Respect was a valuable gift

Published 7:44 pm Saturday, December 19, 2009

There are a lot of lessons your parents try to teach you while growing up. There’s the manners they aim to teach you, the tips on riding a bike – or more important – the tips on fixing injuries from falling off the bike.

But, for me, it was the lesson of respect for one another that I found the most valuable.

I distinctly remember my parents working to instill in me the importance of saying “yes ma’am, yes sir, no ma’am and no sir.”

In fact, if it weren’t for the hot-iron branding of those words on my upper arm, I am not sure I would have ever got the handle on it. Just kidding. Then again, I do wear a lot of long sleeve shirts.

To me, it is those words – those courteous words – that offer a level of respect to any conversation.

At times, I have heard from some that saying those words are “insincere” and they “play lip service” to those you are having a discussion with. How wrong could those feelings be?

It is those skeptical feelings that, in my opinion, has led to the level of disrespect in our society. It is those feelings that do not allow us to have honest, heartfelt discussion on those topics we disagree on.

Trust me that in this business – where we often times take unpopular positions on topics, or cover topics many don’t want covered – that I often have people who disagree with me or the newspaper where I work.

But, through a tremendous amount of experience, that any difference of opinion can be solved with open, respectful discussion — discussion where we have sensible debate of our differences and work for a resolution.

Now there will be those who will think this column is nonsense and Pollyanna. That’s fine. It is those who believe that way who are often times the ones who make the debate of issues personal or those who take such debate personal.

If you want proof of this point, take a gander at C-SPAN and watch the highest elected officials in our land show how debate in our country has fallen to an all-time low.

These officials – both Republican and Democrat at every level of government – are living examples of how honest debate in our country has become a game of “one-upmanship” and games of “gotcha.” And that is a shame.

Our country was created on a system of respect for one another’s opinion and compromise for the common good. It was a system built on checks and balances, but a system built on getting something done.

As I head out this week for the Christmas holiday week, I think I am going to thank my parents for the gift of respect they taught me and hope others will can find the same gift under their tree this week.