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October 3, 2005

Obama's Advice

Amanda Hinkle

      On September 16, Senator Barack Obama came to campus to speak at Boston College's second annual Freshman Convocation. The junior senator from Illinois was an impressive speaker who discussed the issues of empathy, diversity, learning from the people around you, and achieving your dreams.

      Senator Obama was asked to come to Boston College to speak to the freshman class about his autobiography, Dreams From My Father. His message not only reached the Class of '09, but Obama filled the allotted seats in Conte Forum, leaving some people standing in order to see and hear the renowned Senator.

      It has been nearly two weeks since his speech, and the students of Boston College should ask themselves whether they have heeded the Senator's advice. Obama warned freshmen that, "everyone walks into college with blind spots," and that there are many things about the world that an entering freshman has yet to discover. During the questioning after his speech, Obama suggested that everyone "try to speak every week to someone who doesn't look like you."

      Senator Obama's advice is especially insightful because of his fascinating background. The son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He "had to forge an identity out of all these different pieces of the world." Rather than viewing his background as a disadvantage, Obama realizes that the diversity of events and people he met in his life have made him the man he is today. He reminded us that "diversity is powerful because it ends up being an engine to excellence."

      Senator Obama said that at the "heart of the problem in our nation is an empathy deficit." He explained that empathy needs to be more evident in our government and in our lives. He spoke about seeing through other people's eyes and standing in their shoes in order to better understand one another.

      Obama suggested that students recognize that "you can't be significant by yourself." He explained, "Without nameless, faceless folks [supporting him], there is no Martin Luther King…the way things happen in this country is that ordinary people do extraordinary things."

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