A Call for Class

“Together WE can make the world a more polite place, one courteous interaction at a time.” ~ PJ McGuire, President of Modet Inc.

The second week in May is National Etiquette Week, the national recognition of etiquette and protocol in all areas of American life – business, social, dining, travel, technology, wedding, and international. While “Talk Like a Pirate Week” might be a lot more fun, National Etiquette Week is a time to raise people’s awareness of civility and good manners. There’s definitely not enough civil behavior in our world, but hopefully National Etiquette Week will rally people to act with courtesy, kindness, and respect in their everyday lives. Being classy doesn’t just mean exhibiting good taste and elegance in dress; it means conducting oneself in a proper manner.


Though some people may think the concept of etiquette is old-fashioned or outdated, etiquette and civility are still important in the modern age. According to the legendary Emily Post, etiquette is today what it has always been: a code of behavior based on kindness, consideration and unselfishness. This is something that must never change. Manners, which are derived from etiquette, should be maintained even in an ever-changing world. Etiquette is for persons at every stage of life regardless of age, income, or position in society or business. Good manners are a key to success!


Unfortunately, many modern teens scoff at such rules, as shown in these remarks made by public high school students: “Reliance on, like, a strict set of rules is, kind of, a sign of immaturity, in the sense that you need someone to tell you how to act, that you can’t think of your own ways to respect people.” “It’s just your personality, and what you want to do, and the way that you want to do it.” “You should be yourself regardless, there should not be a reason for you to act like somebody else wants you to act.” Sadly, this type of thinking results in the appearance of being selfish and lazy with no concern for others.


In past generations, as demonstrated by George Washington and his contemporaries, character was important – and it did not mean self-expression. In those days, young people were not only expected to behave properly, but they understood the value of demonstrating general courtesies, manners and morals. Washington’s first lessons in good breeding came from a book of precepts entitled Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, which listed 110 rules of etiquette for young men. The Rules of Civility were originally compiled and published in 1595 by French Jesuits. In 1645, this code of conduct was translated into an English version called Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, and was reprinted at least eleven times until 1672.


One copy of this English translation came into Washington’s possession in 1744, when he was 12 years old. Sometime before he turned 16, Washington carefully hand-copied the rules into a notebook as an exercise in penmanship. At the same time, these rules taught him the proper behavior that we call etiquette including how to dress, walk, talk, and eat. They also conveyed a moral message of humility and paying attention to others. The teenage Washington took these rules to heart and they profoundly influenced the development of his character. Although some of the rules may seem a little silly and outdated now in the way they are phrased, most are valuable and timeless lessons for us all.


Download the complete text of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility: http://www.knowledgehouse.info/GeorgeWashingtonRulesofCivility.pdf (This FREE 17-page e-book includes Washington’s original rules as well as selected examples for copywork and memorization, plus a writing activity.) I hope that you will take some time this week to examine and improve your own etiquette skills. Let’s all make an effort to be courteous and polite to each and every person with whom we come in contact. 🙂

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