"What better place to address it than his home and a city that has really become, let's face it, the poster boy of gun violence," Pfleger said.
Tio Hardiman, director of Cure Violence Illinois, said the president's visit was an important symbolic gesture that could influence local youth to help fight violence in their communities.
"This will put Chicago on the forefront, and hopefully this will trickle down to the young people involved in a violent lifestyle," Hardiman said. "Hopefully, by the president coming to Chicago, the guys involved in violence will pay attention."
Clergy, activists, parents and others agreed that they are eager to hear a plan of action from the president to curb violence.
Nance-Holt said that if the president can set up a task force in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school Dec. 14, he can do the same in Chicago. The Black Youth Project's Cohen said she hopes to hear a plan on how to get illegal guns off the street and how to get young people working. Jackson said neighborhoods such as Englewood, Lawndale and Roseland need a plan for reconstruction.
Clergy said they hope the president talks about broader factors contributing to the city's violence, such as a high unemployment rate and a lack of adequate funding for local schools.
Chicago's homicides in recent years have numbered far below their annual total of more than 900 in the early 1990s. But while Chicago topped 500 homicides last year, the total fell below 500 in New York City, which has about three times the population of Chicago.
Local officials have stepped up efforts against gun violence. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has moved to toughen city gun laws. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has made an effort to tighten loopholes in the law.
While the president's speech is a step in the right direction, Chicagoans can also play a role in stemming the violence, the Rev. Giles said.
"Some (part) of the problem we can solve ourselves," he said. "For instance, the no-snitch rule on the street. … You don't need the president for that. We just need to step up and tell the truth."
Hardiman agreed that it isn't solely incumbent upon the president to solve the problem.
"The families have got to challenge their teenage sons and daughters," Hardiman said. "It starts at home as well. The president should challenge the responsibility of the homes and the families."
Tribune reporter Dahleen Glanton and Washington bureau reporter Christi Parsons contributed.