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Michelle Obama attends funeral of teen gun violence victim

Posted at 2:07 PM, Feb 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-09 14:08:12-05

(CNN) — Honor student Hadiya Pendleton urged her friends to stay away from gangs.

“It is your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future,” she told her peers in a 2008 Web video.

The 15-year-old was remembered Saturday as a victim of gang gun violence at a funeral attended by first lady Michelle Obama.

Hadiya was killed January 29, just a week after she performed at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. She was killed in the Hyde Park neighborhood near Obama’s Chicago home. Her murder was the 42nd in the city this year.

A handwritten note from President Barack Obama to Hadiya’s parents was published on the funeral program: “Dear Cleopatra and Nathaniel, Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya’s passing.

“We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless, Barack Obama.”

She “marched by me and the president and the rest of you on Inauguration Day, leading with pride and promise her high school band,” Vice President Joe Biden told Democratic members of Congress this week.

“This was no ordinary child,” he said. “She was a child who had used social media, urging her friends to speak out — don’t join gangs. And now she’s gone.”

The Obama administration has focused on reducing gun violence since 20 children and six adults were shot and killed December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The president has proposed gun legislation and signed executives orders aimed at reducing gun violence. His plan includes a ban on assault weapon sales, restrictions on the capacity of gun magazines and background checks for every gun sale.

The first lady, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — all Chicagoans — attended the funeral. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. also attended.

Hundreds of family, friends and classmates paid their respects. Members of Hadiya’s Crystal Elegance Majorette squad walked down the church aisle in their black and yellow warm-up suits.

Nathaniel Pendleton, Hadiya’s father, said on CNN’s “Early Start” that his daughter was excited to meet the president and be part of inauguration. He said her death should be part of the national dialogue on preventing gun violence.

“When we talked about this as a family, we recognized the implications of Hadiya’s death in this debate,” he said. “We believe that this debate, it should be a multifaceted approach. … It shouldn’t be a Democratic approach; it shouldn’t be a Republican approach.

“Gun laws should be, somehow, created in a way that’s going to make it harder for the bad guys to get guns and make it easier for the law-abiding citizens who want to have them,” he said.

More than 500 people were killed in Chicago last year.

“We have a responsibility to see a stop to this,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted in December found that 58% of adults favor banning large ammunition magazines and 56% favor a ban on semiautomatic weapons.