Monday, July 26, 2010

Fame is a Four-Letter Word

February 1999
Television Hall of Fame
Fred Rogers' Acceptance Speech


Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.

I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen – day and night!

The conductor of the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl grew up in a family that had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television.

Last month a thirteen-year-old boy abducted an eight-year-old girl; and when people asked him why, he said he learned about it on TV. "Something different to try," he said. "Life’s cheap; what does it matter?"

Well, life isn’t cheap. It’s the greatest mystery of any millennium, and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that ... to show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own – by treating our "neighbor" at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you ... who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let’s just take ten seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life -- those who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight -– just ten seconds of silence.

No matter where they are – either here or in heaven – imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.

We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative imaginative ways.

On behalf of all of us at Family Communications and the Public Broadcasting Service, I thank you for all the good that you do in this unique enterprise ... and for wanting our Neighborhood to be part of this celebration tonight. Thank you very much.

I have a friend in China; we used to practice our languages together for a couple of hours a night, a few nights a week. After a while, we decided that it would be neat to swap pieces of works that had meaning beyond just the words they were made up of. My friend had a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book, which I thought was quaint, and I had a book of quotes by Mr. Rogers. And so we swapped stories and quotes.

As our practice went on, my friend asked me who these quotes were by, so I told her. Suffice it to say, I was a little bit floored when I found out that she'd never even heard of Mr. Rogers, so I explained that he hosted a children's show for many years and the sort of things he talked about, and then busted out the Wiki page on him.

After a few of these exchanges, my friend was impressed with this figure from a faraway land and let me know. "Wow, I don't know that we have anyone like that here," she said. It turns out that she found a video of him addressing the Senate (an absolutely important video to watch) back in 1969 trying to get funding for PBS. And he succeeded, quite well. But anyways, I thought she was quite enamored with the quotes, and I don't think ANYONE should be deprived of Mr. Rogers, so when I ended up going to China I gave her my copy of the book.

Looking back, I can see a little bit of humor in that encounter. She gave me a copy of "The Art of War," and I gave her Mr. Rogers. She gave me a book that details how to defeat your enemy through superior tactics, and I gave her a Little Red Book of Quotes (being Chinese, she was used that) on having the courage to be yourself, understanding love, the challenges of inner discipline, and the fact that We Are All Neighbors.

How's that for a cultural exchange?

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