Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Alternate Activity 3: Respect Role Models, Part 2

Part of Virtue Ethics

Materials for Activity

  • Drawing paper and drawing implements including color markers, multicultural skin tone markers, crayons, and/or color pencils

Description of Activity

Tell the group:

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, one of our faith ancestors, said, "The respect that is only bought by gold is not worth much."

Invite the group to respond to Harper's quotation:

  • What do you think about this?
  • What messages do we receive in society about the relationship between wealth and respect? Can you give some examples?
  • Can money buy respect? Can fame buy respect? Can power buy respect? Is the respect that comes from money, fame, or power true respect?


Sometimes when a person who is wealthy, famous, or powerful commits an act that is not virtuous, no one holds them accountable. Do we allow the rich and mighty to act badly out of respect for them? Or maybe out of fear, or envy?

Society has other benchmarks that designate those who should receive respect-even if their actions are disrespectful of others. These include people with degrees of higher learning, and people in certain professions where they hold some expertise or authority, such as a physician, or a judge.

This is not to say that all rich, famous, powerful, and well-educated people act badly. The question is: Do some people get more respect than others? Do they deserve it? And if so, why?

Ask the youth if they have ever displayed posters of people they admired on their bedroom walls. Ask whom the posters depicted. Ask if admiration is the same as respect. If it is different, how is it different? What about the relationship between respect and envy? Do we ever get these feelings confused? Do you think some people admire certain sports figures and movie stars because of their abilities, or are envious of their nice salaries and extravagant lifestyles? [Most of us have felt admiration for someone based on their wealth, fame, or power, at one time or another; if you have, too, sharing this with the group might ease feelings of embarrassment. Using humor might, too.]

Distribute paper and drawing implements, and invite participants to create a poster of someone they admired when they were younger. Their choice can be real or fictional, human or not human. It can be Barney, the purple dinosaur or Eleanor Roosevelt. Assure the group that accurate drawing ability is not important; they may write labels on their drawings.

After ten minutes, invite volunteers to share their poster. Ask the youth if they still admire the object of their childhood admiration. What qualities in the object are admirable? Do they respect the object of their admiration? If they do, why? Is the respect based on the object's inherent worth and dignity only, or also their actions? What actions has the object of their admiration done that the participant finds worthy of respect?

Including All Participants

If the group includes a youth with limited sight or fine motor ability who cannot make and share a two-dimensional drawing, have a volunteer partner with the youth in sharing verbal descriptions of someone they each admired when they were younger.