Michelle Obama explains just how powerful empathy is—and why we need more of it

"Kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They're looking around wondering if we've been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value."

michelle obama empathy speech

Raising kids who are empathetic and kind is a top priority for many parents in the United States, but former First Lady Michelle Obama is worried that the pandemic response is teaching our kids lessons we might not want them to learn.

Vulnerable people and families are being hit hardest by COVID-19 and the economic fallout, and our children are noticing this, Obama explained during her speech at the Democratic National Convention.

"Kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another," she said. They're looking around wondering if we've been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value."

She continued: "They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin."


"They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain. They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists."

"They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op. Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation."

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Obama ended her powerful speech with a call for change, and referenced her famous "go high" speech from the 2016 DNC.

"But let's be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty," she said. "Going high means taking the harder path ... Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we've got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences."

Whether you agree with Obama's endorsement of Joe Biden or not, we can all agree that our kids need more lessons in kindness (and so do we). Empathy and understanding can make our society stronger.

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