Donald G. James, a longtime Pleasanton resident who retired from NASA after more than three decades, says manners are more than being polite -- they are "a way to walk in the world with integrity, respect, mindfulness, and compassion."
He elaborates on this in his new book, "Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won't: Wisdom from Momma and 35 Years at NASA," sharing his accumulated life lessons, illustrated by personal anecdotes.
James retired from Ames Research Center in 2017 as the associate administrator for education, and soon afterward he spoke to a group of students.
"A young man raised his hand and asked, 'If you could go back to when you were 25, what would you tell young Donald?'" James recalled. "I said a few things, including, 'I would tell Donald that you're going to need to work on your manner skills because that is going to take you where your brains aren't.'
"This book is a long version of my answer to that young man's question."
The book will be valuable for recent high school and college graduates as well as early career professionals, James explained.
"The goal is for them to consider the things I talk about as they pursue their other skills," he said.
"Always be aware of how your behavior is, how you are 'showing up,'" he advised. "Always be 'interviewing.' People are watching you and seeing how you treat other people."
His brother Dennis, a pilot with American Airlines, collaborated on the book.
"We learned a lot from my mother (Muriel Yvonne Gassett James), a school teacher who taught in the inner-city schools in Sacramento," Donald James said. "A lot of her students were immigrants from Southeast Asia and they would Americanize their names. But my mother insisted on calling them by their birth names and practicing until she got them right."
"She said the greatest respect you can give a person is to know their name," he added. "That is the type of thing my brother and I learned."
When she died, they found a box of sayings she'd saved as well as her "Eight Cardinal Rules of Life," starting with " Make peace with your past, so it won't screw up the present." The list is included in the book.
"Manners," being released Feb. 2, will be available at Towne Center Books as well as at Amazon. The paperback sells for $15.95; the Kindle edition is $7.99.