President Obama says he wants a Supreme Court justice who is empathetic. He himself is quite empathetic, as one realizes in reading his memoir, Dreams from My Father. The book has its faults, but there’s a lot in there about learning to see the world as other people see it. His “bittergate” remarks were an exercise in empathy: he wasn’t denouncing the honest people of rural Pennsylvania for their views on guns, God, and foreigners, he was explaining how anyone, in their position, might have those views.

Now Mr. Empathy is president. Aside from him, I can’t think of any big figure in modern American life for whom empathy is the keynote. ¬†Certainly not Oprah and Dr. Phil. They’re not about understanding others, just understanding how others should live and telling them.
Remember: sympathy is when you feel bad for someone else, empathy is when you imagine how the world would look to you if you were in their place.