In a rare departure from tradition, Saturday's weekly presidential address was delivered not by President Obama but instead by Francine Wheeler, whose son Ben, 6, died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December.
Flanked by her husband, David, Wheeler called for Americans to urge the Senate to pass gun control legislation that it is scheduled to begin debating in the coming week.
"We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us," Wheeler said (see the White House video).
In the roughly four-and-a-half minute speech, Wheeler also recalled her son for his boundless energy, his musical talents, and a desire to be like his older brother, Nate. Her address, which the White House tells the AP was written by the Wheelers themselves, comes one day before the four-month anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., murders.
"Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse for the boy who would never come home – the same firehouse that was home to Ben's Tiger Scout Den 6," Wheeler said, in an emotional passage that brought a brief pause. "But other times, I feel Ben's presence filling me with courage for what I have to do – for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon."
The Wheelers were among a group of people who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook who flew to Washington earlier this week. They told their stories to several senators, in a move that is credited with giving new momentum to a bill that would expand background checks and boost school security spending, along with other moves.
Thursday, the Senate voted by a wide margin to begin debate on the measure.