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Barack Obama Quote About the Empathy Deficit

There's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.

As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There's no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You'll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what's going in your own little circle.

Not only that - we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.

They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they're all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can't learn and won't learn and so we should just give up on them entirely. That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else's problem to take care of.

I hope you don't listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern.

From obama.senate.gov/speech/060616-northwestern_un/


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My personal comments

When I found a copy of this speech in June 2008, I felt very encouraged. I wrote

These are words that I could have said myself, yet they came from a man who has a very good chance of being the next president of the world's most powerful and influential societies.

But now it is 2012 and I have lost a lot of faith in and respect for Obama.

As President, he has approved of many killings, including that of bin Laden and all of those killed by the drones. We now know that it is Obama that approves those on the USA "kill list." This has taken much away from his message of empathy.

S. Hein
June 25, 2012
Chaing Mai, Thailand


Balatonlelle, Hungary
June 6, 2008