Thursday, March 28, 2013

Obama: Peace starts with Empathy

President Barack Obama recently gave a brilliant speech to the citizens of Israeli, asking them to consider how things are from the perspective of their adversary, the Palestinians. He said that the only way to get to peace between their two peoples is to have empathy for one another.

He spoke very forthrightly and directly to the Israelis: "It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank or displace Palestinian families from their homes." He emphasized the commonality between young persons of different cultures:  "Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people. Politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they're not so different from what the young people here want. The ability to make their own decisions, to get an education and a good job, to worship God in their own way, to get married, to raise a family. The same is true of the young people in Gaza ..."

As Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, writes in a blog for CNN, "In religious studies courses, professors often try to get their students to see the world through Hindu eyes or to walk a few miles in the shoes of a Confucian. Anthropologists refer to this as cultivating an emic (or insider) perspective. The less fancy name for it is empathy. Barack Obama is, for better or worse, an empathetic man who has tried for years to see the world through Republican eyes even as he has pleaded for Republicans to walk a few miles in Democratic shoes. As a former community organizer, he knows that you need a little empathy all around to get anything done among people with different world views."

As we say on our Empathy Symbol site--Empathy: The first step to peace in our families, schools, communities,nation, world. President Obama knows this. What could be accomplished if only people in our country and around the world took the wisdom of our president to heart!