Respect

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

RESPECT: Denotes the regard and recognition of the absolute dignity that every human possesses. Specifically, respect indicates compassion for and consideration of others, including sensitivity to, and regard for, the feelings and needs of others.

The Value in Action

Before he joined Lambda Chi Alpha, Wade Ramsey (Southern Methodist 1975)attended high school in the small town of Monticello, Georgia, where he was a standout student and star quarterback of his high school football team. Like most towns and cities in the American South in the late 1960s, Monticello had a segregated education system — schools for whites and schools for blacks. Ramsey attended the all white high school. In 1969, the Monticello school board decided to consolidate the existing segregated schools into one new high school, which, from its inception, would be integrated. As you would expect, given the temper of the times, there was much trepidation about this plan, and townspeople, parents, and students, both black and white, feared the potential of increased racial tension and violence.

The new Monticello High School opened in the fall of 1970. That first day of class, a number of white students milled about outside the front doors of the school awaiting the arrival of buses carrying black students. As the buses pulled to the curb, Ramsey left the group of white students he was with and approached the first bus. The door opened, and a young black man, coincidentally a star on his high school football team, descended the steps. Ramsey stepped forward, smiled, extended his hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Wade Ramsey; welcome to Monticello High School.” The two shook hands, turned, and walked together into their new high school. The anticipation, tension, and fear had been broken by a simple, public demonstration of respect, a handshake between equals. There would be no racial violence at Monticello High School that day.

In February 2002, Ramsey lost a short, valiant battle to cancer. Half a world away, the supervisor of an Exxon offshore rig in the North Sea received a letter from home. The letter contained a newspaper clipping of Ramsey’s obituary and announced the time and place of his funeral. The supervisor was the black student Ramsey had befriended that first day of school at the new Monticello High. He immediately asked for, and was granted, an emergency leave of absence, boarded a company helicopter, and began a nonstop journey back to Monticello. He arrived at the funeral service still in his work uniform. When the pastor asked if anyone wished to share a remembrance of Ramsey, he rose and walked to the pulpit, and told the story you have just read. No one at the service, which included a number of Ramsey’s Lambda Chi Alpha brothers, had heard it before.

The Take Away

RESPECT: Treat people as they should be treated.

Of the Seven Core Values, two are considered to be bedrock values, absolutely essential. The first is honor, which we will consider later; the second is respect. While honor is the motivator for decisions and actions, respect guides our dealings with others. Respect for others forms the basis for the rule of law and goes to the very essence of what makes America and Canada great countries. Respect for others is part of why, at Lambda Chi Alpha, we abhor hazing in all of its forms. The value also serves to remind us that our people are our greatest resource and that their well-being, providing for their legitimate needs, is the top priority for Lambda Chi Alpha leaders at all levels. As a leader, how you treat other people is a powerful example, for better or worse, to those you are trying to influence. Ramsey was a leader, and as a leader, he saw opportunities to do good rather than reasons for inaction. His simple, but profound, act of respect set the example for others and defused a potentially dangerous situation. When you live the value of respect, as Wade Ramsey did, you have taken a further step toward completing your values foundation.

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