Summer 2021 Bulletin

Empathy and Our Future

Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

While many discussions in America are now focused on accountability versus unity, a concept that belongs in conversations about how America can recover from a divisive election, devastating pandemic, and long history of racial injustice is empathy. At a virtual Stated Meeting, Sherry Turkle (MIT) and Eric Liu (Citizen University) joined Academy President David Oxtoby in a conversation about what empathy looks like in an increasingly digital world, the search for authentic connections at a time of isolation and disunion, and the role authentic connection can play in repairing our civic culture. An edited version of their conversation follows.

2097th Stated Meeting | March 10, 2021 | Virtual Event
Morton L. Mandel Public Lecture

David W. Oxtoby

David W. Oxtoby is President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy in 2012.

Today’s program is focused on authentic connection at a time of isolation and disunion. Many of us have spent the last year of our lives in front of screens, isolated from family, friends, and colleagues, and trying to make sense of a divisive election, a devastating pandemic, and a long history of racial injustice. This period of tumult has also been a period of reflection, leading many of us to think about our own lives and our relationships with each other. I am glad that so many of you have joined us today to investigate the role empathy can play in helping us make the most of this challenging moment.

Our consideration of the role that authentic connection can play in repairing our civic culture will be led by two Academy members, whose lives have been dedicated to understanding the power of empathy. Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. Through her dual perspective as a psychologist and sociologist, Sherry pioneered the study of the emotional impact of technology on personal identity. Her groundbreaking work in understanding the role the computer plays in our relationships with each other and ourselves has helped the world navigate the rise of the computer and Internet culture. Her conclusions about what we can – and, crucially, what we cannot – expect from our relationship to technology have been chronicled in her books, which include The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit; Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other; and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. In her latest book, The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir, Sherry turns that incisive lens inward, excavating her personal history to understand the origins of her own capacity for connection. As she chronicles her trajectory from working-class Brooklyn through her studies at Radcliffe, to her time in France, and eventually to her work at MIT, Sherry is vulnerable and revealing, inviting an intimacy with her reader that, as she argues, is the root of empathic connection.

Eric Liu is Cofounder and CEO of Citizen University and Director of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity program. He is the former Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, has held policy roles for the U.S. Senate and the National Security Council, and is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy. With Danielle Allen and Stephen Heintz, Eric chairs the Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. In its report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the Commission advances 31 recommendations for strengthening our civic life and political institutions. The recommendations are designed to create a democratic system and political culture in which Americans can escape their echo chambers and recognize their shared interest in a healthy, thriving democracy. Eric has been a fierce advocate for the power of connection to heal our civic culture, and his work reminds us how impor­tant engaging with our neighbor is to the well-being of our nation.

I am grateful to Sherry and Eric for lending their distinct perspectives to this topic. Today’s exploration of empathy will, appropriately enough, be structured as a dialogue. Eric, let’s start with you. Empathy seems to be the word of the moment. Our media is fixated on empathy. Joe Biden made empathy a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and the inauguration. What is empathy, and why is it so relevant to our current political reality?

Eric Liu

Eric Liu is President and CEO of Citizen University. He is a cochair of the American Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship and was elected to the American Academy in 2020.

Eric Liu


I define empathy simply as a capacity to imagine the emotional experiences of another. Imagination and understanding are not merely cognitive. They are visceral and emotional, and I think part of the reason why empathy is all the rage in the language of our politics today is precisely because it is also painfully absent in the practice of politics right now. So much of our political culture in the United States rewards and accelerates a deep dehumanizing instinct to treat the other as the other, as the enemy, as an object, as an obstacle, and not as somebody who has hopes, dreams, fears, needs, wants like any other human, including oneself. I think we have polarization today not just because people decided to be mean and because some prominent leaders started to issue mean tweets, but because something deep and structural has been happening in our country, in which the concentration of wealth and the acceleration of inequality have frayed that sense of common purpose – that we are all in it together.

That structural shift has given rise to a vicious cycle, in which the culture of our civic life is increasingly brutish, increasingly dehumanized and cynical, and just rolls its eyes at the idea that we are all in it together. This experience of COVID-19 of the last twelve months has been a painful reminder of that. In the early weeks, we all were in it together, and advertisers were quick to make slogans about that. But as the pandemic has continued, it has only accentuated the ways in which empathy is evaporating from the political ecosystem, so that the prominent feeling is “glad that ain’t me.” Half a million have died; glad that ain’t me. Many of them are brown and black and poor and older; glad that ain’t me. And I think that unspoken dynamic is revealed in other ways: in the rawness and dehumanizing style of our politics right now. We need to find ways to reckon with that, and Sherry’s work shows us a path to do that.

OXTOBY: Thank you, Eric. Sherry, what does empathy mean to you, and why did you choose it as a theme for your memoir?

Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy in 2014.

Sherry Turkle


To me, empathy goes beyond putting yourself in the place of the other to put yourself in the problem of the other. It is a commitment to go the distance with another person. For me, empathy needs to become an integral part of citizenship. And when this kind of empathy, let’s call it empathy taken to a higher power, does its work, you don’t begin by saying, “I know how you feel.” You start with, “I don’t know how you feel. I’m here to listen to you and to do the work that I need to do to be able to hear you.” Empathy begins with humility and commitment.

Our screens have gotten in the way because a lot of what we do on our screens undermines empathy. If we focus on our screens, our eyes are off the people we are with, and it is harder to listen to them. We divide our attention. That’s become our standard practice.

This morning I was sent, for a final copyediting, one of the op-eds that I had written several months ago to accompany my book launch. In it, I was very optimistic about our possibilities for new connections as we came out of the pandemic because together, we would have had a shared experience of our human frailty. I argued that the pandemic would make space for empathic political connection. This morning I revised those paragraphs because my optimism was too simple. It was a good theory, but the reality has been more complex. We have an opening for change. But learning how to tend to each other will take a lot of work and political will.

OXTOBY: Let me follow up on that before I come back to the question of technology. What tools and experiences might help us to increase our ability to empathize? We can’t all be writing memoirs or researching human behavior as you are, Sherry, or dedicating our professional lives to repairing civic society as you are, Eric. So, what advice do you have for us about the tools and things that we could do to increase our ability to empathize? Sherry, I’ll start with you and then ask Eric to comment.

TURKLE: Well, the first thing I would say is that solitude is the place where empathy is born. If you can’t be alone with yourself, then when you talk to another person, you are looking to them to tell you who you are. You can’t listen to someone else and be empathic until you have a capacity for solitude. Now, this is not what people want to hear when they ask, “How can I be empathic?” They don’t want to hear, “Learn to be alone.” But an empathic person is someone who can know themselves by themselves. Only then are you ready to listen to someone else’s story.

I suggest that to train yourself for empathy, the first thing is to turn off your screen during critical times with others (the dinner table, while you are in the car, while you are preparing food). Then, develop some kind of practice in which you try to be alone without distraction. Think of it as time to get to know yourself better. These are two ways of becoming a better listener.

The second thing is when you sit down to listen to someone else, try not to tell them what you think they should do, which is what we usually do. I have hundreds of hours of taped conversations of people talking to each other. It is common to hear one person, who is trying to be empathic, explain what their divorce was like and what the other person should do if they are getting divorced. Try to adopt the discipline of listening and not suggesting. You are there to communicate “I am here to give you my full attention. I’m here not because I know how you feel, but because I don’t know how you feel.” Empathy is a discipline of humility.

LIU: To extend the continuum from there, I think that the ability to sit with oneself is very hard to do, especially now because we have unlimited distractions. And so that capacity to “lash ourselves to the mast” and not be pulled one way or another is key. Let’s assume for the moment that we have been able to do that: we have been able to sit with ourselves and now with humility and empathy we can engage with another. From the work that we do at Citizen University and also from the recommendations in our Academy report, Our Common Purpose, I put a great premium on building bonds of trust and affection through two means. First, join a club. Join an association that involves other people and that requires you to search out common goals and common aspirations, figuring out how to navigate your differences to do those things. It could be civic or political. It could be gardening; it could be baseball. I think that muscle – the joining of clubs – is atrophied in American civic life now: the Tocquevillian idea that habits of the heart are cultivated not in isolation, but in the doing of things with others and the effort to associate that way.

Second, search out shared experiences in which the focal point of the experience is not you or me but a third thing. The Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship spent a couple of years traveling across the country, listening to people from the left and right, in rural and urban areas, to distill the recommendations in Our Common Purpose for how to reinvent our democracy, and core to those recommendations is a great emphasis on national service. We believe that an expectation of universal national service for young people in the United States would go a huge way toward closing that empathy gap and giving people that set of shared experiences where they are having to do something. They have to fix something, clean something, solve something that isn’t just about you and me indulging ourselves with our own kind of story. And that fixing and doing of a third thing can be catalytic in public life. I am pleased to learn that among the things included in the COVID stimulus and recovery act is the largest ever investment in national service programs, such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the like.

David, I would challenge one thing that you said earlier. You said not everybody can devote their lives to cultivating civic engagement and conversation, and I beg to differ. Everybody can. Not everybody can make that their profession, but everybody just by the way they live as a citizen, the way they show up for others, the way that they participate in the life of community and country, everyone absolutely can take some piece of ownership of that body of work. We all know that empathy has its limits. Empathy will not solve a difference in ideology about whether low-wage workers should be paid a $15 minimum wage, but our politics is meant for us to hash that out in a way that isn’t demonizing, scorched earth, and zero-sum. And the only way we get to non-scorched earth, non-zero-sum politics is to begin to recommit to everything Sherry was talking about. Listening, rehumanizing, building relationships with people in which you see them in more than one dimension and can say, “We differ on minimum wage, but I get where you are coming from.” “We differ on this, but I feel the challenges that you have gone through.” And that is a habit that cannot trickle down from a president to the rest of us. It has to come from the inside out, from the bottom up in our society, and that is what in Our Common Purpose we refer to when we talk about a culture change.

OXTOBY: Are there shared cultural moments? Sherry, you mentioned that originally you were more optimistic, but now you are less optimistic about all of us coming together. How does the pandemic or the national reckoning around race affect our capacity for empathy?

TURKLE: At least two things are happening at once. First is the personal difficulty that people experience when learning how to have conversations. I report an interview in Reclaiming Conversation in which a young woman is talking to me about what she calls “the seven-minute rule.” She says what she has learned about conversation is that you have to pay attention to someone for seven minutes to understand what they are trying to say. She says it is true of her mother, it is true of her family, and it is true of her friends. As I was listening to her, I was thinking, “Yes, yes, what a wise young woman!” And then she says, “But, of course, I can’t do that. I look at my phone after two. I cannot get to seven minutes.” She knows she has to listen for seven minutes, but she admits that her life with her phone has made this a near-impossibility. Distraction has become her way of life. So, there is work to be done. When people get into groups for conversation, they need support, so I am excited that there will be money and resources to help them. But making such groups successful requires more than having a room, chairs, and some coffee. You need to give people support and skilled individuals. People need help as they begin to talk to each other, particularly across significant differences. We need empathic support as we take steps to learn how to attend to each other.

LIU: A word that is drawn from Sherry’s book, which articulates that support, is ritual. When Sherry says we need support to be able to have these conversations in a way that doesn’t go off the rails, which makes it safe for people to go from an unexamined inner into a productive outer engagement, that relates to why so much of our emphasis in our work at Citizen University is around ritual. We have these gatherings called Civic Saturdays that are essentially a civic analog to a faith gathering, with the architecture and the arc of a faith gathering. We ask our participants to turn to the stranger next to them and talk about a common question that cuts through small talk; we ask them to sing and hear poetry. There is a reading of scripture and texts that are civic, not religious. And what we call for in Our Common Purpose similarly is grounded in trying to emphasize and build ritual structures. And not just gatherings like Civic Saturdays or organizations like Living Room Conversations.

As you know well, Sherry, and your life and your research have demonstrated this, art is such a force. Oskar Eustis, the great Artistic Director of the Public Theater in New York, recently described theater, very proudly, as the anti-Internet. He is trying to remind people that there is a social technology out there called theater that immerses you in a ritual that is meant to completely regenerate your capacity for empathy, and it is not just a matter of passive entertainment. It is an awakening of both the inner and outer work. And whether you choose a path of art and theater or civic gatherings or other forms of structured ritual, there are programs aplenty that are providing frameworks for people to do that. Because, Sherry, you are absolutely correct. Even if someone is motivated to want to go from the first step of inner work, there is a big chasm that is scary. If I do that, am I going to mess up? Am I going to step on a land mine?

TURKLE: My research suggests that the Internet and our devices (the whole world of screens) offer us an escape from feeling vulnerable. People feel vulnerable in face-to-face conversations, and what rituals and art do is reduce people’s vulnerability so that they begin to participate. But vulnerability is, of course, where empathy is born. Where do I see optimism? Our time during this pandemic has offered what the great anthropologist Victor Turner would have called liminal time. A time betwixt and between, where the rules have been broken, and there are no new rules in place. This can be a time of great creativity. Now, I don’t think things are falling into place in quite the simple positive ways that I might have wished for. But I do see positive signs in the way Americans have been able to step back and watch a fuller reality of America. We have seen our country anew, in ways we hadn’t seen it before. Seeing racial inequality, White racism, the Capitol riots, police brutality, the Me Too movement: so many people have watched all of these unfold during the pandemic. And I think we have come to a vision of ourselves that is not the Fourth of July version. No, it is so other from what we are used to seeing that there has been a wake-up call. We can talk about things that we could not have spoken about a year ago in the same way. We are more realistic now. I take hope from that because new seeing makes new conversations possible.

LIU: In Our Common Purpose we speak about this period that we are living through, this liminal time as Sherry was saying, as essentially a fourth founding of the United States. The first founding was the framing of the Constitution; the second was the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction; the third, which we just commemorated this past weekend in thinking about Bloody Sunday, was the Civil Rights movement; and we appear now to be in the midst of a fourth awakening of the United States. The thing about this particular moment that makes it both promising and exciting but also challenging is that we are now attempting to do something that has not been done before. It was implicit in the fine print of our social contract from the beginning, but it is only now that we are actually trying to deliver on the idea of being a mass multiracial, multifaith democratic republic.

When you try seriously to do all those things at once, we find two words at the very center of all disputation: we and us. Who is us? And who is this we that has permission to talk about topic X or Y? Who is the us that is never heard from? Who are the people who get to determine what is part of the story of the country? If the Capitol riots didn’t bring Congress together, what will? We are still in a mode in which evidence and experience are used to confirm a prior bias and a prior narrative of who is us. If your prior narrative is this is a White Christian nation that is too much in disarray right now because there has been too much change, then you are going to look at January 6 in one way. If your story of us is this is a country that from the beginning has been hypocritical and breaking promises about equality, then you are going to look at things in a different way.

If you are trying to find a path between those poles and a synthesis that recognizes the durability and the power of the universal ideals of this nation while acknowledging the complexity of these cultures and all these traditions, we need to be comfortable with the way in which demographically we have changed.

OXTOBY: I would like to ask each of you to comment on two things that have been brought up already. One is the role of art and storytelling in developing empathy, and the second is technology. Can technology ever help, or is it always negative? Let’s start with Sherry. Your memoir involves a lot of wonderful storytelling. How does that help us in terms of developing empathy?

TURKLE: One path to self-discovery is through personal storytelling. Writing my own story increased my capacity to understand other people and myself. I finally understood in a deeper way why my family would not tell me my father’s name, and this brought me closer to them. The discipline of getting the story straight forced me to make sense of small details of my life that had always bothered me. To take one emotionally fraught example: Only when I had constructed a meticulous timeline of my mother’s life in relation to impor­tant events in mine did I understand why my mother lied to me about having knitted me a hat that I knew she had in fact purchased at a local five-and-dime. I knew she bought the hat, yet she handed me the hat and said, “I made this for you.” It made me angry at her. She lied about so many big things. My father’s name. That she had been divorced. But why this hat? In writing my memoir, I realized that she told that “odd” lie just when she discovered she had cancer and decided that she would never burden me with this knowledge. My mother bought me the hat on her way back from a frightening visit to the doctor. She wanted to feel close to an eight-year-old me, and so she blurted out: “I made this for you.” This small detail brought me closer to my mother long after her death.

When I wrote my memoir, my daughter said it was a gift. We need to tell our stories to our children. I think we are getting out of this habit. When I study families, I ask, “Did your parents tell you about your grandparents and the story of your family?” They usually answer “no.” What used to happen around the dinner table has been lost. Too often, we bring our phones to meals. Put the phones away and use mealtime to talk about your family and your history.

LIU: On storytelling, I would add that one of the core recommendations that we make in Our Common Purpose is a nationwide effort we call Telling Our Nation’s Story. It is about asking questions such as, How did your family come to be here? What did your family call this land? What did this land call your family? Where do you have a sense of place? Where and when in your family’s life did a storyline begin to take hold that you either do or do not have power? What is the role of power in the ways that you live and in the ways that you were formed? This is about imagining in a different way where we have come from. And when we do that, we realize how much we actually have in common in terms of our shared experiences, our pain, and the ways in which we have been formed.

OXTOBY: Let me now turn to some audience questions. The first question is about solitude versus belonging to a group. Sherry began with solitude. Eric followed with joining a group. How do you think about the differences between extroverts and introverts when dealing with empathy? Eric, would you like to respond?

LIU: One of the things that can shut down conversation or engagement is power. Citizenship demands greater empathy right now. Citizenship also demands candor about power: understanding who has and does not have power, why that is, how that came to be, how it can be undone and redone, and how the redoing of it can occur in a way that does not make people fearful in a zero-sum way. Can we imagine a world in which men value women as women, women value men as men, and other people who do not fit that gender binary are fully valued? Can we imagine a world in which no one is diminished by the inclusion of everyone? For a lot of people, the answer is no, I can’t. Including everyone feels like I am going to get less, so I’m going to resist. I think our commitment to making a positive-sum story out of this is what is crucial, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

If you are an introvert, the capacity for that kind of inner work and self-reflection that Sherry spoke of may be easier and may come more readily to you than if you are actively extroverted. But then the next phase, of engaging with other folks, might be difficult. I think our civic life is like the human body itself because it contains multitudes. There are multiple ways of engaging. You don’t have to be extroverted like a Bill Clinton. You could be like an Abraham Lincoln, who was introverted, who was quite self-reflective, whose grief and the pain from his family experiences colored his sense of responsibility for preserving the Union. And that capacity for recognizing all the different styles that we have and that can contribute to civic life is part of the beauty of this moment. You don’t have to be like a classic politician to live like a citizen. Quiet is a huge part of what is needed right now in civic life, and if that is what you bring to the table, a quiet with integrity, a quiet that draws other people, a quiet that has power, then that is a great gift to share with others.

OXTOBY: Thank you. This next question is for Sherry, from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot: “To have empathy we must see the other person as human, as worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. I wonder whether you would speak about the historical, cultural, and political reasons that stand in the way of our seeing each other as fully human. And speaking developmentally, how do we in families and schools encourage the growth of empathy?”

TURKLE: For reasons of time, I’m going to begin with the second question and find another time to fill in the historical context. It deserves to be its own session. The Empathy Diaries began as a chapter in my book Reclaiming Conversation. I was invited to consult at a school because the teachers complained that there was a lack of empathy among their students. What does it mean for teachers to diagnose a lack of empathy? What were the signs? The presenting symptom was that the children were looking at their screens and not at each other. The children were not talking to each other in the lunchroom and on the playground. I developed some exercises in which I would show children that if there were a phone on the table between them and another child, they would pay no attention to that other child. Or if there were a phone in their peripheral vision, their interest in the other child would drop. They couldn’t remember anything about the conversation that they had with that child.

So, to develop empathy, the first step is to get buy-in from the people you are working with that there is a problem. You begin by convincing children (and parents and teachers) that their devices are getting in the way of their friendships even though they think that their devices are the centerpiece of their friendships. You also develop the rituals (for example, within the school day) that encourage intensive listening. For example, at school lunch, try to recreate the rituals of the family dinner table. It is important to remember that so many children don’t have a meal in which they sit down regularly with their family and share the “news of the day.”

OXTOBY: The next question is from Neil deGrasse Tyson. When does joining a group, which people do when they engage in social media, morph into dangerous tribalism? Eric, let’s start with you.

LIU: This question calls to mind the distinction that Bob Putnam made between bridging and bonding social capital, between strong ties and weak ties. Let me amend what I said earlier. When I said join a club, that is the very short version. If I would add a few words, I would say join a club that is inclusive and can bridge you to other clubs. One of the things about where we are now is that social media amplifies bonding – joining with birds of a feather, ideological or other – that allows the group to become more homogeneous. And the commitment should be to find ways to join groups that are by definition heterogeneous and whose purpose is to bridge across lines of difference and distinction, such as race, class, ideology, generation, and more.

Of course, this should begin in a school setting, and as adults we ought to continue to seek out and find these heterogeneous groups. Living Room Conversations is one organization; is another. It empowers elders to think about how they can bring their wisdom and accumulated life experience into a conversation that is intergenerational. And if we think about those kinds of circles that Sherry was describing, they can be in a school setting or in an adult setting. For example, one of the projects that Howard Gardner and his colleague Lynn Barendsen have cultivated at Harvard is the Family Dinner Project. It is reteaching families how to have conversations, how to create that space even if it is not going to be literally at the dinner table.

In all these settings, there are some magic keys and those keys are universal human questions. One of the earliest books that I wrote that had nothing directly to do with citizenship was called Guiding Lights. It was about life changing mentors. Everywhere I went I asked people two questions: Who has influenced you? And how do you pass it on? Sherry’s book is a beautiful answer to those two questions in her life. Who has influenced you and how do you pass it on? When you have two keys like that, you can open up conversation in a way that sets our political differences in a humanizing context. If we search out groups that do that, that’s a good thing. If we search out groups that want to filter us away from that complexity, that’s a dangerous thing.

OXTOBY: Sherry, would you like to comment?

TURKLE: One of the things that makes me optimistic about the moment that we are in is that now, coming out of the pandemic, if you propose an exciting screen curriculum to parents (after their children have been on screens for a year), parents are likely to say, “I want my child to have a person! I want my child to have a mentor. I want somebody who is going to talk to my child. I want a human being. I want the full embrace of the human. Could I please have a person now?” I think we are in a position to approach screens more deliberately. We are more likely to want privacy on screens. We saw the damage that big tech could do.

OXTOBY: The next question is about shame and whether it interferes with people’s ability to be empathic. And this relates to hope as we see parts of our country that are not what we would wish them to be. How do we not become ashamed and despondent?

LIU: I think it begins with facing and naming the shame and then taking responsibility for the choice that comes after that. And the choice is either I will push that down and it will displace and find its expression in some other unhealthy way in my life, or I will convert it into a form of reckoning and responsibility-taking. And that’s the choice. There is a great organization, Facing History and Ourselves, based in Boston, doing work all around the United States using the Holocaust, the Civil Rights movement, the Rwandan genocide, and moments like these in which large groups of people had shame about things that they or others around them did or failed to do at critical moral junctures. And they are using those historical examples to teach young people how not only to think about what you would do in that moment but if you inherited that shame, if you own that shame, what do you do with it? And it can’t simply be a matter of saying, “Well, I’m ashamed. I’m going to let that block me and choke off my development.” We have an opportunity in this country right now, and it’s why I too am hopeful like Sherry, that in the younger generation especially there is a greater taking of that kind of responsibility and saying, “OK, we know the bad and the ugly, not just the good of the American story. Now, what are we going to do? How are we going to stitch things together and go forward?”

OXTOBY: Sherry, would you like to comment?

TURKLE: Let me speak very personally. In my family, we had distant relatives in Europe who were swept up in the Holocaust. I grew up with a mantra that such a thing couldn’t happen in this country, but that of course, it might, and it was my responsibility that if I saw a sign of American fascism I was to leap into action, like Wonder Woman, because we saw what had happened in Europe. And then this year, we all witnessed how American fascism threatened our country. We watched as the unspeakable happened – or almost happened. And trapped in my home, I was no Wonder Woman. I think we are poised for this fourth founding that Eric mentioned.

OXTOBY: Thank you, Sherry and Eric. This has been a very rich conversation, and we have only scratched the surface. Let me close by thanking Sherry and Eric for their thoughtful comments and responses, and for their time and deep commitment to strengthening empathy and American democracy.

© 2021 by David W. Oxtoby, Eric Liu, and Sherry Turkle, respectively

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