"The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
"The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
"The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence -- they deserve a simple vote.
"Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I've outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government."
That reference to "the work of self-government" might have been lost in the moment, as thunderous applause shook the chamber to which more than 30 members of Congress had invited constituents who have been affected by gun violence. But it will not be lost on Americans whose attention has been refocused by their president on the gun-safety debate.
Obama's determination to devote so substantial a portion of his State of the Union Address to the gun debate that is still in formation, and his willingness to make specific and repeated demands for House and Senate votes, provided another indication that he will not let this issue go. He will press Congress to act, as he must. After decades of neglect, not just by NRA-tied Republicans but by Democrats who were willing to put political expediency ahead of principle, Barack Obama engaged in the work of self-government. And he reminded Americans that their Congress has a responsibility to do the same.
Where are the student voices in the gun control debate? Read more at TheNation.com's StudentNation blog.