Opinion: Photo captures Trump's notes for listening session

  • Aaron Blake
  • The Washington Post
3:34 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 Opinion

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump's at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.

Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful reminder. 

Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured this image of Trump's notes.

The Washington Post
President Donald Trump holds a card with questions during a listening session with high school students and teachers in the State Dining Room at the White House on Wednesday. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Ricky Carioti

At No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, "I hear you." 

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. "What would you most want me to know about your experience?" the card reads. So at least two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say. (And it was not known what Nos. 3 and 4 said.)

That's at once pretty striking for a president and not at all striking for Trump. Through tragedy after tragedy, empathy has been the quality clearly missing from Trump's reactions. He has focused on first-responders rather than victims. He has joked around when he probably should have been somber. He has attacked a political leader who wasn't appreciative enough. Through it all, it's been clear that expressing that he feels others' pain just isn't his strength.

Which might be why he needed a couple little reminders Wednesday.


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