We watched the PBS documentary, Freedom Riders, with our fifth grade son over the past two days. I had not seen it before. It is a powerful look at a defining moment in American history. A look at the hundreds of civil rights activists who in 1961 challenged segregation in the South.
I believe it would be difficult to watch this documentary and not be inspired. It would be difficult to watch it and not have your faith in humanity restored. It awakened a hope for what is possible when people come together around a common vision and shared values, despite the fact that they might come from different parts of the country, different races, different religions, different political philosophies. Because when it all gets blended together in an atmosphere of respect – it is powerful.
“Even though we came from many different places and we had many different cultures and many different home environments,” Glenda Gaither Davis, one of the Freedom Rider recalled, “in some ways we were very much unified because we had a common cause and we were all moving in that direction.”
It made me think back to the moments spent with Bill Leider crafting the values for J.J. Grace and then for Vertis, Inc. The value that was held at J.J. Grace, we value mutual respect, was translated to “we value diversity” at Vertis. The intent of each was the same – to insure the blending together of different ideas, different backgrounds and cultures, and different motivations, to form something stronger, something better.
This morning I went back and re-read how we defined respect for that organization.
We value mutual respect: What we mean by mutual respect is learning to value each and every person for whom they are and not for what you would like them to be. It means seeing and respecting what is different and unique about every individual. It means finding positive value in our diversity and not just our sameness. It means learning from those differences for there is so much more to learn from people who are different from us than from those who are very much like us. It means respecting everyone’s perspective and point of view, especially when it is different from your own. Keep in mind that respecting is not the same as agreeing. You can hold on to your own views while still respecting those of others. Mutual respect means that we treat everyone with dignity – all the time – not just when we are in a good mood, or when things are going our way, or when we agree with them. All the time means all the time – no matter what! (The full explanation of how we intended to live this value can be found at, Your Values Are Your True Brand: Part 1)
This morning I find myself reminiscing a bit. I have fond memories of that time in my life. And I find myself hoping for an awakening of these values, not just in corporate America, but in the whole of American culture. We could use a bit of this right now.
“It was America. It was interracial. It was interregional. It was secular and religious,” historian, Raymond Arsenault said at the close of the documentary. “It brought together people of different political philosophies. There was a sense of unity and purpose that I’m not sure that the movement ever had before. It was a shining moment.” We can all use a few more shining moments.
Today, I’m renewing my commitment to live the values of respect and diversity. If you share these values, I invite you to join me.
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Featured photo: Creative Commons License by Sergei Tereschenko