the country who are saying let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down.”
Obama urged Americans to contact their elected officials and tell them to support measures aimed at reducing gun violence.
“If you’re an American who wants to do something to prevent more families from knowing the immeasurable anguish that these families here have known, then we have to act,” Obama said. “Now is the time to get engaged. Now is the time to get involved. Now is the time for everybody to make their voices heard from every state house to the corridors of Congress.
“If there is even one thing we can do to protect our kids, don’t we have an obligation to try?” Obama asked.
“And if we do, if we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together, I’m convinced cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children.”