Respect was co-founded in 1999 by Peter Yarrow of the legendary folk
trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dr. Charlotte Frank, to promote the infusion of character education
and social and emotional learning principles into school curricula. Toward
this end, Operation Respect created and disseminates the "Don't Laugh
at Me" (DLAM) Program. The centerpiece of the program is the song, "Don't
Laugh at Me," sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses to the song from educational groups such
as the National Association of Elementary School Principals, inspired Peter
Yarrow to seek the collaboration of Linda Lantieri, Founding Director of the
Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), of Educators for Social Responsibility,
to help build a character education program around the song.
The DLAM program harnesses the transformational power of music to help children
make a heart connection and become receptive to the lessons offered through the
activities in the accompanying curriculum. This same connection inspires educators
to take up this cause, which, for Peter, is the 21st Century culmination of the
movements that Peter, Paul and Mary have supported for so many years through
mobilization and inspiration generated through the power of their music.
Message from Peter Yarrow
It was sixteen years ago that I first heard "Don't Laugh at Me" at
the Kerrville Folk Festival. My daughter, Bethany, who, like my son, Christopher,
had virtually grown up with the music of this remarkable festival, walked me
over to the Threadgill Theatre for a sunrise performance that would change my
Bethany had informed me that the preceding night a remarkable event had taken
place at the campfires. Notwithstanding the ironclad convention of having each
song followed by the next person in the circle, the near impossible had occurred;
unanimously, the circle asked Steve Seskin to sing "Don't Laugh at Me" a
second time! History had been made and the word spread rapidly.
There we sat, my beloved daughter, a singer-songwriter in her own right, with
her hand in mine, tears running down our cheeks, listening to a song that told
our hearts' stories, recalling events that we had personally experienced or witnessed
in the lives of others.
Since I have lived a life of social and political advocacy through music, one
in which I had seen songs like "Blowin In the Wind," "If I Had
a Hammer," and "We Shall Overcome" become anthems that moved generations
and helped solidify their commitment to efforts like the Civil Rights Movement
and the Peace Movement, I knew I had just discovered a song that could become
an anthem of a movement to help children find their common sensitivity to the
painful effects of disrespect, intolerance, ridicule, and bullying.
"Don't Laugh at Me" was written by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin.