In 1967, Aretha Franklin’s classic hit “Respect” instantly captured the hearts of millions worldwide.
Flash forward several decades. I come from a completely different generation, one where the importance of respect has become tarnished. Today, children grow up with little respect for authority, and adults are not forced to take responsibility for their actions. Our nation’s president resorts to Twitter as a means of broadcasting his personal opinion.
As I scroll through social media, watch television or take a walk through campus, I can’t help but be confused about how times have changed so drastically and why such a relatively straightforward concept can be so easily overlooked. An action as simple as holding the door for someone or shutting down your phone for an hour-long lecture is practically unheard of.
It is no surprise that one of the easiest settings to observe this lack of respect is the classroom. According to a Harris Poll posted by The Atlantic, while 79 percent of Americans said students respected teachers when they were in school, only 31 percent believe students respect teachers today.
As a result, this begs the question: “can society function without respect?” If the concept of following the golden rule — treating others the way you want to be treated — has been drilled into our heads for as long as we can remember, why can’t we own up to our actions? If we have been taught that respect is earned, why are we so reluctant to show it?
Deborah Norville, author of “The Power of Respect,” defines respect as acknowledging the value and uniqueness of others and being mindful of their feelings, while at the same time trying to put yourself in their position. Demonstrating positive self-respect directly relates to how you treat those around you, as well as how you handle the way others view you. Forming a mutual respect also involves empathy. You must be willing to overlook others’ differences and be considerate of their circumstances in order to establish a firm connection.
Norville refers to this concept as The Power of Respect. She firmly believes behaving respectfully can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives by keeping families and marriages intact and restoring calm in the classroom. Norville also claims this concept will save the U.S. millions of dollars, increase the effectiveness of leaders and foster individual achievement.
In order to see change, we as a nation must be willing to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must return to the traditional please and thank you that our parents and grandparents used so long ago. Imagine if the student sitting in an hour-long lecture were to unplug and make a face-to-face connection with his or her professor. What if you held the door for the person in line behind you, or looked both ways before crossing a sidewalk? Let’s work together to polish up our actions and bring back respect before it disappears forever.