Sunday, December 20, 2009

Modern Manners Monday

Back when our founding fathers were still young lads, the desire for literature on manners and etiquette experienced a surge. The aristocratic protocol of the courts in England and Europe influenced the land owning class in colonial America. In fact, a young George Washington recorded lessons in civility which have now found their way into a book titled “Mind Your Manners! George Washington’s Rules of Civility”.

The book was compiled and annotated by James Henry II, the descendant of a Scotsman who served on the Continental Congress and who once loaned money to George Washington to finance the Revolutionary War. There are 110 rules contained within; each entry includes a modern interpretation by Mr. Henry.

What better subject to share in my inaugural Modern Manners Monday than the first President of the United States? We will begin with one that is quite dear to me:

Rule 18

“Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave...”

We exist in a world of modern conveniences and in many ways we are better for it. Cell phones, BlackBerrys, iPods and Kindles abound. Something happened, however, on this bullet train of technology. Immediacy has usurped civility. I suggest we take a cue from President Washington:

When in the presence company, keep all distracting devices at bay. Only under circumstances of extreme urgency, excuse yourself for any third party communications. In no time you will realize how inconvenient it is to continually take leave of your party for trifling matters.

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