Obama the Empathetic

Once you get past the controversial cover, this week's New Yorker has a Ryan Lizza look at Sen. Barack Obama's rise, which includes this nugget, a post-9/11 op-ed Obama wrote in the Hyde Park Herald:

"Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families," Obama wrote, "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."


The Hyde Park Herald published a special Obama issue  in February 2007 that includes some other nuggets.

Michelle Obama, for instance, says that  "What makes me unique is not only that I come from the community, but I have this Ivy League degree that makes me credible on the other side." And while she praises her husband to high heaven, she also notes that "The thing about Barack is that he is not Mr. Door Opener. I don't think he knows those rules. But he is very romantic."

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, who replaced Obama in the state legislature, says that Obama's advice to him was very simple: "Stay out of jail"

Rev. Jeremiah Wright writes about how he and Obama are (were?) "kindred spirits."

- jpt

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