Jay’s Straight Talk CXII…Ladies and Gentlemen

Admittedly I grew up in an era of greater innocence and seemingly stronger social mores. Early in life my mother taught me to respect others and to behave as a gentleman. That meant saying “Yes ‘Mam (Sir)” and “No ‘Mam (Sir)” “Thank You” and “No Thank You” opening doors for ladies pulling out our chairs standing when ladies entered the room removing your hat when you went inside walking on the outside of a lady and giving up your seat to a lady or elderly person when there were no other available seats. Granted it was the Old South but it was good manners and it still is.

Ladies were also raised in that era to be “lady-like.” That didn’t mean that they couldn’t be tomboys or great athletes. They were encouraged to think for themselves and to be the best they could be at whatever they pursued…school music art literature athletics and leadership. Like the boys of that age they also were taught class and respect.

Instead of poems this week I’ve chosen two writings that personify the “True Gentleman” and “On How To Be Lovely.” While from a Southern Middle-America background I was fortunate to be in a fraternity at Georgia Tech Sigma Alpha Epsilon. It’s the oldest fraternity in America and the only one founded in an antebellum state. It was founded on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa Alabama in 1856 and is the largest fraternity in the country in members and chapters.

As a fraternity pledge we memorized its creed The True Gentleman. Turns out that very same creed was a part of lore at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis too. It’s a short paragraph that I think about often and it embodies gentlemanliness in the form of good will propriety self-control sensitivity humility strength frankness sincerity sympathy doing what is right respecting other’s feelings…all with honor and virtue. What a simple yet powerful mantra for all men to follow. How much better would the world be today if all men follow those clear and strong principles?

For ladies I chose “On How To Be Lovely.” It was not chosen for beauty’s sake but for the loveliness of the person deep inside. Inspired by Audrey Hepburn it too focuses on the qualities of mind and manners; graciousness; an intelligent sense of humor; being educated either formally or through experience; being a woman of accomplishment; having strength of morality conscience and restraint; grace; of dressing well out of self-respect; of not being patronizing; and of knowing how to be treated by a Gentleman. We all know and many of you are ladies who embody these qualities. Wouldn’t be all be better if every woman had these aspirations as her model behavior?

When writing this it occurred to me that leadership is all of these characteristics for both women and men as a total package for gaining respect and trust by giving it to those who chose to follow. By being true ladies and gentlemen we will provide exemplary stewardship of our many roles…wives husbands mothers fathers mentors and leaders. Walking the walk from an earlier era will help to blaze the path to an even greater future. Challenge yourself to be the absolute best lady or gentleman that you can be. Everyone around you and the world itself will be far better because of you.