Dr. Robert Simmermon
I have been pondering the connection between President Obama and Mr. Rogers. I know, it sounds strange but here is how it goes.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I in no way see President Obama and Mr. Rogers as similar, with the exception that they are both good decent human beings.
Our President certainly has polish and presence and I am profoundly appreciative of his intelligence. But I want him to be a little more scuffed up for his own well being, and ours. To me, a good scuff mark is a solid predictor of longevity and endurance.
In August of 2001, Mr. Rogers, the same sweet guy who had been on PBS for 33 years, was hanging up his sneakers and cardigan sweater, 15 days before the world would forever change. The twin towers would collapse and so would the innocence of countless Americans. In a way, that pristine sweater was symbolic of the end of an era.
Mr. Rogers was a kind and gentle man, a little too gentle for me but a tremendous influence in children’s television programming. My problem with him was that he was too nice. He was so neat and nice that I found myself looking for flaws every time my daughters watched the program. I confessed that, “I wanted that sweater to have a hole in it.” I wanted him to have his hands a little dirty, his clothes a little messy. It is like waiting for the first dent in a new car. Once it happens (you) he can relax, settle in, and enjoy the ride.
That feeling of relief and hope is what I wish for our new president. I want a hole in his sweater to strengthen him. I want him to spill a glass of water on himself.
But we have to be careful what we ask for. The President, in his interview with Anderson Cooper last night, revealed four holes in his presidential garb, named Daschle, Richardson, Killenger and Geithner. And I realized, the President also seems to know the power of holes in his sweater.
I was talking about this with a colleague over breakfast this morning and he reminded me of a study conducted way back in 1966. It was called the College Bowl Experiment. Dr. Elliot Aronson and his colleagues examined conducted a research study titled “The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness.”
The study confirmed my theory of the hole in the sweater phenomenon but with a twist. The experiment demonstrated that the attractiveness of a person with superior talent is enhanced if he/ she commits a blunder. But the twist is that the same blunder decreases the attractiveness of a mediocre person.
Aronson’s reasoning was that someone who is perceived as a "superior" person may be viewed as a superhuman and therefore, distant. A blunder tends to humanize this person and subsequently increases his/her attractiveness.
So, I admire the new holes in your sweater Mr. President; the future of our Republic depends on them.
Editor’s Note: Dr Robert. Simmermon is a psychologist and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. He is a frequent contributor to news programs and has served as a consultant on several feature films and documentaries. He was awarded The Georgia Psychological Association Media award in 1985, 1992, and 2007 for bringing narrative psychology to the public forum.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with