10
Mar
08

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Next Thursday, March 20th, would have been the 80th birthday of a true American legend.  There aren’t many people left in the world like Mister Rogers,  who, aside from hosting his infamous program and talking to hand puppets, did some pretty amazing things as a person, including:

-Earned a B.A. in Music Composition from Dartmouth College

-Was a certified pilot, trained by his older adopted African brother George

-Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom

-Was the recipient of 40 honorary degrees from various universities

-Never smoked or drank

-Was a strict vegetarian, and swam laps every morning of his life

-Singlehandedly saved the VCR

Here’s the story on that one: after the introduction of a machine that could record television programming, the TV network bigwigs got their panties in a twist, because they considered the VCR a threat to their financial wellbeing (i.e. “Why would anyone watch a rerun of “Welcome Back Kotter” when we put it on TV if they can record every single one on tape and play it whenever they want?”)  So a case (Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.) went to the Supreme Court, where the decision was made to keep VCRs based on the testimony of one Fred Rogers, who said that he didn’t oppose families recording his program so they could all watch it together at a time that was convenient for all of them.  Here’s a snippet from his testimony:

“Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the ‘Neighborhood’ at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the ‘Neighborhood’ because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.”

Now that’s an incredible man.  Considering the garbage that’s on TV these days, it’s a shame that there aren’t more people out there like Mr. Rogers who are willing to utilize that branch of the media for a healthy, good purpose.

Obviously, I’m not the only person who thinks this way.  That’s why an organization in Pennsylvania, Mr. Rogers’ home state, has declared next Thursday, his 80th birthday, National Sweater Day.  So you too can honor the life of one of television’s greatest personalities by simply wearing a sweater, and telling people that you’re doing it in honor of a great man who touched a lot of lives.

By the way, there’s a Youtube video about Sweater Day here.

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