A Foundation of Mutual Respect
Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance and value in treating others with civility and respect.
I think we can all agree that civility is a virtue. I suspect we can all also agree that civility is a value we would love to see more broadly and consistently embraced in our society today as well as in our day-to-day interactions with others. America is based on the belief that we hold dear and value the rights and contributions – as well as the dreams and aspirations -- of every individual. As such, there is a basic requirement that we treat each other with the highest degree of respect. We may disagree on many things, but we need to do so in a way that is civil, polite and demonstrates our fundamental respect for one another.
Interestingly, we often find some of life’s great examples and lessons demonstrated in the world of sports. Here’s a great one – right from our own backyard. It’s one of the most notorious rivalries in all of sports: Yankees vs. Red Sox. If you’re from New England or New York, there’s nothing more heated or passionate in sports. Even if you don’t support either team, if you’re simply a sports fan, you know just how intense the rivalry is. The curse of the Babe, the 2004 ALCS, Pedro vs. A-Rod. It is the definition of storied. Yet back in 2014, in what was the final season of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s career, there was a remarkable moment where the bitterness of this rivalry was replaced with pure class and genuine sportsmanship from both organizations. Perhaps you’re familiar with it.
In the last week of the season, Derek Jeter was playing in his final game at Yankee Stadium when he hit a walk off single to win the game in his final at bat in the Bronx. It would’ve been the perfect ending to an illustrious career. Red Sox legend David Ortiz summed it up in one word, “Perfection”. Few people wouldn’t have blamed him if he decided to sit out the final series of the season later that week in Boston, especially considering that the Yankees were not in contention for the playoffs any longer at that point. However, when asked if that’s what he planned to do, he told reporters, “Out of respect to the Boston fans and the rivalry, I will play in some capacity.” And so, the Yankees made their way to Boston, where he was to be the designated hitter. During a pre-game ceremony in his final MLB game, the Red Sox honored Jeter’s career, bringing out a who’s who of Boston sports legends and former Red Sox to congratulate him. When the game finally got underway, Jeter came up to bat in the 3rd inning. He hit an RBI single and then waved to manager Joe Girardi to bring on a pinch runner in what would be his final MLB at bat. Slowly, Fenway began loudly cheering his name, pausing the game for nearly three minutes.
If you were fortunate enough to watch the game live, witnessing two storied organizations whose players and fan bases have at times come to blows, honor not only a player but the rivalry that he was part of was truly chill inducing. What was on view may have taken place at a baseball stadium, it was in the end a moment that transcended baseball. It demonstrated the value of sportsmanship and operating on a basis of mutual respect even with your opposition, no matter how much frenzied history you may share. As NESN rightly put it in an article following the game, both organizations approached the moment with the ultimate selflessness and respect, both for each other and for the game they both play.
The moment of sportsmanship shared between the Yankees and Red Sox back in 2014 is demonstrative of what is possible when respect is the standard between opposing sides, not the exception. While competition is still valued, playing or operating with esteem for those we compete or are at odds with allows us to continue to do so, and with civility. Our current political climate being a real- life example, where the lack of respect between right and left continues to be the source of inaction and heightened contempt. While some might make the argument that sports and ‘life’ shouldn’t be compared to one another, sport, and the teams or athletes we support, tend to represent our values, our history, and our communities, the very things that make us who we are and how we live our lives. And through them, they provide us with lessons that can be applied off the field, as we saw during that special moment at Fenway Park.
‘Play to the Whistle’ …then Unite and Show Civility and Respect!
For exactly sixty minutes, football players push themselves to their physical limits, drumming up their deepest courage to face down the giants beyond the line of scrimmage. Repeatedly striking and tackling opponents with maximum force is part of the game, and at all times hoping that the impact of such hits may cause opponents to fall to the ground, drop the ball, or otherwise be thrown aside. Until the whistle blows, the opposing team is the enemy, and every moment, every inch, every contact, every single confrontation of any kind determines who wins and who loses. I can still hear my high school coaches yelling “Play to the whistle!” Players in many sports at all levels are consistently taught to continue to battle the opponent until the whistle blows, until the buzzer sounds, or until the bell rings. And this deep sense of commitment to victory, to your teammates, and to excellence can rarely be overstated.
But what happens after the whistle blows? After the final seconds of the fourth quarter run off the game-clock? First, the nearly unmatched feeling of both victory and defeat immediately flood the senses of each individual competitor. Men and women who have been crowned champions on true teams made up of family-level teammates will never forget those emotions. However, as the adrenaline wanes, an equally powerful feeling of gratitude and respect for the opponent seems to warmly set in. It is a profound feeling, one that is hard to describe, and seems to rise above the surface of the moment and transcend into a near perfect morality. These players who were physically battering each other just minutes before, walk calmly towards mid-field, half-court, or home plate, and positively embrace their opponents with tears, laughter, bold and authentic hugs, and even lengthy prayers while kneeling in a circle arm-in-arm. Most especially seen at the highest levels of competition, the respect witnessed between players at the end of a Super Bowl, NBA Championship, World Series, or even a UFC title fight exudes an unmistakable sense of unity and brotherhood that fills spectators with a deep belief in the ever-present good of humanity.
There are many lifelong lessons that can be learned through competitive team sports. But the lesson of civility and respect for the opponent after the whistle blows is one that our societal leaders should strive to come back to. Keeping one’s competitive edge until the end of the game is critically important, but of equal importance is accepting the finality of the outcome once the match has ended. Accepting the result, and moving on towards unity, peace, and respect allows us to all come together and experience that amazing feeling of calmness and kindness and love for one another. During the off-season, when professional athletes’ paths meet, there is almost always a positive and warm greeting between them. Many professional athletes on opposing teams train together during the off-season, or even live together, honing their skills and pushing one another towards even greater excellence. Maybe there is a lesson here; maybe our great nation needs a political off-season. A time after heated discussions, arguments, and election seasons, where we all board the ship together and collectively paddle forward, moving the nation onward and upwards together towards a unified greatness.
Civility in Media – the Eagle Times Leading by Example
By Rich Girard, Executive Vice President of Sunshine Communications and Publisher of the Eagle Times
Civility. It’s all the rage today but what does it mean? To some, unfortunately, it means canceling those they disagree with. To others, it evokes fear in abandoning principles or points of view in search of compromise. Still, to others, it means simply taking a step back and letting tempers cool. Whatever it means, the cause is what needs to be addressed.
Oftentimes, the media is blamed for fanning the flames of discontent. Tossing one’s audience the red meat it loves certainly has a way of girding their loins for battle.
After coming to the Eagle Times, I went on a listening tour. I listened to everyone and anyone who would talk to me about this newspaper. What I found was a cause of incivility and how it built animus and resentment.
Yes, I heard a lot about one-sided stories and a ‘hard-left political bias.’ But what really troubled me was the incivility felt by readers, most of them former subscribers, who believed the paper just didn’t care about the communities it circulated in or the people who read it. They felt they were being lectured to and ignored by the content. They felt disrespected.
We’ve changed this, of course. Gone are the one-sided stories and political bias. We present, to the best of our ability, stories that tell people what’s happening in their communities. Sometimes, this means reporting what’s really happening, not sanitizing, or ignoring it in the name of civility. While we’ve taken some lumps for this, we’ve also noticed that people tend to behave better after the stories of their actions have been published.
Many have shared their appreciation for bringing ‘our’ Eagle Times back. It’s like the return of an old friend. However, many more are still leery. To dissipate their resentment and hostility, this paper will continue to tell every local story it can as honestly and objectively as possible. We will also continue to give voice to all points of view on our letters to the editor and op-ed pages.
We believe this will inform our readers and foster civility because it will restore respect and rebuild trust.
Positive Profile of the Week: Paul Smith - A Profile in Civility
This week we are delighted to highlight an extremely hard work and esteemed public servant, Paul Smith. Paul truly represents what it is to be civil, what it is to show civility, and what it takes to ensure a process of governance mixed with civility.
The Honorable Paul Smith of Hopkinton, is the current Clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The 400 person body is comprised of Granite Staters with a wide variety of backgrounds and passions - all working to make New Hampshire the best place to live, work, and raise a family. To ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible, it requires someone like Paul.
As a former State Representative myself, I know passions can run high during session days. Emotions can run wild, the determination to win at all costs can set in, but it’s Paul who serves as wingman to the Speaker of the House (regardless of the party) and who helps bring calm to the body via process, decorum, and humility. But how does one get to such a place of importance and with such a unique background to handle 400 dedicated and passionate people?
Paul is no stranger to creeds or upholding the rules. Paul is an Eagle Scout and as scouts know - a scout is trustworthy, a scout is loyal, and a scout is friend to all and a brother to every other scout. That truly is Paul. You know you can trust him, and you know he is loyal to upholding the rules, honoring the history, and maintaining the decorum of the 3rd largest English-speaking legislative body in the world.
Paul himself served in the House as Auburn’s representative, a small town just east of Manchester. In fact, as a freshman legislator he served and worked alongside the now Speaker of the House, his friend Sherm Packard. Paul's knowledge of the process and commitment to upholding rules is why he was tapped to serve as Deputy Clerk of the House. He was first elected to his current position as Clerk in 2014 and today is in his 5th term. Clerk Paul ensures the House is graced with tradition and prepared for what is in front of them. During the pandemic Paul and his team worked hard to organize and coordinate session days in parking lots, ball fields, and even expo centers. How else could you social-distance 400 members? He worked with leadership in executing remote committee hearings while ensuring decorum, civility, and honor all took a front seat. No easy task, but those who know Paul had trust and faith in him.
In addition, outside of the State House Paul continues to bring civility, honor, and commitment to the greater community. Paul is an experienced high school football referee. Week after week during the season you can see Paul making the calls and making sure teams show good sportsmanship on the field ensuring these players are setting an example to be followed for the next generation.
Paul is a proud father and husband. He is a Granite Stater with endless commitment to civility. And I know that anyone who has seen Paul in action in Concord or in the community will know precisely why we all hold Paul and his commitment to civility in the highest possible regard! Thank you, Paul Smith!
Positive Quotes of the Week: Civility
"Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos." - George W. Bush "Civility is not the absence of disagreement; it is the manner in which we disagree." - Barack Obama
"Civility costs nothing and buys everything." - Mary Wortley Montagu
"Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication." - Pier Massimo Forni
"Civility is the art and act of caring for others." - Deborah King