With so much divisiveness in our sociey today, efforts such as the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative are more needed than ever.
For those unfamiliar wih the effort, here's some background:
In 2000 the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, the Orangeburg County Development Commission and The Times and Democrat in the effort to build a “Community of Character.”
The initiative was based on a similar program in Aiken. In Orangeburg County, however, there was the ambitious approach of going county-wide with a focus on building positive character traits among citizens. It worked, with all of the county’s municipalities signing on in support.
Orangeburg County’s efforts received statewide recognition in the form of resolutions from former Govs. Jim Hodges and Mark Sanford.
In September 2005, Orangeburg County was host for the first statewide Community of Character Conference, an event at which people from other locales came together here to learn more about the local effort and assist it. A second conference was held in 2009.
A primary goal of the effort is teaching basic virtues and ideals. One way of doing so is emphasis on a monthly character trait. For August, the trait is respect -- something it's safe to say is all too often lacking today, not only locally but seemingly everywhere.
The late Austin Cunningham was a Community of Character champion. We've adapted his words about respect.
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What a wonderful world this would be if we all practiced respect, all the time. If adults did. If children were taught respect. How much smoother life’s path.
All parents out there: Do you raise your children in an atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect and you all live together in that manner?
What does the word respect mean? Well, it means, for example, that children don’t interrupt elders when they’re talking together. It means that adults listen patiently and lovingly to young people’s ideas and discuss them pro and con. Where civil dialogue is encouraged. Where people include everybody and talk to each other. Where property is respected and where no one throws junk or litter in the house or on sidewalks or roadways.
Respect shows in your demeanor, in your consideration of the feelings of others. Where you honor people and their ideas, look up to them — your teachers most especially. You become civil, gracious; you show esteem for the estimable. You have good manners and deportment; pay attention to, accommodate; are attentive and appreciative; display your high opinion when it’s deserved; put people on a pedestal. Respect means courtesy, thoughtfulness.
You thank people. Bosses praise good work. For some this could be a whole new way of life, but what a difference for the better it would make.
Shakespeare wrote of “my own country … with a respect more tender, more profound than mine own life.”
“It is a better to bind your children to you by a feeling of respect than by fear.” (Adelphi).
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”
“But most of all, respect yourselves.” (Pythagorus - 6th century B.C.)