History

 

Operation Respect was founded in 1999 by Peter Yarrow of the legendary folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, 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 ten 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 life.

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.

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