In honor or Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, 2017, I am posting this excerpt from Resetting Respect. Respect was a key factor in all their lives.


 Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and first black president of South Africa.

The other evening I watched Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s 2009 movie in which Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, who was elected to that position in 1994. Previously Mandela had spent 27 years as a political prisoner for opposing South Africa’s white minority government and it’s policy of apartheid.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and was very impressed by Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela. I was struck by the self-respect that Freeman’s Mandela exuded, a self-respect that allowed him to interact comfortably with blacks and whites alike, a self-respect that allowed him to be a comfortable man among the people as well as a strong authority figure. I wondered if this was Freeman’s idea of Mandela, or whether the real Mandela conveyed that same self-respect and comfort with himself. So I Googled and YouTubed “Mandela,” and sure enough. The video clips of him over the years showed a man comfortable with himself and with others, a man with considerable self-respect and pride as well as respect for all those around him.

As I was reading about Nelson Mandela, the names Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., came up repeatedly. I searched for film clips of Gandhi and King, and they, too, each exhibited a similar presence, a similar sense of self-respect.

As I browsed from site to site, I was struck by several similarities in the lives of these great men. All three were key leaders of civil rights movements in their respective countries. All three were advocates of nonviolent civil disobedience as the best way for their people to obtain civil rights and freedom. All three were nominated for or awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And all three are among the most respected and revered leaders of the 20th Century.

I was curious about how these three men came to be the men they were, with their similar beliefs and strengths and self-respect, and whether there were similarities in their early lives that had influenced who they became. I spent some more time researching Gandhi, Mandela, and King, Jr., and found a pattern that ran among the early lives of all three. They were born into middle-class families that emphasized religion and morality. They were raised with a sense of self-worth and pride. As young men they all experienced affronts to their dignity. And then, throughout their lives, they worked tirelessly for and won respect and civil rights for their people.  

There were many takeaways for me from my brief immersion in and study of these three impressive lives. Respect begets respect. A healthy self-respect leads to valuing and hence respect for others. An early environment of respect, self-worth, and morality can lead to a lifelong attitude and style. A respectful approach to people and problems can change the world!


Cliff Schecter’s 2014 article from Moyers & company suggests 5 excellent ways ordinary citizens can have an impact on gun violence.  I encourage you to read the article and do what you can.

But I also suggest a 6th way all of us, regardless of political affiliation or position on the issue of gun violence, can have an impact.  I suggest we all need to breathe deeply and reset our respect attitude.  We all need to look for and nurture the value in every person we encounter.  The sweet little child across the street.  The difficult bagger at the grocery. The aggressive driver in our trunk.  The grouchy neighbor next door.

What would that do?

1) Every person would be valued and supported and less inclined to turn to violence for attention or validation.

2)  By paying better attention to all those around us, we would likely identify those in great need of help before they turned to violence.

3) The very difficult subject of gun violence could be discussed rationally by all sides of the topic, and an acceptable resolution reached.

4) The big picture of mental health/mental illness would not get lost in the debate and could actually be addressed.

5) The polarization in this country would be significantly reduced and we could approach and solve other divisive issues as well.

As I said in Resetting Respect, being respectful to all people, ideas and things seems simple.  It IS simple.  And profound.  It only requires an attitude adjustment, a shift from, “Show me,” to “You are valuable.”  We can start slowly and build the habit.  It is contagious — respect begets respect.  There is no penalty for slip-ups other than the status quo.  Respect doesn’t hurt anyone or anything.  It doesn’t cost anything other than a little mental effort to establish the habit.  Worst case scenario is that by living respectfully we lower our collective stress level.  Best case scenario is that respect becomes the norm and much of the rancor and posturing and pain and hatred in our society are eliminated. Then we, as individuals, as a society, and as a world can begin to address the major problems confronting us with a real chance to do something about them.  In fact, our respectful attitudes will already have begun the process!




In his address to the Congress of the United States on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis expressed great respect for the American people in the way he discussed what he values about us.  That was especially clear as he described how Abraham Lincoln fought for liberty, Martin Luther King, Jr., struggled for equal rights for all, Dorothy Day worked for social justice for everyone, and Thomas Merton promoted discussion and peace between peoples and religions.  But then, as Pope Francis elaborated on the efforts and ideas of those four representative Americans, he challenged the Congress, and he challenged each and every American, to live up to those role models, to apply what we can learn from their examples to the many crises facing our world today:  poverty and income inequality; immigration; heightened racial and religious tensions;  global warming. He acknowledged our value, and then challenged us to live up to that inherent value, to the beliefs that we hold.  And he told us he was confident we could do it.  Then, from the porch of the United States Capitol, he asked for the prayers and well-wishes of the thousands before him, an acknowledgment of the value of each person in the throng. What a wonderful and, I hope and suspect, effective example of respect Pope Francis has given us.


I must admit that while I was watching the first 2016 GOP debate live, I was focusing on my “sense of” the candidates, appraising their tactics, and musing on the intentions of the journalists.  It was when I recently watched the debate a second time (and I will admit I didn’t get to see it all), that I noticed some respect takeaways:

“We need to stop worrying about being loved and start worrying about being respected,” opined Governor Chris Christie about international relations.

“We need to give everybody the chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have,” Governor John Kasich said, after having offered that while he does not agree with same-sex marriage, the court has ruled and he accepts it.

And Donald Trump.  He seems to confuse political correctness with respect and civility, and lowers the bar on behavior to the detriment of us all.  A more respectful Trump could help us know his policy positions rather than leaving us simply to respond, positively or negatively, to his style. A more respectful Trump might inspire the picture of a more presidential Trump rather than the bombastic incident-inciter he currently seems.  A more respectful Trump might help us decide whether his campaign is truly for real or just for his own amusement and gratification.



In this TED talk, Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, a noted authority in the field of sustainable economic development, mentions reading “Small is Beautiful” by E. F. Schumacher.   He comments on how the author significantly influenced his thinking on economic development with Schumacher’s assertion that “if people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone. This should be the first principle of aid. The first principle of aid is respect.”

I’m not sure whether Schumacher meant for respect to be the first principle only of economic development, but it seems to me the idea works with virtually any kind of aid.

Subtitles and Transcript

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Transcribed by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

0:16  Everything I do, and everything I do professionally — my life — has been shaped by seven years of work as a young man in Africa. From 1971 to 1977 — I look young, but I’m not — (Laughter) — I worked in Zambia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Somalia, in projects of technical cooperation with African countries.

0:46  I worked for an Italian NGO, and every single project that we set up in Africa failed. And I was distraught. I thought, age 21, that we Italians were good people and we were doing good work in Africa. Instead, everything we touched we killed.

1:17  Our first project, the one that has inspired my first book, “Ripples from the Zambezi,” was a project where we Italians decided to teach Zambian people how to grow food. So we arrived there with Italian seeds in southern Zambia in this absolutely magnificent valley going down to the Zambezi River, and we taught the local people how to grow Italian tomatoes and zucchini and … And of course the local people had absolutely no interest in doing that, so we paid them to come and work, and sometimes they would show up. (Laughter) And we were amazed that the local people, in such a fertile valley, would not have any agriculture. But instead of asking them how come they were not growing anything, we simply said, “Thank God we’re here.” (Laughter) “Just in the nick of time to save the Zambian people from starvation.”

2:18  And of course, everything in Africa grew beautifully. We had these magnificent tomatoes. In Italy, a tomato would grow to this size. In Zambia, to this size. And we could not believe, and we were telling the Zambians, “Look how easy agriculture is.” When the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, overnight, some 200 hippos came out from the river and they ate everything. (Laughter)

2:43  And we said to the Zambians, “My God, the hippos!”

2:48  And the Zambians said, “Yes, that’s why we have no agriculture here.” (Laughter)

2:54  “Why didn’t you tell us?””You never asked.”

3:00  I thought it was only us Italians blundering around Africa, but then I saw what the Americans were doing,what the English were doing, what the French were doing, and after seeing what they were doing, I became quite proud of our project in Zambia. Because, you see, at least we fed the hippos.

3:21  You should see the rubbish — (Applause) — You should see the rubbish that we have bestowed on unsuspecting African people. You want to read the book, read “Dead Aid,” by Dambisa Moyo, Zambian woman economist. The book was published in 2009. We Western donor countries have given the African continent two trillion American dollars in the last 50 years. I’m not going to tell you the damage that that money has done. Just go and read her book. Read it from an African woman, the damage that we have done.

4:06  We Western people are imperialist, colonialist missionaries, and there are only two ways we deal with people: We either patronize them, or we are paternalistic. The two words come from the Latin root “pater,” which means “father.” But they mean two different things. Paternalistic, I treat anybody from a different culture as if they were my children. “I love you so much.” Patronizing, I treat everybody from another culture as if they were my servants. That’s why the white people in Africa are called “bwana,” boss.

4:51  I was given a slap in the face reading a book, “Small is Beautiful,” written by Schumacher, who said,above all in economic development, if people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone. This should be the first principle of aid. The first principle of aid is respect. This morning, the gentleman who opened this conference lay a stick on the floor, and said, “Can we — can you imagine a city that is not neocolonial?”

5:28  I decided when I was 27 years old to only respond to people, and I invented a system called Enterprise Facilitation, where you never initiate anything, you never motivate anybody, but you become a servant of the local passion, the servant of local people who have a dream to become a better person. So what you do — you shut up. You never arrive in a community with any ideas, and you sit with the local people. We don’t work from offices. We meet at the cafe. We meet at the pub. We have zero infrastructure. And what we do, we become friends, and we find out what that person wants to do.

6:26  The most important thing is passion. You can give somebody an idea. If that person doesn’t want to do it, what are you going to do? The passion that the person has for her own growth is the most important thing. The passion that that man has for his own personal growth is the most important thing. And then we help them to go and find the knowledge, because nobody in the world can succeed alone. The person with the idea may not have the knowledge, but the knowledge is available.

7:02  So years and years ago, I had this idea: Why don’t we, for once, instead of arriving in the community to tell people what to do, why don’t, for once, listen to them? But not in community meetings.

7:19  Let me tell you a secret. There is a problem with community meetings. Entrepreneurs never come, and they never tell you, in a public meeting, what they want to do with their own money, what opportunity they have identified. So planning has this blind spot. The smartest people in your community you don’t even know, because they don’t come to your public meetings.

8:00  What we do, we work one-on-one, and to work one-on-one, you have to create a social infrastructure that doesn’t exist. You have to create a new profession. The profession is the family doctor of enterprise,the family doctor of business, who sits with you in your house, at your kitchen table, at the cafe, and helps you find the resources to transform your passion into a way to make a living.

8:29  I started this as a tryout in Esperance, in Western Australia. I was a doing a Ph.D. at the time, trying to go away from this patronizing bullshit that we arrive and tell you what to do. And so what I did in Esperance that first year was to just walk the streets, and in three days I had my first client, and I helped this first guywho was smoking fish from a garage, was a Maori guy, and I helped him to sell to the restaurant in Perth,to get organized, and then the fishermen came to me to say, “You the guy who helped Maori? Can you help us?” And I helped these five fishermen to work together and get this beautiful tuna not to the cannery in Albany for 60 cents a kilo, but we found a way to take the fish for sushi to Japan for 15 dollars a kilo, and the farmers came to talk to me, said, “Hey, you helped them. Can you help us?” In a year, I had 27 projects going on, and the government came to see me to say, “How can you do that? How can you do — ?” And I said, “I do something very, very, very difficult. I shut up, and listen to them.” (Laughter)

9:48  So — (Applause) — So the government says, “Do it again.” (Laughter) We’ve done it in 300 communities around the world. We have helped to start 40,000 businesses. There is a new generation of entrepreneurswho are dying of solitude.

10:12  Peter Drucker, one of the greatest management consultants in history, died age 96, a few years ago.Peter Drucker was a professor of philosophy before becoming involved in business, and this is what Peter Drucker says: “Planning is actually incompatible with an entrepreneurial society and economy.”Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship.

10:45  So now you’re rebuilding Christchurch without knowing what the smartest people in Christchurch want to do with their own money and their own energy. You have to learn how to get these people to come and talk to you. You have to offer them confidentiality, privacy, you have to be fantastic at helping them, and then they will come, and they will come in droves. In a community of 10,000 people, we get 200 clients.Can you imagine a community of 400,000 people, the intelligence and the passion? Which presentation have you applauded the most this morning? Local, passionate people. That’s who you have applauded.

11:32  So what I’m saying is that entrepreneurship is where it’s at. We are at the end of the first industrial revolution — nonrenewable fossil fuels, manufacturing — and all of a sudden, we have systems which are not sustainable. The internal combustion engine is not sustainable. Freon way of maintaining things is not sustainable. What we have to look at is at how we feed, cure, educate, transport, communicate for seven billion people in a sustainable way. The technologies do not exist to do that. Who is going to invent the technology for the green revolution? Universities? Forget about it! Government? Forget about it! It will be entrepreneurs, and they’re doing it now.

12:31  There’s a lovely story that I read in a futurist magazine many, many years ago. There was a group of experts who were invited to discuss the future of the city of New York in 1860. And in 1860, this group of people came together, and they all speculated about what would happen to the city of New York in 100 years, and the conclusion was unanimous: The city of New York would not exist in 100 years. Why? Because they looked at the curve and said, if the population keeps growing at this rate, to move the population of New York around, they would have needed six million horses, and the manure created by six million horses would be impossible to deal with. They were already drowning in manure. (Laughter) So 1860, they are seeing this dirty technology that is going to choke the life out of New York.

13:29  So what happens? In 40 years’ time, in the year 1900, in the United States of America, there were 1,001car manufacturing companies — 1,001. The idea of finding a different technology had absolutely taken over, and there were tiny, tiny little factories in backwaters. Dearborn, Michigan. Henry Ford.

14:01  However, there is a secret to work with entrepreneurs. First, you have to offer them confidentiality.Otherwise they don’t come and talk to you. Then you have to offer them absolute, dedicated, passionate service to them. And then you have to tell them the truth about entrepreneurship. The smallest company, the biggest company, has to be capable of doing three things beautifully: The product that you want to sell has to be fantastic, you have to have fantastic marketing, and you have to have tremendous financial management. Guess what? We have never met a single human being in the world who can make it, sell it and look after the money. It doesn’t exist. This person has never been born. We’ve done the research, and we have looked at the 100 iconic companies of the world — Carnegie, Westinghouse, Edison, Ford,all the new companies, Google, Yahoo. There’s only one thing that all the successful companies in the world have in common, only one: None were started by one person. Now we teach entrepreneurship to 16-year-olds in Northumberland, and we start the class by giving them the first two pages of Richard Branson’s autobiography, and the task of the 16-year-olds is to underline, in the first two pages of Richard Branson’s autobiography how many times Richard uses the word “I” and how many times he uses the word “we.” Never the word “I,” and the word “we” 32 times. He wasn’t alone when he started.Nobody started a company alone. No one. So we can create the community where we have facilitators who come from a small business background sitting in cafes, in bars, and your dedicated buddies who will do to you, what somebody did for this gentleman who talks about this epic, somebody who will say to you, “What do you need? What can you do? Can you make it? Okay, can you sell it? Can you look after the money?” “Oh, no, I cannot do this.””Would you like me to find you somebody?” We activate communities. We have groups of volunteers supporting the Enterprise Facilitator to help you to find resources and people and we have discovered that the miracle of the intelligence of local people is suchthat you can change the culture and the economy of this community just by capturing the passion, the energy and imagination of your own people.

16:57  Thank you. (Applause)

Thanks to TED Talks


There was an incident partially captured on video between an Oregon Ducks fan and the police at the 2014 Pac Twelve Championship Football Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, recently. The person who had recorded the incident said that the main subject was attending the game with his son and was going down the wrong aisle, at which time the police became involved. The video was removed from the internet shortly after I viewed it, but as I remember it the man was not cooperating with the police but also was not violent or apparently threatening to the police, who were pushing him, hitting him with some kind of club or night stick until it broke, attempting to use a choke hold on him, and finally getting him to the ground and into some kind of restraining jacket. The small crowd surrounding the altercation was clearly on the man’s side, ultimately chanting something like, “He’s not resisting! He’s not resisting!” What was not captured by the video was how the whole incident had begun, or where.

In light of recent events in the news, grand juries handing down no indictments in the killings of two young black men by white police officers, and the killing by a white policeman of a black 12-year-old brandishing a fake gun, this incident raises further questions about police use of force when dealing with the public. What is different about this situation is that none of those involved was black. The Ducks fan was white, several of the police officers were also white, one may have been Asian and one HIspanic, I couldn’t be sure as I could not see them all clearly.

I don’t know if the Ducks fan had acted threateningly or dangerously when the incident began or had mouthed off to the police.  I don’t know if the police were justified in what appeared to be an unnecessarily rough handling of the situation or not.  I do know that the incident needs to be thoroughly and fairly investigated.

I also do know that the comments that were posted in reaction to viewing the recording of the incident were appalling! There were very clearly 2 camps of viewers: those who can’t stand the police and think that a police state is just around the corner with police brutality in store for us all, and those who think that anyone who doesn’t immediately acquiesce  to the police without asking why they’re being asked to do whatever is a drunken thug. The conversation, if one is willing to call it that, was laced with obscenities on both sides and devolved into heated name-calling and character assassination back and forth among the “conversationalists.”

It was clear to me that without seeing what had initiated the interaction on the video, without seeing what the Ducks fan had initially done, how he had responded to the police, and whether he had appeared menacing or threatening, it was impossible to determine whether the police had justifiably been concerned for their safety and the safety of others at the event, or whether they had truly overreacted and been overly aggressive in their treatment of the Ducks fan. But those commenting on the video didn’t seem to need to know any of that. They already had a strong point of view, applied that point of view to the situation, and then went on to castigate anyone who didn’t agree with them.  They showed an utter lack of respect for the truth of the situation, as well as a lack of respect for anyone who might dare to disagree with them.

This lack of respect for the truth of a situation is as disturbing as it is prevalent, especially on the internet.  It may be due to the anonymity the internet can provide, it may be due to the gaping philosophical and political divide that exists today.  It’s probably due to both. But it’s intellectually lazy. It’s self-absorbed, evidencing no empathy for or interest in further information or any other point of view. And it’s dangerous, because a citizenry that doesn’t seek for and demand the truth can be easily duped by those that would mislead it.


Yesterday was election day. I had the radio on almost all day as I went about my chores, went for a walk, ran some errands, and basically waited for returns to begin coming in and election parties to open. I was anxious to learn what the next two years were going to look like — locally, statewide, and nationally. I heard a lot of prognosticating, a lot of hypothesizing, a lot of hope and fear and nervous laughter.  Some of the commentary provided good background for many of the day’s races, much of it was rehash and pretty tedious.

My favorite story of the day, however, was one I heard fairly early in the morning. It was about student poll workers in San Francisco. Students from many of the high schools in The City had applied and been accepted to the High School Poll Worker program which allowed them to work at the election polls, earn extra money, gain civic experience, in some cases earn extra credit for a class or fulfill required volunteer hours, and even act as translators.

Just on the surface it’s such a smart program! There’s nothing better at building interest and enthusiasm than getting kids working at real jobs where they are needed and valued and accomplishing something. What was even more powerful, however, was to hear the excitement in the voices of the several high school poll workers interviewed for the story. They were all immigrant kids who were thrilled to get a bird’s eye view of the voting process in this country, and they were awestruck by the democratic process in the United States and its availability to all citizens. They exuded respect for our system of government and all expressed an interest in pursuing careers in politics or public policy. And they liked helping people. Doesn’t get much better than that — for them, or for the future of this country.

Then this morning I picked up the San Jose Mercury News and saw an article entitled, “Students help out at polls.” The article was about students in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting of a young black man by a white policeman several months earlier had caused weeks of civil unrest. In past years only a handful of students had responded to a request from the St. Louis County Election Board for student volunteers, but this year 26 were participating. A civics teacher noted that the summer’s events had prompted a heightened interest in the election process and students were taking advantage of an opportunity to participate in that process in an effort to make their voices heard. Again, these Ferguson students exhibited a respect for the system, as well as respect for themselves that allowed them to recognize their right and ability to be heard in and work within the system.

We hear so much about low voter turnout, especially among the youth of this nation. I’m so glad to have heard this part of the story, the part that tells of students not only wanting to vote but also wanting to participate in the system, and would like to encourage more of just this kind of activity. It clearly helps our young people see just how interesting and important the political process of this country is, as well as understand they can actually have an impact on that political process, that that process is worthy of respect, and that one can work within the process respectfully.