WASHINGTON — Continuing the first family’s outreach to Chicago teens, President Barack Obama today welcomed 14 students and five chaperons from Chicago’s Hyde Park Academy High School to be among his guests at an informal luncheon in the State Dining Room to mark Father’s Day.
Obama had met the students, who take part in the “Becoming a Man -- Sports Edition” program, during a visit Feb. 15 to Hyde Park Academy, less than a mile from his Chicago home.
“It is good to see all of you here, so many young people, so many outstanding dads, a few moms chaperoning,” Obama told several dozen guests on Friday. “Obviously, this is a great way for us to celebrate Father’s Day and just to remind ourselves, those of us who are fathers, how lucky we are.”
He walked table to table greeting guests, posing for pictures and holding up a baby.
Among the guests was Frankie Griffin, 18, from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, who said the trip was his first to Washington and the White House. “It was awesome experience to be in the presence of the president,” remarked Griffin, who graduates Monday and wants to pursue a career in technology.
He works as a stock manager for Wal-Mart and said he was a recent victim of Chicago’s gun violence. Griffin said he was robbed at gunpoint, and his knee grazed by gunfire, during a hold-up four or five weeks ago.
Griffin’s chaperons including Marshaun Bacon, 36, from Hyde Park, who said the president’s visit in February was a “mind-blowing experience.” Bacon praised him for maintaining ties to the young men he met then, saying today: “For him to want to continue that relationship and that dialogue is really a testament to how big his heart is.”
On today’s menu: burgers, fries, salad, cookies, apples and lemonade.
Some White House officials, including chief of staff Denis McDonough, economic policy adviser Gene Sperling, and legislative affairs director Miguel Rodriguez, attended the luncheon.
White House spokesman Kevin Lewis said the luncheon was a chance for the president to continue the “national conversation” he began during his first term about the vital roles that fathers have in families and communities.
After the luncheon, Obama invited the Chicagoans for a quick trip to the Oval Office. Afterward, the students were to take part in a round-table discussion on mentorship with administration staffers, Lewis said.
Obama traveled to Hyde Park Academy to talk about gun violence and other issues, meeting privately that day with participants in the “Becoming a Man -- Sports Edition” program, which mixes after-school sports with counseling, mentorship and violence-prevention activities.
First lady Michelle Obama has begun her own relationship with students from Chicago’s Harper High School, visiting the school in April and hosting some Harper students at the White House on June 5, when they met both Obamas.
The Hyde Park Academy students arrived Thursday and depart Saturday, Bacon said.
The trip for the Hyde Park Academy students was paid for by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, according to a White House aide. It supports the president’s fatherhood and mentoring initiative, the aide said.
The clearinghouse — whose website is fatherhood.gov — is funded by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Family Assistance.