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Obama Empathy Speech Index


1995-07-18 - Book Dreams from My Father
2001-09-19 - 9-11 Attack Caused by Lack of Empathy
2004-07-27 - DNC 2004 Keynote Address - Boston MA
2004-11-xx - Sen. Barack Obama, O Magazine
2004-11-23 - Charlie Rose - Barack Obama
2005-04-12 - My Visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center
2005-06-22 - What it takes be bona fide `full-grown' man
2005-09-22 - Confirmation of Judge John Roberts
2006-01-13 - Obama wraps up Middle East trip
200x-xx-xx - Literacy and Empathy
2006-xx-xx - Building with Books keynote
2006-06-02 - U Massachusetts Boston Commencement
2006-06-16 - Northwestern Commencement
2006-07-12 - Campus Progress Annual Conference
2006-08-11 - Xavier University Commencement
2006-09-17 - Book: Audacity of Hope
2006-10-18 - Oprah Show
2006-10-19 - Larry King Live
2007-03-04 - Selma Speech
2007-05-19 - Southern New Hampshire U Commencement
2007-07-17 - Planned Parenthood on Judges
2007-08-08 - Barack Obama Walks in the Shoes of Oakland
2007-08-19 - Presidential  Debate - Des Moines IA
2007-09-28 - Presidential Debate Dartmouth College
2007-09-30 - Michelle Obama:
 National Congress of Black Women
2008-01-20 - King Day at Ebenezer Baptist Church
2008-01-21 - King Day At The Dome
2008-01-29 - Reclaiming the American Dream
2008-04-02 - Michelle Obama - Carnegie Mellon - Pittsburgh PA
2008-03-19 - Anderson Cooper - Patriotism
2008-03-18 - Philadelphia - A More Perfect Union
2008-04-01 - Ann Currie Interview Today Show
2008-05-25 - Wesleyan Commencement
2008-06-15 - Fathers Day
2008-07-10 - Joint Event with Senator Hillary Clinton
2008-08-16 - Saddleback Civil Forum Presidency
2008-08-28 - DNC 2008 Acceptance Speech
2008-08-28 - 2008 DNC - Barack Obama Tribute
2008-09-17 - Steve Kroft 60 min interview - Elko NV
2008-10-20 - Pinay girl writes to Obama
2008-10-23 - Maya on Her and Baracks Mother
2009-02-05 - National Prayer Breakfast - Washington DC

2009-04-07 - Obama At Student Roundtable In Istanbul
2009-04-23 - US Holocaust Museum -Washington DC
2009-05-01 - Pres Obama on Souter Retirement

2009-05-17 - University Notre Dame Indiana Commencement
2009-05-22 - C-SPAN Library Interview
2009-05-26 - Obama Introduces Sonia Sotomayor
2009-06-19 - Obama - Television Correspondents Dinner
2009-08-31 - Addiction Recovery Month

2009-09-09 - Health Care Speech to Congress
2009-10-14 - President Obama Observes Diwali
2009-09-18 - Warm Wishes for Rosh Hashanah
2009-10-28 - Obama at Human Rights Campaign Dinner
2009-10-28 - Obama Hate Crimes Prevention Act Commemoration
2009-12-18 - Obama Press Conference in Copenhagen
2009-12-23 - Obama on Jim Lehrer Newshour Interview

Obama on Compassion

 

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1995-07-18 - Book - Dreams from My Father
 

(from Preface of 2004 edition)
And then, on September 11, 2001, the world fractured. It’s beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day, and the days that would follow-the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.

-------------------

Chapter 13:
One of them could be me. Standing there, I try to remember the days when I would have been sitting in a car like that, full of inarticulate resentments and desperate to prove my place in the world. The feelings of righteous anger as I shout at Gramps for some forgotten reason. The blood rush of a high school brawl. The swagger that carries me into a classroom drunk or high, knowing that my teachers will smell beer or reefer on my breath, just daring them to say something. I start picturing myself through the eyes of these boys, a figure of random authority, and know the calculations they might now be making, that if one of them can’t take me out, the four of them certainly can.

That knotted, howling assertion of self-as I try to pierce the darkness and read the shadowed faces inside the car, I’m thinking that while these boys may be weaker or stronger than I was at their age, the only difference that matters is this: The world in which I spent those difficult times was far more forgiving. These boys have no margin for error; if they carry guns, those guns will offer them no protection from that truth. And it is that truth, a truth that they surely sense but can’t admit and, in fact, must refuse if they are to wake up tomorrow, that has forced them, or others like them, eventually to shut off access to any empathy they may once have felt. Their unruly maleness will not be contained, as mine finally was, by a sense of sadness at an older man’s injured pride. Their anger won’t be checked by the intimation of danger that would come upon me whenever I split another boy’s lip or raced down a highway with gin clouding my head. As I stand there, I find myself thinking that somewhere down the line both guilt and empathy speak to our own buried sense that an order of some sort is required, not the social order that exists, necessarily, but something more fundamental and more demanding; a sense, further, that one has a stake in this order, a wish that, no matter how fluid this order sometimes appears, it will not drain out of the universe. I suspect that these boys will have to search long and hard for that order-indeed, any order that includes them as more than objects of fear or derision. And that suspicion terrifies me, for I now have a place in the world, a job, a schedule to follow. As much as I might tell myself otherwise, we are breaking apart, these boys and me, into different tribes, speaking a different tongue, living by a different code.

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2001-09-19 - 9-11 Attack Caused by Lack of Empathy


Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

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2004-07-27 - DNC 2004 Keynote Address - Boston MA
 

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum. "Out of many, one."

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2004-11-XX - Sen. Barack Obama - O Magazine

p6
Barack: That's great. I often say we've got a budget deficit that's important, we've got a trade deficit that's critical, but what I worry about most is our empathy deficit. When I speak to students, I tell them that one of the most important things we can do is to look through somebody else's eyes. People like bin Laden are missing that sense of empathy. That's why they can think of the people in the World Trade Center as abstractions. They can just crash a plane into them and not even consider, "How would I feel if my child were in there?"

Oprah: We Americans also suffer from an empathy deficit, because we often feel that the woman in Bosnia or Afghanistan who loses her child is somehow different from us.

Barack: They become abstractions.

p7

Barack:
Those slash-and-burn tactics have become the custom in Washington politics. But we will not play that game. People don't want to hear folks shouting at each other and trying to score political points. They want to solve problems. I'm determined to disagree with people without being disagreeable. That's part of the empathy. Empathy doesn't just extend to cute little kids. You have to have empathy when you're talking to some guy who doesn't like black people.  There's a level of viciousness in politics because power is at stake. Fortunately, most of my past mistakes are ones that people already know about. That's one of the nice things about writing a book.

 

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2004-11-23 - Charlie Rose - Barack Obama

At video 25:00 - 27:00:
When I see the empathy deficit that damages so much of our politics.

Rose: What is the empathy deficit?

The inability of people to stand in other folks shoes. ...
52:00 It's hard to empathize with people who have different values than you.
 

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2005-04-12 - My Visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Throughout these visits, I was extraordinarily impressed with the deep care, attentiveness and professionalism of the staff at Walter Reed. They considered these young people to be part of their families and are able to maintain a powerful balance between empathy for those in their care and a cheerful insistence on the ability of these wounded soldiers to recover from their injuries.

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2005-06-22 - What it takes be bona fide full-grown man
 

To be full-grown, you have to live out your values, and teach your children to live out your values, not just give them lip service to your values. You can tell what's important to somebody, not by what they say, but by what they do. Where they put their bite, where they put their energy, where they put their time....

One of the values that I think men in particular have to pass on is the value of empathy. Not sympathy, empathy. And what that means is standing in somebody else's shoes, being able to look through their eyes. You know, sometimes we get so caught up in "us" that it's hard to see that there are other people and that your behavior has an impact on them. And sometimes brothers in particular don't like to feel empathy, don't like to think in terms of "How does this affect other people?" because we think that's being soft. There's a culture in our society that says we can't show weakness and we can't, therefore, show kindness. That we can't be considerate because sometimes that makes us look weak. That sometimes we can't listen to what our women say because we don't want to act like they're in charge.

And our young boys see that. They see when you are ignoring your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home. They see when you are thinking only about yourself. And so we've got to learn to pass on the value of kindness.

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2005-09-22 - Confirmation of Judge John Roberts
 

The problem I face -- a problem that has been voiced by some of my other colleagues, both those who are voting for Mr. Roberts and those who are voting against Mr. Roberts -- is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions or whether the commerce clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled -- in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.

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2006-01-13 - Obama wraps up Middle East trip


As you travel through the Middle East what keeps on striking home to me is how similar everyone is, and yet the degree to which we can find differences to fight wars over. It requires a great deal of empathy, I think, between various sides to overcome this history and live in peace.

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2006-xx-xx - Building with Books keynote


For a group of young people that have served countless hours and helped hundreds and dozens of people,  what they are learning is the ability to see the world through somebody  else's eyes, and to stand in somebody else's shoes.  And that strikes me as the most important quality that we need in America right now and around the world right now

If you think about so much of the conflict, the war, the cruelties that we have been witnessing,  so much of if it seems to have to do with the inability of people to   recognize themselves in somebody else. 

So they see a village where there's no electricity and no running water, people who speak a different language and who are illiterate and look differently than they are, and the assumption is, well, they are not part of my life. That I have no connection to them and what a program like this does it it makes young people recognize that these people are in fact like me. They are  my bothers and my sisters.

And the young people who have had that experience will bring that back to Chicago and may make them think differently about the folks closer to home, on the south side of Chicago, or the west side of Chicago, or in the Latino community or the Asian American  community. 

And It helps to stitch together this country, which has been the unique promise of America for so many generations.

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200x-xx-xx - Literacy and Empathy

The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see the world through their eyes.

And the great power of books is the capacity to take you out of yourself and put you somewhere else. And to suddenly say, “Oh, this is what it’s like” – maybe not perfectly – but it gives you some glimpse of “This is what it is like to be a woman”, or “This is what it is like to be an African-American”. Or “This is what it is like to be impoverished in India”. Or “This is what it’s like to be in the midst of war”.

And so much of what binds us together in society and allows it to function effectively depends on it. And so much of what is wrong with how we interact, and so much of what is wrong with our politics has to do with the absence of that quality.

And so it’s books more than anything else that are going to give our young people the ability to see other people. And that then gives them the capacity to act responsibly with respect to other people.

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2006-06-02 - U. Massachusetts Boston Commencement

My third piece of advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy - to put yourself in other people's shoes - to see the world from their eyes.

Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world - one that makes you understand that your obligations to others extend beyond people who look like you and act like you and live in your neighborhood. I know that, especially on this campus, so many of you have been serving at homeless shelters and high schools and youth centers and job placement organizations all over the Boston area. And I hope this spirit of service lives on long after you leave here.

But as you continue on in life, it's not always easy. In the years to come, you will encounter all kinds of obstacles in the way of empathy. You will find people who, out of fear or need for power, try to divide us and deny what we have in common. You'll hear 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 immigrants who risk their lives to cross a desert have nothing to contribute to this country and no desire to embrace our ideals. That the inner-city children who are trapped in the nation's most 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.

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2006-06-16 - Northwestern Commencement
 

The first lesson came during my first year in college. Back then I had a tendency, in my mother's words, to act a bit casual about my future. I rebelled, angry in the way that many young men in general, and young black man in particular, are angry, thinking that responsibility and hard work were old-fashioned conventions that didn't apply to me. I partied a little too much and studied just enough to get by.

And once, after a particularly long night of partying, we had spilled a little too much beer, broke a few too many bottles, and trashed a little too much of the dorm. And the next day, the mess was so bad that when one of the cleaning ladies saw it, she began to tear up. And when a girlfriend of mine heard about this, she said to me, "That woman could've been my grandmother, Barack. She spent her days cleaning up after somebody else's mess."

Which drove home for me the first lesson of growing up:
The world doesn't just revolve around you. 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. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential - and become full-grown.

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2006-07-12 - Campus Progress Annual Conference
 

The last piece of advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy.

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.

The fact that you're here and participating in Campus Progress means that most of you have already done this better than most ever will. But 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. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential - and become full-grown.

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2006-08-11 - Xavier University Commencement
 

This one is more difficult. It asks more of you. It asks you to leave here and not just pursue your own individual dreams, but to help perfect our collective dream as a nation. It asks you to realize there is more to life than being rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. It asks you to recognize that there are people out there who need you.

You know, 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 the eyes of those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.

When you think like this - when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers - it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.

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2006-09-17 - Book: Audacity of Hope

That last aspect of Paul’s character—a sense of empathy—is one that I find myself appreciating more and more as I get older. It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule—not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expressed itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me she would look me square in the eyes and ask, “How do you think that would make you feel?”

But it was in my relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy. Because my mother’s work took her overseas, I often lived with my grandparents during my high school years, and without a father present in the house, my grandfather bore the brunt of much of my adolescent rebellion. He himself was not always easy to get along with; he was at once warmhearted and quick to anger, and in part because his career had not been particularly successful, his feelings could also be easily bruised. By the time I was sixteen we were arguing all the time, usually about me failing to abide by what I considered to be an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules—filling up the gas tank whenever I borrowed his car, say, or making sure that I rinsed out the milk carton before I put it in the garbage.

With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments, in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable. But at some point, perhaps in my senior year, such victories started to feel less satisfying. I started thinking about the struggles and disappointments he had seen in his life. I started to appreciate his need to feel respected in his own home. I realized that abiding by his rules would cost me little, but to him it would mean a lot. I recognized that sometimes he really did have a point, and that in insisting on getting my own way all the time, without regard to his feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.

There’s nothing extraordinary about such an awakening, of course; in one form or another it is what we all must go through if we are to grow up. And yet I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle—"How would that make you feel?"—as a guidepost for my politics.

It’s not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country, we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit. We wouldn’t tolerate schools that don’t teach, that are chronically underfunded and understaffed and underinspired, if we thought that the children in them were like our children. It’s hard to imagine the CEO of a company giving himself a multimillion-dollar bonus while cutting health-care coverage for his workers if he thought they were in some sense his equals. And it’s safe to assume that those in power would think longer and harder about launching a war if they envisioned their own sons and daughters in harm’s way.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.

But that does not mean that those who are struggling—or those of us who claim to speak for those who are struggling—are thereby freed from trying to understand the perspectives of those who are better off. Black leaders need to appreciate the legitimate fears that may cause some whites to resist affirmative action. Union representatives can’t afford not to understand the competitive pressures their employers may be under. I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him. That’s what empathy does—it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.

No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.

Of course, in the end a sense of mutual understanding isn’t enough. After all, talk is cheap; like any value, empathy must be acted upon.

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2006-10-18 - Oprah Show


WINFREY: You know, I liked you before, I really did, but then I read
this book, and I remember you saying that your mother--and I though, I
really like you now, because your creed for politics is how does that
make you feel.

Sen. OBAMA: Yeah.

WINFREY: You say your mother used to say to you...

Sen. OBAMA: She taught me empathy. The basic concept of standing in
somebody else's shoes and looking through their eyes
.
And she--you if
I did something, messed up, she'd just say, `How would that make you
feel if somebody did that to you?
' And that ends up being, I think, at
the center of my politics. And I think that should be the center of
all our politics. If we see a child who's languishing in an inner city
school, how would we feel if that was our child? If we see a
grandparent who doesn't have their prescription drugs, you know...

WINFREY: How would that make you feel?

Sen. OBAMA: ...how would that make you feel...

WINFREY: Make you feel, not to have...

Sen. OBAMA: ...not to be able to...

WINFREY: Drugs to better your health?

Sen. OBAMA: Exactly. And I think that if that's the central focus of
our politics, as opposed to it being about power or you know, how can
I get more...

WINFREY: But it's hard. You also say in the book, "The Audacity of
Hope," you also say that it's hard to keep that for a lot of
politicians because you're flying in the private jets. I've got a
story about that. Back in a moment with Senator Barack Obama. You
wouldn't fly in mine!

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2006-10-19 - Larry King Live


KING: Your first book, "Dreams From my Father," contained a lot of eloquence and emotion about your dad but there are some wonderful passages in "The Audacity of Hope" about your mom. I'm going to read an example.

"Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expressed itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me, she would look me square in the eyes and ask, 'How do you think that would make you feel?'"

She died so early. That must be a source of constant missing for you.

OBAMA: You know it's difficult, she died about ten years ago. She was only 53 years old. She got ovarian cancer, which is one of the reasons I am pretty active legislatively on dealing with gynecological cancers.

She was just the sweetest woman that I knew and really a wonderful spirit. She basically raised me as a single mom. She put herself through school while working. She was somebody who although was not formally religious had an extraordinarily powerful sense of what was right and what was wrong and how to treat other people.

And, as I write in the book, you know, most of the values that I think still guide my politics are values that I got from her. And her spirit still I think motivates me in a lot of what I do.

KING: Senator, do you think she'd be surprised at what's happened to you?

OBAMA: Well, you know, mothers always think their kids are the greatest, right?

KING: Why aren't you president already?

OBAMA: Yes, exactly. You know, she had no doubt. In that picture you just flashed when I was three, I'm sure she already knew I was slated for big things. But, look, you know, everybody I think recognizes the influence that their mother has in their lives, you know.

Hopefully all of us are aware that when they're here we let them know and give them the time and the devotion that they deserve because when they're gone it leaves a hole in you.

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2007-03-04 - Selma Speech


There is an empathy gap. There is a gap in terms of sympathizing for the folks in New Orleans. It's not a gap that the American people felt because we saw how they responded. But somehow our government didn't respond with that same sense of compassion, with that same sense of kindness. And here is the worst part, the tragedy in New Orleans happened well before the hurricane struck because many of those communities, there were so many young men in prison, so many kids dropping out, so little hope.

A hope gap. A hope gap that still pervades too many communities all across the country and right here in Alabama. So the question is, then, what are we, the Joshua generation, doing to close those gaps? Are we doing every single thing that we can do in Congress in order to make sure that early education is adequately funded and making sure that we are raising the minimum wage so people can have dignity and respect?

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2007-05-19 - Southern New Hampshire Univ Commencement


The first lesson came during my first year in college.

Back then I had a tendency, in my mother's words, to act a bit casual about my future. I rebelled, angry in the way that many young men in general, and young black men in particular, are angry, thinking that responsibility and hard work were old-fashioned conventions that didn't apply to me. I partied a little too much and studied just enough to get by.

And once, after a particularly long night of partying, we had spilled a little too much beer, broke a few too many bottles, and trashed a little too much of the dorm. And the next day, the mess was so bad that when one of the cleaning ladies saw it, she began to tear up.

And when a girlfriend of mine heard about this, she said to me, "That woman could've been my grandmother, Barack. She spent her days cleaning up after somebody else's mess."

Which drove home for me the first lesson of growing up:

The world doesn't just revolve around you.

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. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential - and become full-grown.

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2007-07-17 - Planned Parenthood on Judges

I said, well look, that’s absolutely true and in most Supreme Court decisions, in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that’s enough. Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law’s pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsberg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they’re all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it’s those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you’ve got to look at is—what is in the justice’s heart. What’s their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges. Alright?

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2007-08-08 - Barack Obama Walks in the Shoes of Oakland
        Walks in the shoes of an Obakland SEUI union member)

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2007-08-19 - Presidential  Debate - Des Moines IA

STEPHANOPOULOS: we've got an e-mail question from Seth Ford of South Jordan, Utah. And he said, "My question is to understand each candidates' view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"

OBAMA: I believe in the power of prayer. And part of what I believe in is that, through prayer, not only can we strengthen ourselves in adversity, but that we can also find the empathy and the compassion and the will to deal with the problems that we do control.

Most of the issues that we're debating here today are ones that we have the power to change.

We don't have the power to prevent illness in all cases, but we do have the power to make sure that every child gets a regular checkup and isn't going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma.

We may not have the power to prevent a hurricane, but we do have the power to make sure that the levees are properly reinforced and we've got a sound emergency plan.

And so, part of what I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to be able to act on those things that I can control. And that's what I think has been lacking sometimes in our government.

We've got to express those values through our government, not just through our religious institutions.

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2007-09-28 - Presidential Debate Dartmouth College

RUSSERT: Before we go, there's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question.

Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?

OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we've lost over the last six years.

John talked about what we've lost. Part of what we've lost is a sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we don't talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in somebody else's shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the federal level. That's the reason I'm running for president, because I want to restore that.

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2007-09-30 - Michelle Obama -  National Congress of Black Women


Mrs. King once said that, “…if the soul of the nation is to be saved, [we as women] must become its soul”.  So, for me, this endeavor that Barack and I have undertaken is not just about winning an election, it is about inspiring and engaging souls.  See, we will never fundamentally change the fate of black women and families or the fate of our country for that matter if we cannot change souls. If we don’t change the way we look at ourselves and one another, we will always struggle.
 
   Barack always says that one of our greatest challenges as a nation is not a deficit of resources – for we are one of the riches countries in the world; and it’s not deficit of policies, because we have some of the greatest minds working on these issues.  Instead, our greatest challenge is that we are living in a time when we are suffering from a deep empathy deficit.
 
  You see, Barack believes in the greatness of America.  He’s seen it in his own life’s journey.  But he also knows that the politics of Washington today does not match our ideals as a country and that’s what’s holding us back.
 
 Until we can restore that sense of mutual obligation that we have to have for one another; until we can remind people that we are only as strong as the weakest among us; that we are our brother’s and our sister’s keepers; that there is more that connects us than divides us in this country; if we cannot see ourselves in one another regardless of gender, race, class or religion, then we will continue to struggle.

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2008-01-20 - King Day at Ebenezer Baptist Church


Unity is the great need of the hour" is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour - the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I'm talking about a moral deficit. I'm talking about an empathy deficit. I'm taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we're still sending our children down corridors of shame - schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can't afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.

So we have a deficit to close. We have walls - barriers to justice and equality - that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we've come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We've come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily - that it's just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price.

But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes - a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

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2008-01-21 - King Day At The Dome


He said, "Unity is the great need of the hour." "Unity is the great need of the hour."

And, South Carolina, unity is the great need of this hour, not because it sounds nice or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

Now, I'm not talking about the budget deficit. I'm not talking about the trade deficit. I'm not talking about the deficit of good ideas or new plans. I'm talking about the moral deficit in America.

I'm talking about an empathy deficit that exists. I'm talking about an inability to recognize ourselves in each other, to understand that we are our brother's keeper, that we are our sister's keeper, that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we're still sending our children down corridors of shame instead of corridors of opportunity, not just in South Carolina but all across the United States of America.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in an entire year.

When families lose their homes so that lenders can make a profit, when mothers can't afford a doctor when their children get sick, when we've got trade agreements that are very good for Wall Street, but not so good for Main Street, we've got a deficit in this country.

OBAMA: We have a deficit in this country when there's Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others, when our children are still seeing nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities and young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that I believe should have never been authorized and should have never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach of our levees to reveal the breach in our compassion, when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed, the sick that he calls on us to care for, the last of these that he commands us to treat as our own.

So, South Carolina, we've got a deficit to close. Not just in this state, but in my home state of Illinois, all across America, we have barriers of justice and equality that must come down.

And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of the hour. We can't do this alone. We can't do it separately.

But here's the thing: true unity cannot be purchased on the cheap. It starts with changing attitudes, by broadening our hearts and broadening our minds. And that's not always easy. It's not always easy standing in somebody else's shoes. It's not always easy to see past our differences.

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2008-01-29 - Reclaiming the American Dream


That is where the real division lies - in a politics that echoes through the media and seeps into our culture - the kind that seeks to drive us apart and put up walls where none exist.

It's the politics that tells us that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don't think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The gay person must be immoral, and the believer must be intolerant.

Well we are here to say that this is not the America we believe in and this is not the politics we have to accept anymore. Not this time. Not now.

This will not be easy. Because the change we seek will not just come from overcoming the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, it will require overcoming our own fears and our own doubts. It will require each of us to do our part in closing the moral deficit - the empathy deficit - that exists in this nation. It will take standing in one another's shoes and remembering that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper.

This will not be easy, but America's story tells me it's possible. My story tells me it's possible. What began here in Kansas all those years ago tells me it's possible.

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2008-04-02 - Michelle Obama - Carnegie Mellon - Pittsburgh PA

The problem isn't that we don't know what it looks like. What Barack understands is that we are suffering from a deficit of empathy. Now, see, that sounds simple, and some people think that all the answers are complex; they require some mathematical equation, some big, long ten-point plan. What Barack gets is that we have lost the understanding that we have a mutual stake in one another. That we have an obligation to sacrifice and compromise for one another.

That we cannot live in a nation where some people have the whole pie, and many people don't even get a crumb. That cannot be sustainable. Barack knows that we have to be at a place where we understand that we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another. That's how this society will thrive. But, see, we've been told just the opposite by our leaders. We've been told: don't worry about anybody else, just take care of your own little plot of land. If your kids have a good education, don't worry about anybody else's. If you've got a job, don't worry about anybody else. You got health care, you're good, others will pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. That's what we've been told.

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2008-03-18 - Philadelphia - A More Perfect Union

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

------------

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

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2008-03-19 - Anderson Cooper - Patriotism

COOPER: Do you think what Reverend Wright said was unpatriotic or un-American?

OBAMA: I absolutely think that some of the language was unpatriotic. And I think that, as I said yesterday, his biggest failure was not to criticize America, because I think there's always been a tradition of patriotism through dissent.

I mean, Dr. King criticized America. But I think that his failure was to think that America was static, all right? And, you know, when Dr. King criticized America, it was then with the prospect that we would be true to our best selves.

And that, I think, is the essence of my patriotism, the belief that America is constantly changing and constantly improving, and we will never be perfect, but we can -- we can move in the direction of perfecting our union. And that is the reason I'm in public service.

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2008-04-01 - Ann Currie Interview Today Show


CURRY: Best thing your mom ever taught you?

OBAMA: Empathy. Making sure that you can see the world through somebody else's eyes, stand in their shoes. I think that's the basis for kindness and compassion.

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2008-05-25 - Wesleyan Commencement

I say this to you as someone who couldn't be standing here today if not for the service of others, and wouldn't be standing here today if not for the purpose that service gave my own life.

You see, I spent much of my childhood adrift. My father left my mother and I when I was two. When my mother remarried, I lived in Indonesia for a time, but was mostly raised in Hawaii by her and my grandparents from Kansas. My teenage years were filled with more than the usual dose of adolescent rebellion, and I'll admit that I didn't always take myself or my studies very seriously. I realize that none of you can probably relate to this, but there were many times when I wasn't sure where I was going, or what I would do.

But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me –hard work, honesty, empathy, compassion – had resurfaced after a long hibernation; or perhaps because of the example of wonderful teachers and lasting friends, I began to notice a world beyond myself. I became active in the movement to oppose the apartheid regime of South Africa. I began following the debates in this country about poverty and health care. So that by the time I graduated from college, I was possessed with a crazy idea – that I would work at a grassroots level to bring about change.

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2008-06-15 - Fathers Day

The second thing we need to do as fathers is pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy – the ability to stand in somebody else's shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in “us,” that we forget about our obligations to one another. There's a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft – that we can't show weakness, and so therefore we can't show kindness.

But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it's no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That's why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you're not strong by putting other people down – you're strong by lifting them up. That's our responsibility as fathers.

And by the way – it's a responsibility that also extends to Washington. Because if fathers are doing their part; if they're taking our responsibilities seriously to be there for their children, and set high expectations for them, and instill in them a sense of excellence and empathy, then our government should meet them halfway.

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2008-07-10 - Joint Event with Senator Hillary Clinton


But the Supreme Court also affects women's lives in so many other ways – from decisions on equal pay, to workplace discrimination, to Title IX, to domestic violence, to civil rights and workers' rights. And the question we face in this election is whether we'll have judges who demonstrate sound judgment and empathy, who understand how law operates in our daily lives, who are committed to upholding the values at the core of our Constitution – or judges who put ideology before justice, with our fundamental rights as the first casualty.
 

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2008-08-16 - Saddleback Civil Forum Presidency

REV. WARREN: Okay. In a minute -- in one minute because I know you could take the entire hour on this -- tell me in a minute why you want to be president.

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I remember what my mother used to tell me. I was talking to somebody a while back, and I said, the one time that she'd get really angry with me is if she ever thought that I was being mean to somebody or unfair to somebody. She said, imagine standing in their shoes, imagine looking through their eyes. That basic idea of empathy.

And that, I think, is what's made America special is that notion that everybody's got a shot. If we see somebody down and out, if we see a kid who can't afford college, that we care for them, too. And I want to be president because that's the America I believe in. And I feel like that American dream is slipping away.

I think we are at a critical juncture economically. I think we are at a critical juncture internationally. We've got to make some big decisions, not just for us but for the next generation. And we keep on putting it off. And unfortunately, our politics is so broken and Washington is so broken that we can't seem to bring together people of good will to solve these common problems. I think I have the ability to build bridges across partisan lines, racial, regional lines to get people to work on some common-sense solutions to critical issues. (Applause.) And I hope that I have the opportunity to do that.

REV. WARREN: Great, thank you. (Applause.)

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2008-08-28 - DNC 2008 Acceptance Speech

For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.  If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.

If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.  If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.  It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.

It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one. Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

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2008-08-28 - 2008 DNC - Barack Obama Tribute

She would wake me up at 4:30 in the morning, and we would sit there and go through my lessons. And I used to complain and grumble. You can imagine a 6-, 7-, 8-year-old kid having to wake up at 4:30.

And, you know, if I grumbled, she would say, "Well, this is no picnic for me either, buster."

The only time I ever saw my mother really angry is when she saw cruelty, when she saw somebody being bullied or somebody being treated differently because of who they were. And, if she saw me doing that, she would be furious.

And she would say to me: "Imagine standing in that person's shoes,. How would that make you feel?"

That simple idea, I'm not sure I always understood when I was a kid, but it stayed with me

. --
What I want is a family that is transmitting the values I inherited, the values that Michelle inherited to the next generation: hard work, honesty, self-reliance, respect for other people, a sense of empathy, kindness, faith.

When my mom passed away was one of the toughest moments of my life. You know, we always had a small family. And she was, you know, sort of the beating heart of that family. It was a reminder to me, boy, life sure is short, and you better seize the moment.

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2008-09-17 - Steve Kroft 60 min interview - Elko NV

KROFT: What are the things that have molded you? Or the thing that's molded you?

OBAMA: Well you know, I'm somebody who's was born to pretty moderate circumstances, to a teenage mom. My father left when I was two. But I had a mother who loved me, and grandparents who loved me, and who instilled in me some plain mid-western values. Honesty. Hard work. Stick-to-it-ness. Looking out for other people. Showing other people respect. And I think what has shaped me is to work through some of the difficulties of my early years and realize that if I was gonna be true to those values, then I'd need to apply them in a larger setting. First, as a community organizer. Then, as a state legislator. Then, as a U.S. Senator.

 My mother, when I was a kid, used to always say, whenever she saw me misbehave or do something that was mean to somebody, she'd say: "How do you think that'd make you feel?" That sense of putting' yourself in somebody else's shoes, and seeing through their eyes. And what's shaped me most powerfully -- maybe because I'm half black and half white -- that a big chunk of my childhood, I was sort of an outsider, didn't quite fit anywhere. Part of what shapes me is, being able to find a connection with all kinds of different people, and want to bring them together and bridge misunderstandings, and bridge conflict, so that we can actually get things done. And that, I think is something that led me into public service. And in some ways, that's something very profoundly American about me. Because when I think about America at its core, it's we've got these common values, but we come from all kinds of different places. And if we unify around those values, that are quintessentially American values, then I don't think there's any problem that we can't solve in this country. And that's the kind of leadership that I want to provide for the White House.

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2008-10-20 - Pinay girl writes to Obama

Creating change and making the world better is not always easy, and you will probably find in your life that it is more comfortable to ignore injustices that don’t affect you directly. Don’t take that comfortable road. Challenge yourself to make a difference,” Obama wrote.

“If you don’t already know what it means, I want you to look up the word ‘empathy’ in the dictionary. I believe we don’t have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that.”

“I hope you will always be an active participant in the world around you, and that you will seize every opportunity to make the world better,”

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2008-10-23 - Maya on Her and Baracks Mother

"She was the most empathetic person I know  and she encouraged that in Barack, I think, and she is the one that gave him his ability to connect with so many people. "

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2009-02-05 - National Prayer Breakfast - Washington DC

Jesus told us to love thy neighbor as thyself. The Torah commands, that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. In Islam, there is the hadith that reads, none of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. (Applause.) The same is true for Buddhists and Hindus, for followers of Confucius and for Humanists. It is, of course, the golden rule, the call to love one another, to understand one another, to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth. It is an ancient rule, a simple rule, but also perhaps the most challenging, for it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well- being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue or any issue. Sometimes it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith.

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2009-04-07 - Obama At Student Roundtable In Istanbul

In the Muslim world, this notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance -- because there's two sides to every question. That doesn't mean that sometimes one side has done something wrong and should not be condemned. But it does mean there's always two sides to an issue.
I say the same thing to my Jewish friends, which is you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians.
Learning to stand in somebody else's shoes to see through their eyes, that's how peace begins. And it's up to you to make that happen.

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2009-04-23 - US Holocaust Museum -Washington DC

But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation, it’s just the beginning. We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth. We’ve seen it in this century, in the mass graves, in the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers, of rape used as a weapon of war.

To this day, there are those who insist the Holocaust never happened, who perpetrate every form of intolerance -- racism and anti- Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and more -- hatred that degrades its victim and diminishes us all.

Today and every day, we have an opportunity as well as an obligation to confront these scourges, to fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own. Instead, we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy, to recognize ourselves in each other, to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference, in whatever forms they may take, whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur.

That is my commitment as president. I hope that is yours as well.

It will not be easy. At times, fulfilling these obligations require self-reflection. But in the final analysis, I believe history gives us cause for hope rather than despair: the hope of a chosen people who have overcome oppression since the days of Exodus, of the nation of Israel rising from the destruction of the Holocaust, of the strong and enduring bonds between our nations. It is the hope, too, of those who not only survived but chose to live, teaching us the meaning of courage and resilience and dignity.

I’m thinking today of a study conducted after the war that found that Holocaust survivors living in America actually had a higher birth rate than American Jews. What a stunning act of faith, to bring a child in a world that has shown you so much cruelty, to believe that no matter what you have endured or how much you have lost, in the end, you have a duty to life.

We find cause for hope as well in Protestant and Catholic children attending school together in Northern Ireland; in Hutus and Tutsis living side-by-side, forgiving neighbors who have done the unforgivable; in a movement to save Darfur that has thousands of high school and college chapters in 25 countries and brought 70,000 people to the Washington Mall, people of every age and faith and background and race united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.

Those numbers can be our future, our fellow citizens of the world showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance and ultimately to reconciliation. That is what we mean when we say “never again.”

So today, during this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done, and may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

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2009-05-01 - Pres Obama on Souter Retirement

Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President.  So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. 

I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book.  It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.  I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. 

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2009-05-17 - University Notre Dame Indiana Commencement

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.

It's a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. The lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where "...differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love." And I want to join him and Father Jenkins in saying how inspired I am by the maturity and responsibility with which this class has approached the debate surrounding today's ceremony.

This tradition of cooperation and understanding is one that I learned in my own life many years ago - also with the help of the Catholic Church.

I was not raised in a particularly religious household, but my mother instilled in me a sense of service and empathy that eventually led me to become a community organizer after I graduated college. A group of Catholic churches in Chicago helped fund an organization known as the Developing Communities Project, and we worked to lift up South Side neighborhoods that had been devastated when the local steel plant closed.

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2009-05-22 - C-SPAN Library Interview

I said earlier, that I thought empathy was an important quality and I continue to believe that. You have
to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you.

But you have to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law  might work or not work in practical day-to-day living. And a good example of this, the Lilly Ledbetter case that came  up a while back, where the justice has I believe misinterpreted the law in closing the door to a lawsuit by a woman who had worked for 20 years and had been paid less than her male counterparts.

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2009-05-26 - Obama Introduces Sonia Sotomayor

And while there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee, there are a few that stand out that I just want to mention.

First and foremost is a rigorous intellect, a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.

Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge's job is to interpret, not make law, to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation's highest court. And yet these qualities alone are insufficient. We need something more.

For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, the life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience; experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live.

And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.
 

2009-06-19 - Obama - Television Correspondents Dinner

Now, the challenges we face are many, and I’ll be honest -- I don’t have all the answers. And when I’m not sure what’s right, I often ask myself, “WWLD?” What would a wise Latino do? I’m proud of my nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. (Applause.)

And all those who oppose her, to all those who say that there’s no place for empathy on the bench, I say this: I completely understand how you’re feeling. (Laughter.) When you’re upset, I’m upset. (Laughter.)

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2009-08-31 - Addiction Recovery Month

During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we also pay special tribute to the dedicated professionals and everyday citizens who, with skill and empathy, guide people through the treatment and recovery process. Across America, they are offering a message of hope and understanding. These compassionate individuals remind us that the strength of our
character derives not from the mistakes we make, but from our ability to recognize and address them. When we extend a helping hand to those in need, we reaffirm the American spirit and move our Nation towards a brighter tomorrow.

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2009-09-09 - Health Care Speech to Congress

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick. And he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

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2009-10-14 - President Obama Observes Diwali

On behalf of the American people, I want to extend my warmest wishes for Diwali to all who celebrate this auspicious holiday, here in America and around the world. Diwali is the festival of lights.....

While this is a time for celebration, it’s also a time for contemplation when we remember those who are less fortunate. . . . Those who don’t enjoy the same rights to speak and worship freely and make of their lives what they wish. Our hearts are with them not just today but every day.

 And at this sacred time of year let us join together across denominations, religions and cultures to make a habit of empathy and reach out to those most in need. To share the blessings we enjoy and advance the cause of peace in all corners of our world.

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2009-09-18 - Warm Wishes for Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah marks the start of a new year – a time of humble prayer, joyful celebration, and hope for a new beginning. Ten days later, Yom Kippur stands as a day of reflection and repentance. And this sacred time provides not just an opportunity for individual renewal and reconciliation, but for families, communities and even nations to heal old divisions, seek new understandings, and come together to build a better world for our children and grandchildren.

At the dawn of this New Year, let us rededicate ourselves to that work. Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need.

Let us resist prejudice, intolerance, and indifference in whatever forms they may take -- let us stand up strongly to the scourge of anti-Semitism, which is still prevalent in far too many corners of our world.
Let us work to extend the rights and freedoms so many of us enjoy to all the world’s citizens – to speak and worship freely; to live free from violence and oppression; to make of our lives what we will.

And let us work to achieve lasting peace and security for the state of Israel, so that the Jewish state is fully accepted by its neighbors, and its children can live their dreams free from fear. That is why my Administration is actively pursuing the lasting peace that has eluded Israel and its Arab neighbors for so long.

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2009-10-28 - Obama at Human Rights Campaign Dinner

For the struggle waged by the Human Rights Campaign is about more than any policy we can enshrine into law. It's about our capacity to love and commit to one another. It's about whether or not we value as a society that love and commitment. It's about our common humanity and our willingness to walk in someone else's shoes: to imagine losing a job not because of your performance at work but because of your relationship at home; to imagine worrying about a spouse in the hospital, with the added fear that you'll have to produce a legal document just to comfort the person you love -- (applause) -- to imagine the pain of losing a partner of decades and then discovering that the law treats you like a stranger. (Applause.)

...change through quiet, personal acts of compassion -- and defiance -- wherever and whenever they could ... before the world that different kinds of families can show the same compassion in a time of need ... of the compassion I've seen all across America, and because of the progress we have made throughout our history ...

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2009-10-28 - Obama Hate Crimes Prevention Act Commemoration

We have for centuries strived to live up to our founding ideal, of a nation where all are free and equal and able to pursue their own version of happiness. Through conflict and tumult, through the morass of hatred and prejudice, through periods of division and discord we have endured and grown stronger and fairer and freer. And at every turn, we've made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts, by our willingness to walk in another's shoes, by our capacity to love and accept even in the face of rage and bigotry. In April of 1968, just one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as our nation mourned in grief and shuddered in anger, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation. This was the first time we enshrined into law federal protections against crimes motivated by religious or racial hatred -- the law on which we build today.

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2009-12-18 - Obama Press Conference in Copenhagen

Q    Thank you, sir.  You’ve talked to, in your remarks earlier today, about other nations needing to accept less than perfect in their view.  Can you talk about what you gave up and where you might have shifted the U.S. position to get to this point?  And also, if this was so hard to get to, just what you have today, how do you feel confident about getting to a legally binding agreement in a year?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it is going to be very hard and it's going to take some time.  Let me sort of provide the context for what I saw when I arrived.

And I think it's important to be able to stand in the shoes of all the different parties involved here.  In some ways the United States was coming with a somewhat clean slate, because we had been on the sidelines in many of these negotiations over several years.

Essentially you have a situation where the Kyoto Protocol and some of the subsequent accords called on the developed countries who were signatories to engage in some significant mitigation actions and also to help developing countries.  And there were very few, if any, obligations on the part of the developing countries.

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2009-12-23 - Obama on Jim Lehrer Newshour Interview

JIM LEHRER: Is there anything you can do about this as president of the United States? Isn't it a Senate situation?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is a - it is a matter of Senate rules. Look, the fact of the matter is, is that if used prudently, then I don't think it's harmful for our democracy. It's not being used prudently right now. And my hope would be that whether a senator is in the majority or is in the minority, that they're starting to get a sense, after looking at this year, that this can't be the way that government runs.

And one of the things that I think Democrats and Republicans have to constantly do is try to put themselves in the other person's shoes. If we had a Republican president right now and a Republican-controlled Senate, and Democrats were doing some of these things, they'd be screaming bloody murder. And at some point, you know, I think the American people want to see government solve problems, not just engage in the gamesmanship that has become so customary in Washington.

JIM LEHRER: They didn't - they were just honed by this experience.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right. Absolutely. And if - I think if you look at my previous speeches and writings, they're fairly consistent. It is very important for I think those of us who desperately want peace, who see war as, at some level, a break-down, a manifestation of human weakness, to understand that sometimes it's also necessary - and you know, to be able to balance two ideas at the same time; that we are constantly striving for peace, we are doubling up on our diplomacy, we are going to actively engage, we are going to try to see the world through other people's eyes and not just our own; that we are going to invest in things like preventing climate change, so that you're not seeing more drought and famine that creates more conflict; that we're going to invest in development aid, not because it's charity, but because it's in our self-interest.

We're going to do all those things. And then, there are going to be times where there is a Hitler, there are going to be moments like 9/11 where, despite our best efforts, things have still - things have still emerged that are of such danger not only to us, but our ideals and those things that we care for, that we've got to apply force. And that is a tough set of decisions to make.

That doesn't negate our constant pursuit of peace and our constant preference for a non-violent resolution of problems.

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Obama on Compassion,

2010-05-07 - Presidential Proclamation--Mother's Day
 From our first moments in this world and throughout our lives, our mothers protect us from harm, nurture our spirits, and encourage us to reach for our highest aspirations.  Through their unwavering commitment, they have driven and inspired countless acts of leadership, compassion, and service across our country.  Many mothers have struggled to raise children while pursuing their careers, or as single parents working to provide for their families.  They have carried the torch of trailblazers past, leading by powerful example and overcoming obstacles so their sons and daughters could reach their fullest potential.

2010-04-30 - Presidential Proclamation--National Day of Prayer
On this day, let us give thanks for the many blessings God has bestowed upon our Nation.  Let us rejoice for the blessing of freedom both to believe and to live our beliefs, and for the many other freedoms and opportunities that bring us together as one Nation.  Let us ask for wisdom,
compassion, and discernment of justice as we address the great challenges of our time.

2010-04-11 - Statement by the President on Holocaust Remembrance Day
I  join people here at home, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day.   This year, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, we must recommit ourselves to honoring the memories of all the victims and ensuring that they remain a part of our collective memory.   On my visit to Buchenwald last year – and during my visit to Yad Vashem in 2008 – I bore witness to the horrors of anti-Semitism and the capacity for evil represented by the Nazis’ campaign to annihilate the Jewish people and so many others.  But even at places like Buchenwald, the dignity and courage of those who endured the horrors of the Holocaust remind us of humanity’s capacity for decency and
compassion.

2010-04-01  - Presidential Proclamation - National Donate Life Month
Today, over 100,000 Americans await donation on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network waiting list. Many will receive a lifesaving transplant, but, for some, help will not come fast enough. Whether they are coping with kidney failure or recovering from severe injuries, these individuals' lives depend on the
compassion of a loved one or a complete stranger. Across our country, we face a shortage of donors and an urgent need for help. We must respond with the spirit of generosity that has always defined our national character.

2010-03-25  - Presidential Proclamation -- Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.
To secure a bright future for America, we must instill in our children a love of learning as well as
a spirit of compassion. These are two of our Nation's most cherished and enduring values. Today, let us rededicate ourselves to preparing our next generation of leaders for the world they will inherit.

For America to thrive in the 21st century, we need a workforce with the knowledge and skills to compete in the global economy. More than ever before, the success of every American will depend on their level of academic achievement. A world class education can unlock every child's full potential, and that remains our best roadmap to prosperity.

However, our leadership in the world relies upon citizens who are not only well-educated, but also driven by their humanity and civic virtue. In the wake of this year's devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, Americans stepped forward to help, carrying on the unmatched tradition of generosity that defines our national character. By passing on this spirit of compassion to our children, we help ensure America remains a beacon of hope to people around the world.
 

2010-03-10  - Remarks by President Obama and President Preval of the Republic of Haiti
So, Mr. President, if you will permit us this moment to briefly express once again our admiration for all those who stepped forward, who volunteered, who represent the true character of our country and who projected to the world the best face of America --
a face of compassion and generosity.  Each and every one of you can take enormous pride at your service, and every single American thanks you for making us so proud.  (Applause.)
 

2010-03-09 - Remarks by the President Honoring Greek Independence Day
Thank you, Your Eminence, for your very kind introduction, and for the wisdom and
compassion that has always defined your ministry.  Archbishop Demetrios marks his second decade guiding the Greek Orthodox Church and community in America, four decades as a bishop, and, recently, his 82nd birthday.  And he is looking really good.  (Applause.)  I need to find out what he’s eating.  (Laughter.)   

2010-02-25  - Presidential Proclamation -- American Red Cross Month
From rebuilding former adversaries after World War II, to combating HIV/AIDS in Africa, to saving lives after the tragic earthquake in Haiti, the American people have an unmatched tradition of responding to challenges at home and abroad with
compassion and generosity. This tradition reflects our Nation's noblest ideals and has led people around the world to see the United States as a beacon of hope. During American Red Cross Month, we honor the organizations across our country that contribute to our Nation's ongoing efforts to relieve human suffering.

2010-02-19 - Remarks by The President At Town Hall Meeting In Henderson, Nevada   
That's why we helped stabilize our financial system -- not because we felt any
compassion for big banks, but because not doing so would have endangered the savings and dreams of millions more Americans.  (Applause.)