CHICAGO (CBS) — First Lady Michelle Obama will return to Chicago in June, to give the commencement speech at what would have been Hadiya Pendleton’s graduation ceremony.
Hadiya, 15, became the face of Chicago gun victims in 2013, when she was slain in a public park a mile away from the Obama family’s Kenwood home, a week after performing with her school drill team at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
An honors student at King College Prep High School, Hadiya would have graduated this June had she not been killed.
Hadiya’s death struck a chord with the first lady, who attended Hadiya’s funeral, met her classmates, and invited her parents to the 2013 State of the Union Address.
She also gave an emotional speech about gun violence after Hadiya’s funeral, saying she felt a strong connection to the Pendleton family.
“As I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me, because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, but I got to grow up,” she said.
The Sun-Times reports the first lady chose to speak at the King College Prep graduation ceremony, as part of a contest organized by her Reach Higher initiative, and the program’s director said the fact it would have been Hadiya’s graduating class was not lost on Mrs. Obama.