My guest to the State of the Union

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Every senator is allowed to bring one guest to the gallery of the President's State of the Union Address. My guest tonight will be Kim Odom.

I've known Kim for a year or so. She is the pastor of True Vine Assembly Church in Dorchester, along with her husband, Ron. They have five great children and two beautiful grandchildren.

On October 4, 2007, Kim's 13-year-old son Steven was walking home with a group of friends after playing basketball. But Steven didn't make it home that night. A gang member mistook one of Steven's friends for a rival gang member. Just steps away from the Odom family's front door, Steven was shot and killed.

Like so many mothers and fathers across the country, Kim and Ron Odom never thought that this kind of tragedy would happen to them. Kim asks why her innocent son was killed, and she also asks why gun violence is allowed to take so many of our children.

Kim has turned her grief into action. She is an advocate for violence intervention and prevention, and came to Washington, D.C. today as a supporter of Demand A Plan, a campaign of Boston Mayor Tom Menino's organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. She has told Steven's story to bring attention to gang violence, mental health and easy access to firearms. Kim is determined to work for changes that will keep our children safer.

I'm grateful for Kim's work, and I'm inspired by her courage. And I'm very honored that she has accepted my invitation to the State of the Union.

When you listen to the President tonight, I hope you'll think about Kim and Ron and other mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Gun violence isn't an abstraction that happens to other people. It happens in our communities to our children, and we owe it to our children to do a better job of protecting them.

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