Why Voting Matters

It’s not hard to craft a list of reasons why people in the U.S. would not want to vote. Our country’s political system has a tendency to alienate people with nonpartisan opinions, for instance. Many of us feel frustrated with our government’s processes, and helpless to take action or participate. Some of us become apathetic and feel like it’s easier to not get involved.

Lots of people experience these varying degrees of vexation over whether or not to venture down to the polls. In fact, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 219 million people in the United States who are eligible to vote – but only 57.5% of us voted in the 2012 Presidential election. The younger generation (also known as Millennials) are notorious for being the least likely to participate in elections, primarily because they are frustrated with the way the system operates. In fact, half of these young Americans do not affiliate themselves with a specific party, which is the highest percentage of disaffiliated citizens in history. As for the other age groups who are not voting? Many of them claim to be too busy to head to the polls. An additional 13% stated they were not interested in the candidates or their politics.

Beyond the lengthy – and often valid – reasons not to vote, what about the reasons we should?


Why Vote

So you’ve probably heard of how the Electoral College works, and maybe even cited it as a reason not to vote. Many people feel like this system is unfair and believe their votes won’t matter or count because of it. And for people who only come out to the polls every four years to vote in the huge presidential races then yes, it’s harder to see how voting Democratic in a predominantly Republican state might make a difference (though take note that President Obama was actually able to win the Democratic vote in 2008  for several states that had voted primarily Republican for years).  

But presidential races are not the only important elections we participate in. In fact, the President of the United States – while certainly a very important and powerful figure – doesn’t have as much governmental power as we often believe. If you think back to your Civics or Social Studies classes in schools, you’ll recall that there are three different branches of government designed to help distribute the power and keep one another in check.

With this in mind, think about all of those other elections that happen year-round. There are federal elections, of course, but there are also state and local elections as well.

When it comes to public officials and electing representatives, everything is connected. As a board member of the Missouri NAACP put it: “Who hires the police officers? The police chief. Who hires the police chief? The mayor. Who hires the mayor? Who elects the council folks?”

The answer boils down to the voters. And in certain cases, when a group of people is not being well-represented in government, it’s often because of a lack of voter representation. If you’re not voting for the people who align with your viewpoints and principles, then how will those viewpoints and principles be represented in government? And if you don’t start from the ground up – with local elections or state officials – then how can you expect the various branches of the government to help support whichever presidential candidate you want to vote in come November?


Do Your Part

“Voting matters. When voters don’t turn out to choose their local and state governments, they receive a government that doesn’t represent them.”

Frustration over larger-than-life government processes can be eased by participating in those processes. The more we all do our part and share our voices, the more we start to find other voices who are saying the same things. Do your part this election season and get out to vote. Make yourself heard!

Start by finding your closest polling location so you can take part in the way our country is run. And be sure to follow the Dignity & Respect #IVoteBecause initiative over the coming months – tell us why you vote!


Lead the Way with Inclusion

Inclusion is a difficult concept to quantify. How do we know if our efforts to include another person are successful? What does it take to make someone feel included? How might someone else perceive our attempts at inclusion?

These are perhaps some of the questions we ask ourselves when contemplating the possibility of initiating interactions with someone we might not know very well. These are also the questions that can lead us to do nothing at all when it comes to reaching out. And while these fears or insecurities are valid and can certainly be surmountable, perhaps the most worrisome aspect of inclusion is when we don’t realize we need to achieve it.

Say a new person at work has joined your company. You’ve been very proactive in introducing yourself to him, you say hello when you pass him in the halls, and the two of you have chatted in the office kitchen. You feel certain that you have done a good job of being friendly and making this new coworker feel included on the team. However, you and a couple other coworkers have a regular coffee run to the local cafe every afternoon. You don’t think to invite your new teammate because it’s a tradition that the three of you engage in regularly.

However, this new coworker happens to love the cafe you get coffee from and can’t help but feel slightly excluded at not receiving an invite. He doesn’t tell you this, nor does he feel brave enough to invite himself.


The Lack of Inclusion

Is the above example a very minor instance of lack of inclusion? Of course. But this lack of awareness about inclusion is also visible on a larger scale – say the controversies in Hollywood over neglecting to nominate people of color for the 2016 Oscars, or the consistency of all-male speaker lineups. Though no one can say whether these instances of exclusion are intentional, they are certainly present. And the first way to address a lack of inclusion is to be aware of it.


The Benefit of Inclusion

So once you begin to be aware of what inclusion truly looks like, you might wonder how does being proactive benefit you? Naturally, inclusion spreads kindness to another person or group of people, but what it also does is break us out of our own boxes.

Many times, we live in segmented existences, working alongside people who are like us. We form friendships with similar minded (and looking) people, and often our neighborhoods and families are filled with more people who are like ourselves. And while it’s important to feel comfortable and safe in our environments, we also can’t grow as much without challenges or diversity.

Including other people into your circle who are new and different works to break up this monotony, and also helps to build cultural awareness. With this in mind, it’s up to you to lead the way. Let your inclusion behavior light the way for others to follow. Be the one to invite that new coworker to your coffee runs with you, or to befriend someone from a different background than yours.


If everyone relied on other people to lead the way or start a movement, then nothing would get done. Don’t be afraid to take that first step. You might just make a bigger difference than you realize.



The Nuances of Treating Others with Respect

“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”

This definition comes straight from the New Oxford American Dictionary. It is accompanied with several other variations on the term, as well as a couple examples of its usage: The director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor.

When thinking of how to give respect to others, you might be familiar with the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” For the most part, this phrase rings true. When we think about the ways in which we would like others to treat us, it makes sense to model that same behavior. But the problem with this idea is that it misses a very important aspect of people, which is that not everyone is the same.

This is why, of the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s 30 Tips, Tip No.6 is crucial: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.

You can look respect up in the dictionary, or you can define what it means to you. But neither of these will serve as one-size-fits-all solutions to interacting with other people.

Consider this simple example: Wanda is relatively carefree. She doesn’t place a lot of stock in timeliness and usually runs around 15-20 minutes late to meetings, appointments, or social dates. When other people are late to appointments with her, she is very forgiving and nonchalant about it – it doesn’t bother her at all. However, her new friend, Deb, feels differently about her time and is offended when people are late. She holds herself to different standards than Wanda and makes it a point to be on time, if not 5 minutes early, to every meeting. She feels disrespected by Wanda when she repeatedly shows up late.

Is either of these women wrong in the way they perceive tardiness? What can be done to amend this dynamic?

How to Show Respect for All
When we learn how others view respectfulness, we can apply this knowledge to our own actions. If a friend does not care for physical affection, then refrain from embracing him or her when you get together. Knowing these nuances can create better relationships or better interactions in general.

Be observant when you engage with others. If you perceive a negative reaction from someone regarding something you’ve said or done, then make note not to repeat it around that person again. By far the best way to show respect to others is to communicate with them. Ask the hard or uncomfortable questions to truly learn how others prefer to be treated. Listen fully when people communicate back to you.

It does not require a great amount of effort to have an awareness of others or to try to communicate. But that little bit of effort can reap great rewards, and will help you do your part in creating a better world for ALL to live.

Start With You: Putting the Oxygen Mask On

You’re seated on a plane, waiting for takeoff. Your seatbelt is latched across your waist, your hands rest gently on the plastic arm supports, and your elbows are tucked in by your rib cage. The flight attendant is standing in the aisle with her collection of demonstration props and a voice emanates from the tiny speakers above.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin…”

The safety speech continues as the attendant before you gestures routinely. Your mind wanders and you peer around at the faces of the other passengers – your eyes flit out to land on the cold gray runway out the window to your left. The voice through the speakers keeps talking.

“To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head…”

Your attention returns to the flight attendant before you, donning a yellow plastic cup on her face. She delicately tugs the worn strings of the mask behind her hair in demonstration and something about this act strikes you as interesting as the speech continues.

“…secure your own mask first, before assisting other passengers.”

Whether you’ve heard this airplane spiel in person before, or maybe just seen it on television or in a movie, the concept of securing your own oxygen supply before helping someone else is certainly not new or ground-breaking. But what happens when we transfer this notion into our daily lives? Is it still straight-forward?

Believe it or not, taking care of yourself first can be a more difficult undertaking than meets the eye. Too often do we stretch ourselves too thin, take on too many commitments, and generally devote our time to others far more frequently than we devote time to ourselves. When this happens, we become overworked, stressed, and less empathetic to others. We become less able to muster up dignity and respect.

So be sure to start with you. Place the oxygen mask over your own mouth first and inhale – make sure you’re taking ample time to take care of yourself. Say no to invitations if you need a day of rest. Take time to stay fit and healthy. Take care of YOU so that you can take care of others.

Finding Common Ground: Intersectionality

When you think of identity, what comes to mind? How do you define yourself?

You could identify by your religion, for one. You could identify as either a man or woman (or both, or neither). You could identify by your race. You could identify by sexual preference or nationality or occupation. There are a multitude of ways any one person can label or define themselves, and chances are quite high that you actually affiliate with several of these categories –  that you see yourself as black AND heterosexual AND Christian AND a woman (for instance).

This notion of the “and” is often referred to as intersectionality, which is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. In the context of critical theory, intersectionality refers to the ways in which multiple institutions are oppressive to a person. Crenshaw used the analogy of traffic in her essay on the subject:   

“Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination.”

But even though intersectionality can mean there are multiple ways for a person to be oppressed, it can also mean there are multiple ways for a person to relate to someone else. For example, let’s say you are a heterosexual Christian woman meeting a heterosexual Muslim woman for the first time. Though at first glance, it may appear that you have zero commonalities between the two of you (you wear a small gold cross around your neck, she wears a dark hijab across her hair), if the two of you engaged in a conversation, it’s possible that you’d discover you are both around the same age, both married, and both the mother of two children. You might find that you both relate strongly to the experience of being a woman.

This is what the D&R initiative, Finding Common Ground, is all about. Everyone has multiple identities and instead of using them to separate ourselves, we should use them to search for similarities. Plus, knowing that everyone fits into several boxes at any given time makes it harder to judge a person for one particular characteristic.


So take time to think about how you identify – how you see yourself and how you’d like others to see you. Then look for different ways to see others. You might just be surprised.   

#LeadTheWay with Kindness

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”   -Ralph Waldo Emerson


In a world that seems to highlight conflict, violence, and tragedies over optimism and compassion, it becomes increasingly important to call attention to goodness when it is being spread. One such initiative is the unofficial holiday, Random Acts of Kindness Day, which typically falls on February 17th. Many organizations and groups in the past have actually promoted an entire week devoted to random acts of kindness, and developed resources to further that cause.  

But this year’s commemorative week looks a little different. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, one of the major organizations that usually leads the march on this endeavor, seems to have a different call to action brewing. Go to their homepage and instead of finding resources or information about how to participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week, you’ll find a massive bright orange banner that reads:  


“Let’s make 2016 the year of kindness.”


So instead of only promoting acts of kindness for one week or one day out of the year, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation seems to have focused their efforts on spreading thoughtfulness and love into all 365 days of the calendar year. As part of their mission, they are also promoting RAKtivists, or Random Acts of Kindness activists, to help develop a compassionate global community – which we feel is truly the ultimate example of a Lead the Way initiative.

At Dignity & Respect, Inc., we are excited by efforts that promote empathy and spread inclusion. Even though we support and celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, we too believe that kindness should be a constant effort.


What Kindness Can Do

It’s true that we believe the spread of kindness and overall respect can make the world a better place for us all to live – but being kind to others can also serve our own overall wellness. In fact, performing acts of generosity has been proven to reduce the effects of stress. Some research has even been the impetus for physicians to recommend volunteer work to their patients as a way to increase health.

So where does one start? Spreading kindness can be as simple as buying a coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. It can be as involved as making a commitment to donate time volunteering with a local nonprofit. It can be as easy as smiling at everyone you pass for an entire day – or a whole week. However you choose to incorporate kindness into your daily life, know how important it is. Know that you are playing your part to #LeadTheWay.

D&R Solutions: Training

For many of us, treating others with dignity and respect might sound like  common sense, but how effective are we at actually putting it into practice? If someone were to ask if you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, you would likely respond with a definitive answer – of course you do!

But if someone were to ask you if you treat others with dignity and respect, how would you respond? Would you be hesitant to answer with an unwavering ‘yes’? Would you say yes, for the most part – or yes, but it depends?

Although we tend to have conviction about wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, we are often inconsistent in treating others with such. This is where the Dignity & Respect Campaign comes in. As one of our initiatives, D&R, Inc. offers Solutions in the form of both Educational and Training programs, Collateral, and even Speaking Engagements for events.


What is D&R Training?

Our specialized Training programs are based on the 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect. They are broken down into modules for each pillar of behavior, and each module builds on the previous module(s). We present these materials in two formats: online segments that can be completed individually, as well as facilitated workshops for groups.

In addition to the 7 modules, the D&R Training programs are also divided into sections for Individuals, Teams, and Organizations. By using this method, we can help instill these fundamental behaviors into individuals, who will bring them into their teams. It is the attitudes and actions of both individuals and teams that create an organization’s culture.


What Can You Gain from Training?  

D&R Training makes a difference in the dynamics of both teams and organizations by improving how they work effectively with one another. Additionally, these modules help to build and increase cultural awareness, as well as the ability to find common ground amongst various groups of people. When dignity and respect are talked about and worked on through team efforts, it helps to create a sense of inclusion.  

So while it’s a nice idea to state that one stands for dignity and respect, it is another thing entirely to commit to achieving these notions – and incorporating them into lifestyles and cultures. Let us help you achieve this. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.


The 30 Tips of Dignity & Respect

Every day, you wake up with a choice. When you leave your home to go out into the world, you can either operate on autopilot – reacting haphazardly to interactions with others, or avoiding them altogether – or you can be mindful of your behavior and how it’s affecting other people.

Each one of us makes this choice every day – many times a day – though we may not consciously know it. But what if you started paying attention to your habits and committed to treating everyone you encounter with dignity and respect?

This is what the 30 Tips of Dignity & Respect aims to do. These simple tips are everyday behaviors that you can easily incorporate into your life – that will make a world of difference to those around you.


So read the list and follow the tips, and learn how to start making the world a better place for ALL to live:

  1. Start with you. Reflect on how you see others, and how others see you.
  2. Sweat the small stuff. It’s often the small things, such as being kind and courteous, that make a difference.
  3. Smile. A smile can be contagious.
  4. Say “Hello.” You could make someone’s day.
  5. Say “Thank you.” Gratitude is a gift that’s never too small to give.
  6. Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.
  7. Build cultural awareness. Differences are barriers only if we allow them to be.
  8. Make a new friend. Start a conversation and learn something new.
  9. Demonstrate mutual respect. Inclusion means being respectful regardless of position or title.
  10. Ask. It’s okay to ask when you’re not sure.
  11. Find common ground. Discover what you have in common.
  12. Communicate respectfully. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
  13. Practice patience. Take the time to get the full story.
  14. Seek understanding. It’s better to not fully understand than to fully misunderstand.
  15. Share your point of view. Everyone has a perspective. Let others benefit from yours.
  16. Get someone else’s point of view. After sharing your perspective, give others a chance to share theirs.
  17. Reinvent the wheel. Do something that hasn’t already been done.
  18. Be open. Try to experience new thoughts and ideas as learning opportunities.
  19. Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. Adapt to changing conditions when necessary.
  20. Join the team. Do your part to support teamwork.
  21. Be a relationship builder. Seek ways to expand your network.
  22. Build trust. Be fair. Limit bias and favoritism.
  23. Lead the way. Let your inclusive behavior light a path for others.
  24. Listen. People feel respected when they know you’re listening to their point of view.
  25. Remember we all make mistakes. Resist the urge to point out the ones others make.
  26. Do the right thing. Make a difference. Get caught being good.
  27. Become a mentor. You – yes, you – can help others realize their potential.
  28. Lend a hand. A little help can go a long way.
  29. Live a healthy life. Do something good for your mind, body, & soul. Encourage others to join you.
  30. Be a champion of dignity and respect. Demonstrate respect for self, others, and your community.



The 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect


Even with the relaunch of the Dignity & Respect Campaign, coupled with our new energy and direction, it would be remiss to move forward without acknowledging and reminding ourselves of what the campaign stands for in the first place.

One of our original and continued initiatives includes our 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect. Each one of these pillars represents a specific behavior that we fully believe will help us all create an environment – whether it’s a classroom, a work setting, or even in the line at the supermarket – that we can all exist in both peacefully and productively.

1.  Start with You. Understand how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your filters guide you, and influence your behavior.

We all have different backgrounds and vastly different experiences from one another. These experiences have shaped how you have come to see the world, as well as how you react to certain situations. Knowing these factors about yourself can go a long way in your ability to interact with others, and treat them with dignity and respect. Know your strengths as well as you know your weaknesses. Understand what has made you you

2.  Sweat the Small Stuff. Understand the concepts of intent vs. impact. Become mindful of how you respond to others and be responsible for your words and actions.

Once you fully understand yourself, it’s crucial to know how others might perceive you. Does your humor upset others around you? Do you find yourself making jokes or casual comments that cause others to wince? This type of “harmless” behavior might not mean much to you, but often it can resonate with other people in deeper ways. Be sensitive to others and aware of your own actions. Hold yourself accountable.

3.  Build Cultural Awareness. Respond to employees, customers, and business partners in a culturally appropriate manner. Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Cultural awareness does not simply involve learning about other cultures or belief systems. Building cultural awareness means you work towards accepting those differences. By understanding these differences and welcoming them into your communities or circles, we start to drop the barriers.   

4.  Find Common Ground. Work through differences and gain agreement while maintaining dignity and respect. Acknowledge the value of different perspectives.

Yes, it’s true that you might not understand another person’s opinion, and you might strongly disagree with it. But does that mean you disagree with that person entirely? Chances are very high that you have something in common with him or her. It could be a small thing (perhaps you both have children), or it could be something you didn’t expect (perhaps you have the same favorite author). Or maybe you and this person share a common passion that could spark a collaboration or partnership down the road. You won’t ever know until you try – until you set aside differences and look for the commonalities.

5.  Join the Team. Create interactions on teams that are respectful of individual differences, build trust and agreement, limit bias and favoritism, and strive for the best overall outcomes.

Teams do not function at full capacity unless everyone is involved. Just as two heads are better than one, a team or group in which everyone is engaged and contributing is better than one or two individuals excluding the rest. It’s true that these types of interactions can be difficult to cultivate, which is why it takes everyone’s effort to involve others. Work to find the strengths of your teammates, and figure out the best ways to encourage and inspire each member.  

6.  Lead the Way. Be inclusive with every person, in every interaction, in everything you do, every day.

If each one of us waited for someone else to step up and be the first to lead an initiative, how many initiatives do you expect would get started? The truth is that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take charge and make an impact. This impact can be as small as an effort to smile at everyone you pass on the street.

7.  Do the Right Thing. Do your part to make your organization, school, community, and sports team a better place for ALL to live, work, learn, and play.

Don’t do the easy thing – do the right thing. We all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t underestimate yourself or how much acting out of dignity and respect can impact the world.


In addition to knowing what each of these 7 Pillars stands for, the Dignity & Respect Campaign also offers modules and training materials for you to incorporate these principles into your own organization. Contact us for more information, and take the first step in making the world a better place for ALL to live.




ViewPoints: A New D&R Initiative

The recent successes of identity driven political campaigns, and their strategic use of divisive rhetoric has exacerbated an already overly hostile debate space in the United States. Identity politics differ from ideological versions in the ways citizens group themselves. Identity based political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific group at the expense of another. Examples of this could be the organization of the conservative bloc around pro-life legislation or liberals with same sex marriage. Emotions around these types of topics run deep and when they become primary political drivers our ability to have civil discourse suffers.   


Why Has This Happened?

In 1968, nearly 80% of Americans* watched nightly broadcast news. At that point in time, these networks were sharing information that aimed to appear as unbiased as possible*  so as not to alienate any viewers. Over time though, cable news networks that cater only to smaller slices of the opinion spectrum began to crop up, which created a phenomenon of intensified media bias. Partisan Internet news outlets have only added to this increase and have corralled citizens into separate corners of conversation.

As a result, we tend to witness groups of thinkers who typically only engage in debates with one another, and who view outside opinions as wrong or antagonistic. This is particularly true within the political system itself, a space in which the common practice of gerrymandering determines how the congressional districts are mapped out. In fact, 90% of these districts are so rigged that the winning political party has already been decided before votes are even cast. These once-vibrant settings for debate and discussion are now just cocoons that insulate the different parties from one another.


How Does D&R Plan to Change This?

It is because of this current state of debate that the Dignity & Respect Campaign has developed an alternative type of conversation space. We call this unique initiative Viewpoints – and it will differ from the current debate panels and news shows because our approach incorporates real people into the discussion, rather than figureheads. We want to showcase the similarities between our participants, in addition to their differences, so you – our readers – can see firsthand that everyone has precisely the same goal: to make a difference. Instead of viewing those with opposing opinions as enemies to be beaten or converted, we should view them as potential collaborators.

We will begin our Viewpoints series with a month-long conversation about the state of conversation. We will discuss how we can start to appreciate the diversity of thought in our nation, and hopefully discuss ways to increase respect for one another in our interactions. Once dignity and respect are incorporated into debate, we will have the ability to find merit in the opinions of others. We can begin building solutions to the many complex issues we face by combining ideas from all schools of thought.


The climate of discussion in America does not need to persist in its current partisan and harmful manner. Your neighbor is not your enemy if he or she does not agree with you, and we should not overlook the good intentions behind every opinion. Remember, we are all in this together.

*Taken from the film: Best of Enemies. Dir. Morgan Neville and Robert Gordan. Magnolia Pictures, 2015. DVD.