Mister Rogers

Talk About the Passion

R.E.M. – Talk About the Passion

It isn’t often that I’m tempted to think about the 1980s as a time of hope and promise. My high school and college years took place during the Reagan years and everything seemed bleak and hopeless. My first presidential election is a day I’d really rather forget but never will. It felt like the beginning of the end (and in some ways, it was).

The news of late has been pretty awful. We don’t have regular television service any more so I’m not even talking about the major network news outlets (most of which I’ve had trouble stomaching ever since Peter Jennings died). It just feels like everything that I read or that comes across my screens lately is more disgusting, baffling, frustrating, sickening, shocking—yet at the same time not shocking, that I start getting really depressed.

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.”  Trust me, I know. And I know what you’re thinking. “For fuck’s sake! Combien de temps?! Hmm, Harry Reid?” All those empty prayers, empty mouths. This song may not have anything to do with the issues I’m incensed about today but it’s bigger than a single issue, or two or three. I want to talk about the passion. I want to talk about working toward something better. About finding some passion and doing something about it.

Today, one good thing came across the wires. For a few moments, I was reminded of a wonderful person who made a difference in so many lives. I’m talking about Mister Rogers. Today, March 20, would have been his 84th birthday. Mister Rogers not only lived his mission but he talked about it. And when you first hear his voice, especially in a serious setting like testifying before Congress, you almost chuckle to yourself thinking about how quaint and simple he sounds. But the more he talks, the more you watch everyone else get quiet. They sit, and they listen. They listen to him say things like, “I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.” In 1969! Talking to Congress about tackling mental health on children’s television! Or the way that he gently, and without pointing fingers, takes all of the television industry to task in his Hall of Fame induction speech (the whole thing is at the link above but if you just want to cut to the chase it’s here). Watch it. Really.

The article about Mister Rogers I linked to in the paragraph above is two pages long and has several videos, but they aren’t all that long and I promise you they are all worth taking the time to watch, and to read how and why he and his words are still relevant. In the final video included in the article, he says, “I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead…” Yes, it is tough, and we have a lot of hard work to do, and Mister Rogers isn’t here any longer to help us do it. He carried the weight of the world while we went busily about our days. We need to pick up where he left off. We have to.

Maybe it’s unfair to hold up Mister Rogers or bands like R.E.M. as examples of how we can take what we’re passionate about and try our best to spread the word and educate and inform people without getting mad or preachy. I guess I’m just hoping that we can remember those lessons and not get too discouraged. If there’s one thing I learned from the Reagan/Bush era it’s perseverance. It hurts and it’s demeaning to lose. But I, for one, need to look back at where I’ve been, what has been important to me, what helped me get through difficult times. This helps.

{If you’re wondering why I chose this early live video instead of the black and white one set to the studio track that would seem to fit perfectly, it’s because I couldn’t find a version of that without an ad and this time, I really felt like I didn’t want to subject people to a possible football ad.}