The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Obama Video Clips > 200x-xx-xx - Literacy and Empathy


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.