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Obama Once Questioned Whether Nonviolence “Makes Sense”

by Keith Koffler on August 28, 2013, 8:27 am

In a speech given just a over a decade ago, President Obama said Martin Luther King’s philosophy of nonviolence “only makes sense” if the rich have sufficient empathy for the poor and the “powerless” are able to see a chance to become like those he says are running society.

Speaking on Martin Luther King Day in 2002 at a church in Chicago, then-State Senator Obama charged there was an “empathy deficit” in America resulting in a failure of the rich to correct society’s inequities.

Obama lists several problems – including bad schools, impoverished seniors, and the “prison-industrial complex” – which he says could be ameliorated if the wealthy could only see themselves in the disadvantaged.

“It’s hard to imagine that the powerful in our society would tolerate the burgeoning prison industrial complex if they imagined that the black men and the Latino men that are being imprisoned were something like their son,” Obama said.

The future president, who speaks today at the Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, then suggested that a lack of empathy undermines the notion that those without power should remain nonviolent in their quest for a share of the pie:

The philosophy of non-violence only makes sense if the powerful can be made to recognize themselves in the powerless. It only makes sense if the powerless can be made to recognize themselves in the powerful.

You know, the principle of empathy gives broader meaning, by the way, to Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence. I don’t  know if you’ve noticed, but rich people are all for non-violence. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got what they want. They want to make sure nobody’s going to take their stuff!

The well off, Obama suggests, are in fact practicing their own form of violence against the poor through a kind of economic oppression.

But the principle of empathy recognizes that there are more subtle forms of violence to which we are answerable. The spirit of empathy condemns not only the use of firehoses and attack dogs to keep people down but also accountants and tax loopholes to keep people down.

I’m not saying that what Enron executives did to their employees is the moral equivalent of what Bull Connor did to black folks but, I tell you what, the employees of Enron feel violated. When a company town  sees some distant executives made some decisions despite the wage concessions, despite the tax breaks, and they see their entire economy collapses, they feel violence.

Here’s the video of this portion of the remarks:

While demanding a change in attitudes from those at the top of the latter, Obama also goes on to call for the “powerless” to try to improve their own lot, saying, “No one is exempt from finding common ground” and “We must all step up to the plate.”

H/T to Eliana Johnson of National Review and Patterico’s Pontifications.

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Kimbly August 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

puke. And I’m sure Obama saw himself as “powerless” even though he was a SENATOR and making the rules. What a twisted mind. Reminds me of the “peace and justice” class I had in college – it’s the “industry” that is the problem, not individual actions.

Scottso August 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

Perhaps, By “poor”, he meant people like himself who likes to spend other people’s money.
and perhaps, by “rich”, he meant people who had more money than him and would let him crash at their pads while he was on vacation.

this man is a divider. Dividing us from our Rights, from our money, from our property, and mostly from each other. He pits one person, one group against the other.
He is not a President for all but a President for one. Him.

Julie Brueckheimer August 28, 2013 at 9:51 am


Star August 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

Remember always–King was for anyone in a bad situation–black, brown, white.

Mandy Manners August 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

A narcissist bemoaning the lack of empathy in others? Boy, that’s rich.

ImNoDhimmi August 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

My thought exactly. Lack of empathy is also a mark of psychopathy.

Psychopathy checklist:
Factor 1: Interpersonal/Affective
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions

Factor 2: Lifestyle/Antisocial.
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Poor behavioral control
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Juvenile delinquency
Early behavior problems
Revocation of conditional release
Criminal versatility


Fit Barry to a T, doesn’t it?

Regime Change August 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

Been saying this since the 2008 Coup… the guy is dangerous…

Mandy Manners August 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

My ex-husband is a sociopath, so I’ve done quite a bit of reading on personality disorders. FCMABBHO is a narcissist.

Julie Brueckheimer August 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

Yes, it does. Back in the day I saw this list and thought it fit Bill Clinton to a T also.

Star August 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I am wondering–just wondering–if we could stipulate after all these threads that Obama is self-centered with grandiose overtones and let this go?

Jeff1000 August 28, 2013 at 9:17 am


Mandy Manners August 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

I wonder if FCMABBHO blames the murder of Sherry West’s baby on her lack of empathy for De’Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang.

Mandy Manners August 28, 2013 at 9:38 am
Mandy Manners August 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

I’m about ready to go kick some kittens so instead, I’m gonna’ go to my happy place. Have a great day, ya’ll!

Scottso August 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

what’s wrong with kicking some kittens? :)

Sadie August 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Scott: Thanks for the link. I know where I’ll be for the foreseeable future. LOL

Scottso August 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm


Julie Brueckheimer August 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

That wasn’t in the Reverend Jeremy Wright’s church, was it?

Grandmom August 28, 2013 at 10:01 am

He is speaking only from his own experience and lack of empathy as he continues to spend millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars on his own family’s lavish vacations in the worst economy since the great depression. Of course he’ll eschew MLK’s non-violence – it worked. Unfortunately, MLK’s dream is not part of his agenda.

srdem65 August 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

That was some big tough talk from a little wimpy guy.

Girly1 August 28, 2013 at 10:42 am

Great catch, Keith. The guy sends chills down my spine (not the Chris Matthews type). He is every bit as divisive as the hate mongerers, Farrakhan and Sharpton. Inciting violence is the recurring theme of his existence – ‘punish your enemies’; ‘you bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun’.

“It’s hard to imagine that the powerful in our society would tolerate the burgeoning prison industrial complex if they imagined that the black men and the Latino men that are being imprisoned were something like their son,”
Let’s release every black and latino murderer, rapist, child molester, drug-dealing degenerate in the prison system – one of them could be OUR kid. Wait a second …he left out ‘crackers’.
(This also explains why he is opening the floodgates to illegal aliens – they could also be the sons and daughters of blacks, latinos, Muslims, and everyone but anglo-saxons).

The ubiquitous ‘piece of the pie’ is also a recurring theme. As we are well aware now, both of the gluttonous Obamas are devoting all of their time to devouring the whole damn pie!

Today would be a great time to re-play MLK’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech back-to-back with BHO’s ‘Does non-violence make Sense’ speech from 2003. MLK would be spinning in his grave.

Julie Brueckheimer August 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

Agree about Keith’s catch, and great comment too from Girly.

DeniseVB August 28, 2013 at 11:07 am

Cspan has live coverage of the Let Freedom Ring thing at the Lincoln Memorial. I’m scanning the crowd for Obama flags. It’s drizzling, lots of umbrellas and a more diverse crowd than the Sharpton show.

I believe Preezy Peace is scheduled to speak at 2 ET, can’t imagine what these next 3 hours are going to lead up to ? Maybe they’ll show The Butler on the jumbotron screens?

Julie Brueckheimer August 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

Any idea of the size of the crowd?

Star August 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

Counting heads is the Washington game–one side underplays, the other overplays, the Park Service usually underplays…

Susan August 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Diverse crowd = Government employees, who are plentiful in Washington, D.C, were encouraged to take leave today.

Kimbly August 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Heard on the radio this morning that Obama already took the time to watch The Butler and comment on it (and give a shout out to his pal Oprah). He must have watched while he was weighing his military options with Syria.

Star August 28, 2013 at 11:33 am

And if someone doesn’t think the “powerful” identify with the “po0werless,” then the powerless are justified in being violent? Seems to be what he is saying. When King marched or his followers sat at lunch counters, did they think the “other side” was secretly sympathetic? Non- violence takes the grittiest of courage.

Anonna August 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

It is true that wealthy people now live a life that is completely divorced from the poor. It used to be that the wealthy family who owned the local mill lived in town and went to the town church and had plenty of opportunity to know the poverty or prosperity of their surrounding community — and to do something about it.

But as usual, Obama ignores that some of the poor get that way by making bad choices, beginning with more children that they can support, choosing to party their lives away instead of being parents to their kids, labeling successful striving as “acting white” and in white communities this is “being a teacher’s pet” or a “nerd.”

And those families who have adapted to generations of a welfare dynasty may have lost any skills but those of gaming the system and getting by. I read some time ago that McDonald’s had opened a school for its employees who had never seen an adult in their family hold down a regular job — the school taught things such as getting to work on time, coming every day assigned, not physically attacking other employees when a disagreement occurred.

When schoolkids in Washington, D.C., are getting three meals a day at their school, I wonder why these children are allowed to spend nights and weekends with adults who can’t rustle up even ONE meal a day for their family. This is not about not having money for food. I think those children would be better off in a live-in orphanage because they are orphans with two living parents.

A.Men August 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

King Thinskin obomba is a disgrace!

Kathryn August 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Does compulsive golf playing fall under Factor #1 or Factor #2? What about all that wheat bread eating topped with fried onion rings?. Oh,my!! I am so confused.. I am counting the days.

Martha Trowbridge August 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

aka Obama is simply parroting his actual father, Malcolm X. Study Malcolm’s speeches. You’ll see.

[apologies for posting this comment a moment ago to the wrong article]

Smokey August 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm

“While demanding a change in attitudes from those at the top of the latter, Obama also goes on to call for the “powerless” to try to improve their own lot, saying, “No one is exempt from finding common ground” and “We must all step up to the plate.”

1. The proverbial “Top” must let go of what put them on top. Share the love I say! I also didn’t know ladder was spelled latter. (can’t help it, I proof read also)
2. No one is exempt from the food stamp program, and by the way, here is a free phone for you,
3. Step up to the plate and return a portion back to me, I know what you need and what is better for you than you do

Radegunda August 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

Remember that a classmate of Obama’s says he was a hardcore revolutionary Marxist back then — and he’s never said anything about an intellectual conversion.

Consider also his association with Bill Ayers, who has no regrets about his history of trying to foment violent revolution. Ayers claims the Weathermen didn’t target people, but that’s a lie. They talked about assassinating government officials, and they were enthusiastic about the idea of killing “pigs.” Ayers told Larry Grathwohl that it was Bernardine Dohrn who planned and carried out the bombing at a San Francisco police station that killed a policeman. The bomb that killed three Weathermen in Greenwich Village was intended to kill many of our servicemen.

Ayers was not bothered by the likelihood of collateral casualties when they tried to bomb buildings — even if the casualties were likely to be black people, about whom they claimed to care so very much. Ayers told Grathwohl that you can’t be concerned about “a few people” when you’re trying to cause a revolution.

The fact that such vile people (Ayers and Dohrn) are regarded as respectable educators is appalling.

lizzytalorburton August 29, 2013 at 1:32 am

MLK would turn over in his grave if he knew that Obama and Holder are encouraging a race war with their words and their lawsuits and constant race baiting.

And now Obama wants to bomb Syria? Maybe he should bomb Chicago for all the murdering and robbing and shooting there? Would he want to do that? I hope not. But he’l bomb Syria when we have so much violence here now in Chicago and all over, he should give a speech about the violence here and stop bombing countries.

Star August 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

I am sure no one lives in Syria except for terrorists, police, army, rebels, insurgents. What? There a kids, families, shopkeepers, scholars—that’s true, it was kids that were gassed and put in those little shrouds. Well, this might not be as simple as pie then. December 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

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