Images of America: Should “we” protect this child?

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Images of America

Lewis Hile photo of A Little Spinner in the Mollahan Mills Newberry SC

WHAT IMAGE says “America” to you?

Discussion groups nationwide tend to pull this image out of our stack of 100-plus pictures. It’s so visually striking!

Today’s question: Should “we” protect this child?

The easy answer is: Certainly! America outlawed child labor long ago—not to mention banning the obvious occupational health-and-safety issues in this factory.

But wait a minute! When we’ve shown the Images of America array of pictures in discussion groups, some participants find an entirely different lesson in this photograph, which they say makes them think about United America Core Value No. 4: “Self-reliance and individualism: Reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Part of the American narrative is that poor people can work hard to pull themselves toward prosperity. Some discussion-group participants hold up this particular picture and, without trying to justify the appalling conditions of child labor a century ago, they do talk about the powerful spirit of striving embodied in this little girl. As you can imagine, this kind of reflection quickly runs into objections from other group members—but that’s why we use these classic photos to start discussions. We discover all kinds of complex relationships between our core values.

This photograph by sociologist Lewis Hine was one of many startling images he captured of American children struggling to survive in the early 20th Century.

In response to his photos, Americans were horrified, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

There were national efforts to abolish child labor as early as 1904, but Americans weren’t ready to enact sweeping laws until several decades later! In the depths of the Great Depression, American adults finally pushed to ban children from factories for a very practical reason—they wanted those jobs for the millions of unemployed adults! And, if we really dig into this issue, we discover that lawmakers declined to protect kids in farm settings. To this day, hundreds of thousands of children are involved in harvesting the food we eat, according to reporting in The Atlantic as recently as 2012 in a story headlined Do Children Harvest Our Food?

The answer to today’s question is more complex than we might guess at first glance!

Get a conversation going …

The United America photo gallery Images of America was developed so you can freely share these inspiring images with friends. This method has been used successfully with groups nationwide to spark spirited and constructive discussions about what unites us as Americans. Then, to fully understand the 10 core values, get the book United America. So, come on! Start your own discussion …

Family Treasures: What’s the significance of an Eagle Scout badge?

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Family Treasures
Jim Jeffries talks to the group about the values symbolized in his Eagle Scout badge.

Jim Jeffries talks to the group about the values symbolized in his Eagle Scout badge.

Jim Jeffries talks about his Eagle Scout BadgeAll of us have objects in our lives that convey meaning and significance. These objects tell stories about our values and how we acquired them. The stories remind us that values are not abstractions, but emotionally invested principles that shape our lives.

So, what values are conveyed in an Eagle Scout badge?

This week, OurValues is publishing a five-part series about a new activity guide for United America called Family Treasures. That free guide explains how to organize this experience for your class or small group. In this OurValues series of columns, we’re sharing some of our favorite stories participants have told us. Please, feel free to share this week’s stories with friends. The best way to start your own series is to show others these examples of what you might discover in your community.

In this Family Treasures exercise, leaders ask each person to bring a physical object that conveys their values and how they acquired them growing up. At this point, we’ve heard many fascinating stories that have surfaced in classes and small groups. The stories are a mixture of love, poignancy, joy, sadness, hope, and resilience amidst trials and tribulations. Nearly all of them are inspirational.

One of our favorites was told by Jim Jeffries who showed the group his Eagle Scout badge.

First, a little background: Eagle Scout is the highest attainable rank in the Boy Scouts of America. The requirements are arduous, and all must be completed before the boy turns 18 years of age. The requirements, according to the BSA site, include “merit badges, service project, active participation, Scout spirit, position of responsibility, and unit leader conference.” Only about 5% of Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.

Leaders in many fields of American life proudly list, among their accomplishments, having earned the badge, including more than 40 U.S. astronauts, outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

What values does an Eagle Scout learn? There are many. Here’s Jim’s story: He was a Boy Scout in Maryland, where they stressed camping and backpacking. “When you start as an 11 year old, and do all that stuff,” Jim said, “it really gives you a sense of independence and self-confidence.”

When he was a young teen, Jim and friends would take some significant backpacking trips to the White Mountains. “You really learn a lot when you throw a 50-pound pack on your back and you start walking through the woods for a week and you come out on the other end. You can get hurt out there if you are not careful, so it really teaches you a lot of things.”

I recall hiking (and surviving) the Franconia Ridge Trail in the White Mountains, and I know what Jim is talking about.

So, for Jim, his Eagle Badge represents the core American values of self-reliance and achievement.

This week, I am asking all readers of OurValues:

What object in your life tells a story about your values?

Share your story!

The purpose of the OurValues Project and the United America book is to get Americans talking with each other—friends, neighbors and even total strangers who may enjoy gathering to talk about the values that unite us. That’s a dramatic and refreshing change for a lot of us, these days.

Please, share this week’s series with friends on Facebook or by Email. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them in your small group to spark discussion. If you have a moment right now, add a comment below.

Family Treasures: What prized item tells your family’s story?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Family Treasures
Family Treasures exercise in a United America discussion series

Just some of the “Family Treasures” we’ve seen in groups discussing “United America.” Click on the photo to see the free activity guide that explains this exercise. You’ll enjoy sharing this idea with friends!

As Americans, we share more than divides us. That’s the message of United America, and the four activity guides that give groups sure-fire ideas to explore the core values that unite us. Last week, we introduced Taste of Home, a group exercise that invites participants to tell family stories behind food traditions.

This week, we introduce Family Treasures, an activity groups are using with the United America book to connect the importance of the 10 core values to family stories about … treasures.

Using the word “treasures” is likely to spark thoughts of treasure hunting. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island has been re-made more than three dozen times for radio, TV and movie theaters. PBS’s Antiques Roadshow has been a hit since 1979 because it suggests that anyone might have a valuable treasure gathering dust at home. The idea of finding hidden treasure shows up in stories from the world’s oldest sacred literature—and it fuels customers for state-run lotteries around the world, today.

Along with the American Images and Taste of Home guides, this Family Treasures activity often summons deep emotion. Group leaders have told us about total strangers who have bonded over stories of objects as simple as a grandfather’s “dog tags” or a grandmother’s candy dish, a hard-earned Boy Scout award or a piece of embroidery created with a mentor, a work-worn hammer from an old tool chest or even a seasoned cast-iron fry pan.

We have seen truly precious objects: jewelry, rare stamps, an antique Persian carpet and even a 100-year-old baseball card. And we have heard stories with great emotion spun around objects no one else would even recognize: a chunk of copper ore from a mine or an iron handle from an old wood-burning stove.

This exercise invites surprises!

This week in, we’re going to share some of our favorite stories. So, stay tuned for the next four parts in this five-part series. Perhaps these stories will help you to ponder the stories behind objects in your home.

Perhaps you’ll want to share this series with friends. Now is a perfect time to build interest in starting a discussion series on United America.

Your story is important!

The purpose of the OurValues Project and the United America book is to get Americans talking with each other—friends, neighbors and even total strangers who may enjoy gathering to talk about the values that unite us. That’s a dramatic and refreshing change for a lot of us, these days.

Please, share this week’s series with friends on Facebook or by Email. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them in  your small group to spark discussion. If you have a moment right now, add a comment below.

You can play an important role in building a healthier community.

Hopes for Children: Is our success determined by outside forces?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Pew chart on whether success is determined by outside forces

CLICK on this chart to visit the Pew website for more.

Have you ever heard of the self-serving bias?

It’s the tendency to attribute our successes to ourselves and to blame our failures on outside factors. For example, you got your dream job because you were supremely qualified for it. Or, you didn’t get your dream job because the interviewer was prejudiced.

Now, consider your children’s successes and failures. How do you explain them?

People around the world vary considerably in their views about the causes of success in life, according to new data from Pew’s global attitudes survey.

Among economically developed societies, Americans are the least likely to say that success in life is determined by forces outside our control—only 40% of Americans attribute success to outside factors.

At the other end, South Koreans are the most likely to attribute success to outside forces—almost three of four (74%) do so.

Are Americans the least likely of all nations to attribute success to outside factors? That would be a good guess, since our core values include self-reliance and individualism. And, it’s a pretty good guess, according to Pew, but not entirely correct.

Of the 44 countries Pew surveyed, only four had a lower percentage than the U.S. of those who agreed that success in life is determined by outside forces: Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The first three are considered emerging economies, while the fourth is classified as a developing economy.

To what do you attribute your successes and failures?

When children don’t live up to our hopes, do we blame them—or outside factors?

What are the best DIY tips for making the best DIY videos?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

Dawn Wells potato peeling videoA Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher.

Yesterday morning, I was talking with a friend about how easy it is to find useful how-to videos on the web. She mentioned a favorite, showing the perfect way to peel boiled potatoes for salad. It took me a few seconds to find this fun one, featuring (surprise!) Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island.

What if I wanted to make my own how-to video? Well, first, I’d search for advice showing me how. And as you might expect, I’d be in luck; there are dozens of YouTube videos out there, plus listicles offering tips on how to make better videos.

I’m intrigued by the 10 tips (and dozens of sub-tips) provided by Videomaker, the website created by Matt York who has been teaching people how to make better independent films since the days of Super-8! One of Matt’s online editors, Jennifer O’Rourke, wrote this list of DIY tips, including: use a script and avoid rambling, make it as short as possible, remember to use closeups on important steps in a process and even consider making money on your productions.

Of course, many of the people creating and sharing these videos don’t seem to be interested in profiting from them.

Their real motives might be related to one of the ten core American values that Wayne Baker has written about here and in his book, United America: self-reliance. These videos clearly encourage us to be more self-reliant, to fix our own appliances and our own meals.

But self-reliance isn’t an absolute value, Baker says. “Our strength as a nation comes from the balance of individualism and community.”

Don’t the best of these home-made videos seem like the kind of advice you’d get from a clever and helpful neighbor over the back fence? Aren’t many of the people who create these videos just like that neighbor, making their own generous contribution to building a stronger community, all over the world?



The Videomaker column I recommended (above) goes over general tips for anyone planning to make a DIY video. This next 8-minute video digs into the range of equipment you might want to consider if you’re wanting to do some serious DIY videomaking.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).


United America, Core Value 5: Self-reliance & individualism

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series United America
Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

The Third Metric—do you know about it?

The Third Metric is a social movement created by Arianna Huffington that’s focused on well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It’s a focus beyond the first two metrics of success: money and power. I was in New York City yesterday, a guest speaker at one of their events. My topic was reciprocity, and I emphasized the importance of giving and asking for help.

Which do you think is more difficult: giving help to others or asking for help?

After 14 years of using the Reciprocity Ring to help groups practice reciprocity, I’ve concluded that giving is the easy part. Most people are willing to help others. The difficulty is asking for help. One reason has to do with one of the 10 core values documented in my new book, United America: self-reliance and individualism. Most Americans have so internalized this value that it’s hard to ask for what one needs.

Today, we are looking at Core Value 5: “Self-reliance & individualism” means “reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Of course, there are some people who have no trouble asking for what they want and they don’t give back. Adam Grant calls them “takers” in his best-seller, Give & Take. For most people, however, asking for help is hard to do. This fact illustrates the double-edged nature of values. Self-reliance is an admirable American characteristic. But taken too far, it becomes a liability.

This week, we talked about the core values of respect for others, symbolic patriotism, freedom, security, and now self-reliance. We’ll continue next week, focusing on the other five values that make up America’s 10 core values.

I typically end each column with two or three questions. Today, I’ll overcome my own reticence to ask for help and make two requests.

Would you tell your friends and family about the free resources related to United America? These include a downloadable poster of the 10 core values and videos of fellow Americans talking values.

One purpose of the book and resources is to stimulate civil dialog. Would you make a comment today and tell fellow readers idea you have for making that happen?

Common Ground: Should MYOB be America’s global policy?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series American Common Ground
Click on this chart from the Pew report to visit the Pew website and read the entire report.

Click on this chart from the Pew report to visit the Pew website and read the entire report.

Americans worry that we have lost our common ground—interests or opinions that cut across diverse cultural, religious, and political lines. Yet Americans do have common ground when it comes to shared values, as I document in my about-to-be released book, United America.

This week, we’re examining areas that show signs of becoming common ground in the future, based on some historic milestones in public opinion. America’s foreign policy is one such area.

Today’s question: Should MYOB—Mind Your Own Business—be our guiding principle?

For the first time ever, a majority of Americans (52%) now agree that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and get along the best they can on their own,” according to a Pew Research Center poll late last year. Way back in 1964, when Pew first started asking this question, only 20% agreed with it.

A whopping 70% of Americans now say that the U.S. is losing respect around the globe. That’s nearly as high as the peak in May 2008, when 71% of Americans felt that the nation was losing respect internationally.

Also for the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) agree that the U.S. plays a less powerful and important role than the country did a decade ago. Only 17% of Americans now say that the U.S. plays a more important and powerful role as a world leader than it did 10 years ago.

Does all this translate into an isolationist policy?

Not exactly, say Pew analysts. The same survey also finds strong support for America’s involvement in the global economy. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans say that more involvement in the global economy is a “good thing because it exposes the U.S. to new markets and opportunities for growth.” Only 25% say that more involvement in the global economy is “bad because it exposes the U.S. to risk and uncertainty.” There are virtually no partisan differences in these opinions about involvement in the world’s economy.

Are you surprised to learn that foreign policy might become an area of common ground?

Should MYOB be America’s foreign policy?