What Does Respect Mean?

ANDREW’S REMARKS AT THE ALL-SCHOOL ASSEMBLY ON MARCH 6

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I have so enjoyed the opportunity to have our full school community gathered together once a month this year. I will admit, though, that since my most recent talk on kindness I have been a little nervous about this assembly.

We state four values in our mission statement – self-reliance, integrity, kindness, and respect. In thinking about those first three, I quickly saw a way to bring that value to life in a brief talk for all of you. For self-reliance, I spoke about carrying a canoe through the mud and mosquitoes of Maine. For integrity, I taught you the silly expression, “Never wear dirty underwear.” And, most recently, I spoke of “Dude. Be Kind” to explain that being cool and being kind are one and the same. Respect, though, has felt a lot tougher because it is a word that is said a lot and, I think, not thought about enough. That is why I chose to speak about it last – I have procrastinated. So what do I think about respect?

When looking for understanding and inspiration, I often turn to etymology, understanding where a word comes from. Respect, as to pieces to it: “re” means “back” or “to” and “spect” means “look.” To respect then is to look back. This makes sense to me because when I earn respect, I feel like I can look other people in the eye, and they will look back at me, and we will both feel good. When I earn respect, I can look myself in the mirror – a different kind of looking back – and feel good about myself and how I have acted. To respect is also to look to. Again, this helps me better understand how to earn respect. If I am acting in a way that others look to than I am earning respect.  To earn respect, I have to be someone who others emulate.

The nice thing about saving respect for last is that it brings our other three values together. If I act with integrity, kindness, and self-reliance, I will feel good as others look back to me. I will be acting as a role-model for others to emulate. Through integrity, kindness, and self-reliance, I earn respect.

As we move forward with our day and with the last months of our school year, I encourage you to think about looking back and looking to, to think about respect. If we all live the four values in our mission, we will all earn and show respect, and the Mount Tamalpais School community will be even stronger and happier than it already is.

Thank you for giving me the respect of your quiet attention. I hope I continue to earn it each and every day. Have a great Wednesday!

A brief video excerpt from the talk.