Excerpt: The Power of Respect
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Where has it gone?
Deborah Norville of ‘Inside Edition’ writes about
‘The Power of Respect’
Americans are ruder than ever before, Deborah Norville writes in her new
book, “The Power of Respect.” She shares why respecting others is the most
forgotten element in attaining success.
A front-row seat
There’s a blessing and a curse to having a job like mine at Inside Edition. The blessing of
anchoring this television news show is that I have a front-row seat for what’s happening
in the world. Sometimes the stories make your heart swell with pride, like the tale of
Jason McElwain, who had the respect and admiration of his school — and the entire
nation — when he scored an astonishing twenty points in the last four minutes of the final
regular game of the season. Most of the time, Jason was known as “the kid with autism,”
but on this day, the coach told the seventeen-year-old who served as the team’s manager
to suit up. Jason had never played in a game before.
Jason was carried off the court on the team’s shoulders. Students at the school were
clamoring for his autograph. He later got to meet President George W. Bush. His mom,
Debbie, said he was an inspiration for people everywhere with disabilities.
If you’re ever in a hospital where the walls are alive with color, where ceiling tiles sport
rainbows and butterflies just where a patient on a gurney might see them, chances are
John Feight has been there. Feight is a man who embodies the Power of Respect. He has
spent the past thirty years traveling the world, painting every hospital surface imaginable
with beautiful images that promote healing. It started when he was visiting a sick friend
and thought the dreary halls could use a splash of color. One little girl, a burn victim,
silently watched him work. When he offered her a brush and suggested she help paint,
her smile launched a mission that has taken the healing power of art to hospitals in all but
a half dozen nations on earth. The founder of the Foundation for Hospital Art, John
Feight believes everyone is an artist. Like a pied piper, he attracts visitors, medical staff,
and most importantly patients, who eagerly grab brushes to fill in the murals he’s
Feight looks likea doctor in his paint-splattered green scrubs. He says painting takes
patients away from their medical problems into a pain-free world of creativity. He
learned just how transformative that process could be when he was treated for prostate
cancer. As soon as Feight was well enough, he went back to the hospital where he had
been treated and painted the bare ceiling he’d stared at during his stay.
The story of Patrick Henry Hughes is another touching reminder that all of us have
something unique. Patrick Henry Hughes is just more unique than most. Born blind, with
multiple physical disabilities, Patrick Henry has been in a wheelchair his whole life.
What he lacks in physical abilities, he more than compensates for in musical talent. His
fingers fly over the piano and his voice is clear and strong, creating music that demands
that you stop and drink in the sound.
When the University of Louisville marching band hits the field, you can’t miss Patrick.
That’s right — he’s the trumpet player in the wheelchair, being maneuvered around by
his father. It is a beautiful story of love and respect. His father learns the marching band’s
routine so he doesn’t miss a step during halftime. The elder Mr. Hughes, who’s also
named Patrick, can also be found in the classrooms at U of L, guiding his son from class
to class. He works the overnight shift in order to be available for his son. Mr. Hughes said
he never felt he was sacrificing anything for his son. On the contrary, he said, “It’s what
Patrick does for me.” You can’t help but watch the Hugheses’ incredible story and
marvel at the father-son bond as well as feel yourself drawn closer to the loved ones in
your own life.
I’ve loved seeing these stories on Inside Edition, but the flip side of my job is that I see
other stories all too close up. Lately the picture isn’t very pretty.
There was the cute little cheerleader who thought she was going to a sleepover. Instead
she was jumped by her so-called friends, who then proceeded to videotape the attack. The
horrible girls proved their stupidity by posting the episode online — enabling the rest of
the world to learn of their vicious acts and helping cops to make multiple arrests. Victoria
Lindsay was left with a concussion and hearing and vision loss. Her attackers were left
with criminal records. They were sentenced to probation.
Did you see the fourteen-year-old kid in Baltimore who got reamed out by the police
officer for riding his skateboard where he wasn’t supposed to? It was no wonder. It was
obvious to everyone (and everyone saw it because the video ended up on YouTube) that
young Eric just could not stop himself from saying “dude” to the officer. Officer Rivieri
was not amused.
It is ridiculous that anyone would call 911 to complain that the local McDonald’s didn’t
have the Chicken McNuggets she ordered. (Yes, that really happened — in Fort Pierce,
Florida.) LaTreasa Goodman told cops she wouldn’t have made a stink if the cashier
taking her order had told her in advance the restaurant was out of McNuggets.
Downright tragic is the only way to describe what happened in DeKalb County, Georgia,
where eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera hanged himself last April. His friend said, “He’s
tired of everybody always messing with him at school.” The boy was the object of
“relentless bullying” at his elementary school. His little sister discovered his body.
Outrageous is the adjective that comes to mind in the Thomas Junta story. He’s currently
serving a six- to ten-year prison sentence for killing a man in Massachusetts during a
kids’ hockey practice. Junta complained the victim’s kids were playing too aggressively.
They exchanged words, then Junta beat the man. The children were watching. Junta has
twice been denied parole.
We all have our favorite songs, but can you imagine killing a man over a Jimmy Buffett
song? Neither can I — but it happened. A soldier from Fort Bragg died after a fight
outside a bar in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last January. Well, it wasn’t really even a
fight. Richard Lopez had selected a Jimmy Buffett song on the jukebox and some other
patrons heckled him about the choice. Later, when Lopez and his friends left the bar, one
of the hecklers punched Lopez in the face and his head hit the pavement. He never
regained consciousness. Several eyewitnesses say Lopez never raised a hand toward his
From Hollywood starlets to Wall Street moguls (and many people in between), it is
becoming far more common for the headlines to highlight people with disrespectful
attitudes and behaviors.
I used to think that people eventually get around to doing the right thing because, well,
it’s the right thing to do. Yet after years of reporting stories of violence, rudeness, and
disrespect, I now realize that may not be the case for everyone.
Frustration about how humans interact is nothing new. Since the time of Confucius, more
than two thousand years ago, people have behaved obnoxiously enough to warrant
Excuuuse me — must we be so rude?
Americans don’t often agree on many things, but when it comes to respect, people say
there’s less of it lately. Nearly eight in ten Americans (79 percent) say a lack of respect
and courtesy is a serious national problem, and most people say it’s getting worse (60
percent). Seventy-three percent say we used to treat one another with greater respect.
When asked if they felt that way because of “a false nostalgia for a past that never
existed,” only 21 percent said yes. The rest of us think that Americans’ attitude of
disrespect really is worse these days.
Rudeness in America
• 79 percent say lack of respect is a serious problem.
• 60 percent say rude and selfish behavior is increasing.
• 88 percent sometimes encounter rude people.
• 62 percent are bothered by rude behavior.
• 77 percent see clerks ignoring customers.
• 58 percent encounter aggressive drivers.
• 56 percent are bothered by foul language.
What has people feeling this way? The list is long and touches on almost every aspect of
daily life. Get cut off by someone on the highway? In a 2002 survey conducted by Public
Agenda, aggressive driving topped the list of “aggravating circumstances.” Fifty-eight
percent of survey respondents say they are confronted by reckless and aggressive drivers,
and nearly two-thirds believe it’s getting worse. One lady who ’fessed up to being
aggressive behind the wheel (and 35 percent admit they’re guilty of aggressive driving)
said the car was like a cocoon, separating you from the other drivers and providing a
sense of anonymity. It’s easy to act like a jerk when you feel no connection to the folks
Sideline screamers also made the list. Out-of-control parents at youth sports events who
shout at coaches, referees, and the kids are not just getting on the nerves of the person
being yelled at. In the Public Agenda survey, 71 percent of people who watch organized
sports for kids say they’ve seen sideline screamers, and two thirds are bothered by them.
Loud cell phone use, calls in inappropriate places, crude language on the Internet or in
conversation, surly staff at stores, and those interminable waits on customer “service”
lines at companies also ranked high on the list of aggravations.
What is respect?
What exactly is respect? Thanks to Aretha Franklin, we all know how to spell it. Her
strong, powerful rendition of the song “Respect” makes listeners sit a bit straighter, walk
a bit taller, and be a bit more self-assured. But Aretha singing about respect did
something more: it inspired us to expect respect from others.
The song was written by Otis Redding, but under Aretha its message took on a life of its
own. Jerry Wexler, who influenced the careers of stars like Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and
the Drifters, produced many of Franklin’s hits, including “Respect.” He told Rolling
Stone magazine the song was “global in its influence, with overtones of the civil-rights
movement and gender equality. It was an appeal for dignity.”
With Aretha Franklin at the microphone, the song “Respect” became an anthem for
anyone who’d felt diminished and disrespected — and there were plenty of them in 1967
when the song topped the charts. Listen carefully to the song, and you’ll hear that it is
really a command. You better find out what I consider respect to be.
Discover what someone else calls respect. That is the key to the Power of Respect. While
there are some generally agreed-upon ideas of what respect is, at its heart, the definition
of respect is different for everyone. In this book, you will discover ways to find out what
respect means to you and experience the Power of Respect in your own life.
The dictionary defines respect as “To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.” My
own definition after having spent so much time exploring respect is “Acknowledging the
value and uniqueness of others and being mindful of their feelings, while at the same time
trying to put myself in their position.”
The word itself comes from the Latin respectus, which means “regard.” Break it down
further — re-, meaning “back,” and specere, meaning “look at” — and we can understand
why respect is such a potent force. It all comes down to how you “look back at” yourself
Self-respect is a critical component of success. Your sense of self-respect is dictated by
how you “look back at” yourself and is largely determined by your sense of self-worth.
Am I reaching my potential? Am I living my life as I should? Am I pleased with the
choices I have made and the direction my life is taking? Am I caring for my health? Am I
nourishing my intellect? Am I where I want to be on my spiritual journey? These are
some of the default checks made when measuring your self-respect. Notice they all are
areas of your life over which you have control.
Respect is also about how others “look back at” us. We cannot control how others regard
us. We can only determine our standing among others by the cues we perceive. Am I
greeted with enthusiasm (or not at all)? Am I picked for the team? Is my opinion solicited
(and if so, acted upon)? Am I invited to the party? Am I being made to wait longer than
that other customer? Is my boss abrupt with me? We constantly ask these questions and
process our perceptions of daily interactions. These help us intuit where we rank in the
social hierarchy. The more intimate the relationship and the person’s impact on our life,
the more importance we attach to how we perceive his or her response.
Respect requires empathy, the capacity to anticipate and understand the feelings of
others. It requires consideration. It is letting the Golden Rule shape the way we interact.
It’s being mindful to see a situation from another’s perspective. When respect is given, it
communicates to the recipient of the respect that he is valued and important. That
unleashes the Power of Respect: the goodwill generated boomerangs back to the giver in
the form of loyalty, trust, and mutual respect.