Maxwell King, journalist and author of Fred Rogers’ biography, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, was the latest speaker in Saint Vincent College’s Threshold Series on Sept. 21 from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
King was joined in his presentation by David Hartman, original host of “Good Morning America” and frequent collaborator with Fred Rogers, and Dr. Junlei Li, co-director of the Fred Rogers Center and partner with Harvard’s Zaentz Initiative in Early Childhood.
King revealed that he had only met Fred Rogers twice before his death.
“Once was in a meeting in his office,” King said. “I went there because the Heinz endowments, where I worked, funded Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood […] I went there thinking ‘Well, we’re gonna talk about funding, we’re gonna talk about the program… it’s gonna be that sort of a business meeting.”
However, King stated that his expectations of the meeting were quickly upended as he and Rogers talked “for an hour and 20 minutes […] about life in general.”
King stated two lessons he hoped readers would take away from his book.
One lesson, he said, is what an important figure Rogers was in the development of early childhood education in America.
“Because he studied with all these great thinkers at [The University of Pittsburgh], and he incorporated their thinking in his program,” King said, “he, in effect, ended up teaching a mass audience in America about the importance of early childhood education.”
King confessed that the other lesson is somewhat of an oversimplification of Roger’s philosophy.
“[It’s] pretty simple; slow down. Be kind. Slow down and take the time to be with people, to understand people, to experience life, to enjoy people,” King said, “and from that, you’ll get the perspective that enables you to really be kind to other people.”
King believes that Rogers would experience distress at the 2018 socio-political climate.
“He would be very distressed at the lack of civil discourse in the country today, both in the political arena and in communities around the country,” he said.
However, King also stated that Rogers’ reaction would not solely be limited to lamentation.
“He’d do something about it,” King said. “I think he would try to help children and help grown-ups understand how critical to a successful society, to a good life, that kind of respectful dialogue is.”
More information concerning Fred Roger’s peaceful philosophies can be found in King’s book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, available now on Amazon.
Saint Vincent College established the Threshold Lecture Series in 1981 when the Kennametal Foundation of Latrobe made a substantial grant to the College for the creation of an ongoing series of lectures and cultural events.