Posts Tagged ‘Operation Respect’

Peter Yarrow is a man on a mission and that mission is to stop children from bullying other children. Says Yarrow, “Singing is the antidote to bullying.” He sadly noted the effect of current television shows on our society and decried the spate of television shows that are ‘reality’ based but seem to have the effect of moving us towards meanspiritedness towards others.

Peter Yarrow at the Swannanoa Gathering, July 2014.

Peter Yarrow at Swannanoa Gathering

He wanted to explore why elementary school kids (and older) hesitate and resist singing. It seems obvious that singing lightens our hearts and singing with others forges important social bonds that will keep kids feeling better about themselves – and others. So he asked people from the audience to stand up and offer their thoughts on this thorny problem. Reasons offered for school children not wanting to sing included:

  • Nowadays kids listen to ‘electronically enhanced’ singing and then ‘normal’ singing just doesn’t sound ‘good enough.’
  • Teachers themselves don’t think they can sing and that attitude rubs off on the kids.
  • Music has been left out of the school curriculum due to budgets.
  • Singing puts you in a vulnerable place.


Although Yarrow agreed with all the theories, he was most interested in the fourth one, saying it ‘hit the nail on the head.’ His conclusion is that we don’t just need a willingness to sing, we need a willingness to open our hearts to vulnerability. By singing and opening our hearts we will stop the mean spiritedness that leads to bullying.


To this end he has started a foundation called “Operation Respect” that goes to schools everywhere in the world (it is in 400 schools in Ukraine and in nearly every elementary school in Israel). See the website www.operationrespect.org for more information.

The song, “Don’t Laugh At Me,” has become a theme song for this effort. The song was written by Allen Shamblin and Steve Seskin, but as Yarrow sings, it is clear how deeply he believes in it. Here are the words:

++ Lyrics ++

I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek

A little girl who never smiles cuz I’ve got braces on my teeth

And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep.

I am the kid on every playground

I’m the one that’s chosen last

I’m a single teenage mother trying to overcome my past

You don’t have to be my friend,


But is it too much to ask –

Refrain: Don’t laugh at me

Don’t call me names

Don’t get your pleasure from my pain

In God’s eyes we’re all the same

Someday we’ll all have perfect wings

Don’t laugh at me.



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