By Heather Deibert
April 19, 2010
HUM 410: Senior Humanities Seminar
Instructor: Pamela Plimpton
Primary Reader: Sandra Ahlquist
Secondary Reader: Pamela Plimpton
During the Democratic convention on July 27th, 2004 then United States Democratic Senate Candidate Barack Obama gave the keynote address. I was struck by a statement that was made by then candidate Barack Obama.
“A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.”-Barack Obama The phrase my brother’s keeper is a reference to the biblical story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. It is generally understood to mean “the responsibility for the welfare of my brother” or, by extension, of other human beings in general. Cain, the first murderer according to the bible, eschewed this responsibility, but the phrase is often used with the suggestion that those who place their faith in the bible do have such a responsibility to their fellow man. God asked Cain where his brother was, and Cain replied, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" God knew that Cain had killed Abel and punished the murderer by making him a "restless wanderer." With his question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain attempted to throw the scent off his misdeed by claiming no responsibility regarding his brother. Followers of biblical teachings often interpret this story as a reminder that they are responsible for the welfare of others, so my brother's keeper has come to refer to a person who looks out for and cares for others, whether literally brothers or sisters or not. A "brother's keeper" may donate his or her time or resources to help others and place the needs of others before his or her own. Am I my brother’s keeper? Do I have both a moral and physical obligation to help care for my fellow men? In doing so, at what cost? From a societal standpoint, our society is designed specifically to help care for others (welfare programs, social security, Medicaid, social services agencies, as well as our educational and penal systems.) From the time I was a small child, my parents raised my sister and I to both practice and live our lives with the “Golden Rule” first and foremost in our daily lives. The golden rules, in the new testament, saying of Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew he says, “In everything you do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” The gospel of St. Luke has “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” As a citizen of the United States I feel it is my duty to serve my community. I know that sometimes people don't realize it, but when you help someone you are in a way helping yourself. All the good that you may do for others will always reflect upon you. No one knows when or how they are going to need the help of someone. I feel that my experiences combined with my college education will prepare me to meet my responsibilities to myself and my community because I am always going to be there to help anyone who needs it. The smiles I get after helping someone are rewarding and it makes me feel really proud about myself. You are my keeper and I am yours. The things I want for you and your family are the same things I want for myself and my family. We are responsible to