Core Values: R-E-S-P-E-C-T?!
“Find out what it means to me!”

Most Americans can rattle off those famous lines, written by Otis Redding and made famous by the Queen of Soul.

Today I’m asking:
So, what does it mean to you?
Respect is easy to define: It’s esteem for another person, group, nation, or even an idea. It conveys a sense of worth and value. Patriotism, a core American value we covered last week, is a type of respect.

But what does it mean in your life? What about respect for others—for people of different races, ethnicities, and religions? Is that itself a core American value?

Respect as a Core Value

More than 90% of Americans in each of the four national surveys I conducted agree that respect for people of different racial and ethnic groups is important to them. The same is true when I ask about respect for people of different religions. Like other core values—the value of respect for others is strongly and widely held, stable over time, and shared across demographic and political lines.

Respect for others is an American ideal. But it gets complicated when the ideal is applied. If minorities don’t do well in life, do you feel they have no one to blame but themselves? On this question, Americans are divided. We proclaim respect for people of different race, ethnicities, and religions—but more than 70% of Americans say that immigrants should adopt American values.

Respect for others intersects notions of freedom and liberty we discussed yesterday.  Slaves were given liberty but not freedom—the full rights of belonging to a free nation. Today, Latinos and Arab and Muslim Americans are the test cases for respect. Debates about a path to citizenship for American-born children of illegal migrants are debates about the values of respect and freedom. So too with Arab and Muslim Americans: Even though they have largely adopted American values, their freedom—the rights of what we call cultural citizenship—are contested. (Care to read more on this latter topic? Here’s a link to an earlier series on Arab-American life.)

What are the limits of your respect when it comes to immigrants and minorities?

Come on! R-E-S-P … you know!

What does it mean to you? 

Please Comment below.

(Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)

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