Fourth Annual DISC Distinguished Lecture

“More Perfect”: A Politics of Empathy in a Challenging American Moment

Abdul El-Sayed, physician, public health expert, 2018 candidate for Governor of Michigan

Abdul El-Sayed

April 17, 2019 4:00pm-5:30pm

Weiser Hall 1010 Event Space

“We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union.” Those are the first eight words of the preamble of our Constitution, the foundation of our system of government and politics. When I ran for Governor in Michigan, I aimed to advance universal healthcare, a sustainable energy system, access to public goods and services, and against corporate capture of our economy. And yet the focus was nearly always on my name, my faith, and my ethnicity—that I could be “first Muslim Governor.” In union halls, living rooms, and town watering holes across Michigan, I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from Michiganders—as a millennial, Muslim-American candidate. In this talk, I reflect on the roles of identity and ideals in our current political moment. I argue for a politics of empathy, that centers our actions on the systems of oppression, rather than its symbols, and embrace the responsibility to speak truth to power, only after we’ve learned to empathize with pain. I center these in what it means to be “more perfect,” advancing mutual aims from diverse perspectives in a pluralistic society.

Each year, the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) hosts a Distinguished Lecture featuring a prominent scholar or public figure speaking about issues related to Islamic studies. These events are presented by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Michigan, and the Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC), a member of the International Institute.

Organized by the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC), with support from the Global Islamic Studies Center, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar.