Barack Obama talks Empathy at Teachers of the Year Event

For me, one of those people was my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Hefty.  When I walked into Ms. Hefty’s classroom for the first time, I was a new kid who had been living overseas for a few years, had a funny name nobody could pronounce.  But she didn’t let me withdraw into myself.  She helped me believe that I had something special to say.  She made me feel special.  She reinforced the sense of empathy and thoughtfulness that my mother and my grandparents had tried hard to instill in me — and that’s a lesson that I still carry with me as President.


Ms. Hefty is no longer with us, but I often think about her and how much of a difference she made in my life.  And everybody has got a story like that, about that teacher who made the extra effort to shape our lives in important ways.