Our guest author today is Randy Garton, former Director of Research and Operations at the Albert Shanker Institute. He retired in 2015.
I recently went with my oldest son, a young adult on the autism spectrum, to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a movie featuring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. It is a grown-up movie, inspired by real events. It tells the story of a reporter (played by Matthew Rhys), who is assigned to do a profile of Rogers.
The reporter, Tom Junod, is depicted as a cynical, angry, but honest man who endeavors to find the “real” Mr. Rogers — who he supposes is much different from the kindly figure seen on TV. Instead, he discovers that Rogers is a complex, kind, thoughtful and brilliant artist. He was certainly not a saint, but a decent man who tried to live his life by the values he taught on the show and, by and large, succeeded.
The acting was top notch. As expected, Hanks was great in the role and was the perfect guy for the part. Junod’s wife was played by an African-American actress, adding an extra layer of complexity. I don’t know whether or not the wife of the real journalist was Black, but it struck me as important in the film. She was depicted as very strong and smart. Junod was portrayed as a man in pain due to his father’s actions at the time of his mother’s death. He didn’t know how to deal with those feelings, and Mr. Rogers helped.
I believe that many people left that movie wanting to be a better person. I certainly did.