June 14, 2012


Let me start by saying this: OMG! Has it really been more than two years since I posted on this blog? Unbelievable! Where does the time go?

Well, I'm still working as a tour guide in DC and I'm wrapping up the 2012 season this week. I have a great group of two middle schools from the Chicago area and have enjoyed the past couple of days with them. It's been a fairly easy schedule, so I've had some time to reflect on this year's groups...and that has me thinking about life and the world in general.

So, here's my question: What ever happened to the concept of "respect"? I'm referring to respect for other people, respect for property, respect for laws and rules, respect for our Nation's Government and leadership...just respect for everything! Have we become such a society of "entitlement" that everyone thinks they are the only person or thing that matters on earth? Do they think the rules only apply to everyone else and not to them?

I know...I'm ranting. Let me give you some specific examples. Let's start with the simplest of issues, but one that I deal with every day that I'm leading a tour.

One of the first things I do with a group is introduce myself and tell them that I have a couple of simple rules that I ask them to follow, the most important of which is that when I'm talking, they not talk. Common courtesy, right? Apparently not! I expect to still have some students whispering while I speak, although I will ask them to stop if the chaperones don't step up and do it. But what am I supposed to do when the adults are the ones who are being rude? Last week I had a group of Girl Scouts here for the "Rock The Mall" celebration on the National Mall. As I was speaking on the bus, two parents who were one row behind me and across the aisle continued to talk at full volume, even as I was asking everyone to be quiet! How do I straighten them out without having them lose face in front of the girls? I put up with it or a while, then finally addressed it in a humorous way, but I shouldn't have had to deal with it at all!

Then there are the students I take to the many memorials and monuments who have no respect for these beautiful structures that are there to thank our heroes, both of war and of peace. Last weekend, it was incredibly hot during Rock The Mall. Following the event, we went to the World War II Memorial, which has a beautiful fountain in the middle of it. There were dozens of people wading in the fountain up to their knees, despite the numerous signs that clearly say "NO WADING". This is a MEMORIAL, for crying out loud! The wall of stars there represents almost 500,000 American casualties of the war! Show some respect for those people who gave THEIR lives for YOUR freedom! Come to the memorial to celebrate, enjoy its beauty, but stay out of the water!!

And I can't tell you how many times I have to tell one of the boys in my group to not jump off the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I'm not talking about him walking down to the last step and jumping; I'm talking about boys (yes, it is always the boys!) running across the plaza in front of the building and taking a flying leap from the top of the 7th step! One fell when he landed and could easily have broken an arm or leg! And stop walking/climbing/siting on every wall/step/rock/ramp you see. The memorials are not your personal playground or jungle gym!

I recently took a group to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. The Archives does not allow photography, so I always tell my students to leave their cameras on the bus. While waiting to get through the security check, an 8th-grader from another group stepped up to the sign that said "NO PHOTOGRAPHY", pulled out her cell phone and took a photo of the sign! I was incensed! I looked at her and said, "Why would you take a photograph of a sign that clearly says 'no photography'?" She actually looked at me and had the gall to respond, "I wasn't taking a picture." What am I, an idiot or something?

Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves: referring to the President of the United States by his first name or without using his title, such as "is Obama at home in the White House today?" I always correct the students and explain that he should be addressed as President Obama (or Bush or Clinton or whomever), Mr. President or the President out of respect for the office. It doesn't matter if you voted for him or not. It doesn't matter if you agree with his policies or like him. The leader of the free world has earned the right to be addressed properly! And what about the adults who do this? What kind of example are they setting for the next generation?

I won't even get started on drivers who have no respect for other drivers! I think you get the point by now.

What's a person to do? I was raised to respect others, respect property, respect and celebrate the history of our glorious country. I have this nagging fear that the next generation isn't going to get it -- they won't know how to behave respectfully in public because they're not being taught by their parents. What kind of a world will we be living in then?

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