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We must teach children to value life as well as education...

On the eve of first lady Michelle Obama's first official visit to Detroit to talk about mentoring and implore students to learn to succeed, two girls got into a fight on the west side.
Fifteen hours before Obama took the podium before hundreds of young people at Wayne State University, one of the girls, who was 14 years old, grabbed a gun and shot the other girl, who was 13.

Yes, 14 and 13.

Fifteen hours after that gunshot, the first lady spoke eloquently, beautifully, to the children at her rally, saying, "What I know is there is plenty of hope here. Detroit's next chapter, America's next chapter, is waiting to be written by you. Young people, I am asking you to embrace that opportunity, to be our future."

God, I pray she got through to them. And she probably did.

Convince the children

But Detroit's problem isn't its brightest students. Detroit's problem isn't the children who would gather to hear the first lady.

Detroit's heartbreaking challenge is getting through to the countless kids who have given up on themselves, their neighborhoods and their futures. Detroit's challenge is to change the mind-set of a 14-year-old who would grab a gun to shoot a girl with whom she's having a fight.

Detroit knows the things it must do: Leave the police budget alone. Put more officers on the street by any means necessary. Make some immediate fixes to the school district. Collect tear-down money from the owners of thousands of abandoned buildings and use the money to rid the city of these dangerous, depressing eyesores.

What Detroit doesn't know how to do, because no urban center has the magic answer, is convince children that life is precious.

Those children grow up to be people without humanity and include a guy who, as an adult, would shoot a teenager for looking at him the wrong way.

Those children grow up to be people that the police department needs special-response teams for.

Those children are the ones who include a 14-year-old who would end a fight with a gun.

We can't give up

I received another note about two stellar students who are preparing for college and want to sit and talk to me about their futures, about being successful, about the right way to make college a rewarding experience.

I'm so excited to meet them, I could cry.

But I'm also crying for those two girls who have to feel that no one cares about them, who can't believe that they have futures. And I'm crying for the one girl, who with a single shot, has thrown her future away.

She has been charged with assault with intent to murder and with using a firearm to commit a felony. She won't be going to college anytime soon or seeking an audience with the first lady

But we can't give up on her. We need all of the Michelle Obamas and every other successful adult to convince her -- and countless others like her -- that their lives are valuable, too...

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