The late journalist James Foley spoke to San Diego State University students months before his abduction, telling them about the complications of war coverage and his ambivalence about going to Syria.

Foley, 40, died in a video posted Tuesday, in which, under duress, he said his impending execution was the result of U.S. bombing in Iraq, which started earlier this month. He was beheaded.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday called Foley’s death “an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world.” He also condemned the organization, ISIL, that took responsibility for Foley’s killing, as a group that targets the West, but also terrorizes civilians in the Middle East.

“The future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him,” he said.

Foley appeared at San Diego State in February 2012 and discussed his experiences in Libya, where dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, his reasons for taking on such dangerous assignments and why his time abroad had been “life-changing.”

Having returned to the U.S. following his coverage there, he was asked if he would shift his attention to another Middle East hotspot, Syria. He said he was aware of “what I put my family through“ and that his loved ones were pleading with him not to go.

“There are two sides of me. I want to be in Syria right now and at the same time I think it’s wise to wait,.” he said.

He opted to go, however, and was abducted in November 2012. His family sought his release via a Facebook page, Twitter feed and dedicated site,

According to the Facebook page, was the oldest of five children who spent five years reporting on the Middle East after working as a teacher and mentor to the disadvantaged.

His mother posted to the page Tuesday that her son was “an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person” and urged his killers “to spare the lives of the remaining hostages.”

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