WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama turned over his weekly nationally televised address for a poignant plea for gun control by Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was among the 20 children killed in last December's massacre in Newtown, Conn.
In a deeply emotional video released yesterday morning, Wheeler reminisces about how Ben sang with perfect pitch, was learning to play piano and wanted to be an architect or, like his big brother dreamed of, a paleontologist.
Then, her voice cracking and eyes welling with tears as she sits beside her husband, Wheeler pleads with the nation to call their senators and urge them to pass the gun-control legislation they began considering last week.
"We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common-sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us," Wheeler says in the 4-minute 20-second video produced by the White House.
It was the first time in his administration that Obama brought in a private citizen to deliver his weekly address.
Wheeler's remarks are a heart-wrenching capstone to a week of intense lobbying in Washington by parents of children slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"When I packed for Washington on Monday, it looked like the Senate might not act at all," Wheeler says in the video. "Then, after the president spoke in Hartford, and a dozen of us met with senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward. But that's only the start. They haven't yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do."
Wheeler wrote the remarks with her husband and together they taped the video on Friday morning in the library at the White House, an official there said.
Wheeler says in her remarks that Ben's killing has given her the courage to advocate for gun policy changes in Washington.
"Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy," she said.