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Michael Zakaras

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I Feel Your Pain: Empathy Matters For Students and Presidents

Bill Clinton's famous phrase "I feel your pain" has become a cliché, but voters want to feel candidates really do understand their plight.


It was during his first presidential campaign in the spring of 1992 that Bill Clinton uttered the now famous words, "I feel your pain." The setting was a New York City fundraiser, and he was responding to AIDS activist Bob Rafsky who was pushing him to take a stand and address the AIDS epidemic sweeping across the country.

The phrase has since become a cliché and has been immortalized on Saturday Night Live. In an important way though it defined the strength of Clinton’s campaign and his presidency: the ability to connect directly with the public and inspire confidence among voters that he understood their plight. Here's a good example of this talent in action, during the first-ever televised town hall debate that fall.

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