United America, Core Value 1: Respect for Others

January 27, 2014

By: Wayne Baker

Originally posted on Our Values

Americans have a lot of common ground. That is the central message of my new book, United America, which is officially launching today. Based on years of polling, I learned that Americans are united around 10 core values—strongly held principles that are shared across demographic, religious and political lines. The purpose of the book is to broadcast that message.

Starting today, we’ll take a quick look at each one of the 10 core values. Stay tuned: This 10-part series of short columns will run through this Friday and continue next week. If you’re a regular OurValues reader, this is your launch, too. In an interview today, I describe how this new book was developed and I talk about the important role OurValues.org has played in my research on civil dialogue. So, here is the first short overview …

Core Value 1:Respect for others,” and, as we say in the new charts listing these values, that means, “Acceptance and appreciation of people of different racial, ethnic, and religious groups.”

This is one of the most challenging values, because we often have a big gap  between the principle and the practice of respect. Many politicians and media figures make their careers by practicing disrespect. Glenn Beck was one of them. In a Fox News interview last week, Beck said that he wished he hadn’t stoked divisiveness, and that he “could have talked about the uniting principles a little more.”

For many Americans, respect for others seems to be on the decline. Respect in schools has dropped precipitously, according to a recent Harris Online poll. Comparing schools today with when they were in school, American adults say that students and school administrators don’t respect teachers. Teachers don’t respect students or parents, and parents don’t respect teachers. Is this your experience, too?

But there are positive signs. For example, the vast majority of Americans say that all religious books should be treated with respect, according to a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. A very large majority also believes that religious freedom extends to all religious groups, according to the same poll. A half-century ago, very few Americans supported black-white marriages, according to Gallup. Today, however, a very large majority of Americans do support it.

We live in a diverse, multicultural society. In other places around the world, diversity spells disaster, everything from discrimination to systematic violence. In America today, the value of respect for others mutes any such tendencies.

Is respect for others one of your core values?

How do you practice respect for others?

What do you do when you observe disrespect?