Lessons of Respect

By | July 17, 2017

[July 17, 2017]  My mother used to tell me to learn all I could about history because “its value far exceeds its fun factor.”  That was her way of acknowledging that the topic of history was probably boring to a child but its importance to me as a man was high.  My first recollection of this came up in my education on the Golden Rule and treating others with the respect they deserved.

I grew up with Korean War veterans who were young men recently returned from the war.  Listening to them talk about their experiences was exciting and I, unknowingly, was learning about the history of a war that would in due course determine more about how America and the world responds to terrorism than any other time in world history.

Those veterans were anxious to tell those of us in our small community (note: we didn’t have a traffic signal) that one of the reasons Korea was such a terrible war is that the leadership of the United States had grossly underestimated the tenaciousness of the North Korean soldier.  Our veterans told us about how their officers initially were dismissive of the “little people” of Korea.

If we were to go back in time to another war, the U.S. Revolutionary War, there is a story with a similar theme.  General George Washington had recently been appointed by Congress to lead the war effort against the British Empire.  The rank of “General” would not be recognized by the British since it would have legitimized the colonies independence.

The English Flag officers had little respect for the ragtag force of Continental soldiers.  But as British General William Howe opened early peace negotiations General Washington himself refused to accept the British dispatch.1  The reason?  The dispatch failed to use the title “General.”  This forced the British to open warfare and, as we know now, the rest is history.

A lack of respect is a symptom of the uneducated mind.  While respect doesn’t imply that you must like someone or some group of people, it does require us to acknowledge their importance and successes.  The U.S. military has done a much better job at instilling this lesson in its members since the Korean War and is part of the U.S. culture to respect others.

I learned a lot from those Korean War veterans.  During my time in combat I always had respect for the enemy (and others, of course).  In doing so, I never underestimated the enemy’s determination or capabilities.  Instilling that way of thinking in others will be was a big part of your future successes.

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  1. The incident happened on this date, July 17, 1776: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-learns-of-war-of-words

 

 

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