Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The scoop on Mr. Rogers

I've always been a fan of Fred Rogers, although I hadn't read up on his life much. But I learned more about him this weekend because I stayed at a house in Winter Park Florida. Apparently Winter Park was a favorite locale for Fred Rogers. In part because he attended Rollins College there. I always associated Rogers with Pittsburgh and a middle-class lifestyle, but apparently Fred Rogers' family was stinking rich.

According to his American National Biography entry:
As the recipient of a substantial family inheritance, Rogers was independently wealthy and was able to forgo income from his television productions.
To get a real sense of just how wealthy Rogers' family was, when my mother took a boat trip in Winter Park (which is built in the middle of the central Florida wetlands) this weekend, the tour guide informed the group that Fred Rogers was not able to have a piano at his Rollins school lodgings so his family built a house for him nearby where he could play his own piano there. 

I'm not saying that non-wealthy people can't be pleasant and upbeat, but it gives an important perspective on how Fred Rogers was able to maintain a childlike, almost surreal belief in the innate goodness of people and the world - he didn't have to hold a job if he didn't want to, and the job he held was as a pioneer in public broadcasting for children. Not exactly a challenging career path. It's on the job that most people are forced up against each others' competitiveness and pettiness and bullying and even violence, and Fred Rogers just didn't have to deal with it. If he needed anything, his family provided it. It was always a beautiful day in the neighborhood because Rogers lived in the most beautiful neighborhoods money could buy.

Of course plenty of the stinking rich are horrible people with excessive vices, and Rogers was a decent human being with moderate habits. So good for him. But make no mistake, he had advantages that the vast majority of humanity do not get. It's easier to be pleasant when your life is pleasant.