You can see them on television at all hours — for me it’s the early morning news shows. They are those charming and often moving television spots promoting human values and asking us to “pass it on.”
In one an adorable child finds his way on stage at a piano concert and begins to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while his feet dangle from the piano bench. Before his stricken parents can move, here comes the featured pianist who leans over the tot saying, “Don’t stop, keep playing,” and turns the one finger tune into a wonderful duet. Musician and boy take a deep bow together as a child’s voice says, “Encouragement — pass it on.” Charming. Patience is the value illustrated in one called “Wet Cement” in which a tired man is about to finish paving a walkway, and looks up to see a little boy who, having tramped through the whole job, says “Hi.” Gently returning the greeting and lifting the child aside, the good man starts again as a voice says, “Patience, pass it on.”
The quality of the spots is impressive — acting, filming, music and settings are as good as they get. That is why I think I didn’t notice them for a while — they got thrown in with commercials featuring talking lizards and squawking ducks that are so easy to ignore.
I wondered who is doing this and why. The who is Philip Anschutz — a wealthy conservative who founded and endowed the Foundation for a Better Life from whence come the TV spots and lots more. The why comes from the organization’s mission statement: The Foundation for a Better Life creates public service campaigns to communicate the values that make a difference in our communities — values such as honesty, caring, optimism, hard work, and helping others…developing values and passing them on is The Foundation for a Better Life.
Beyond TV, messages come by way of billboards featuring familiar figures and the values they represent. Jackie Robinson stands for character — “Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson,” it says. Jane Goodall is stewardship. Abe Lincoln “Failed, failed failed. And then…” is persistence.
What a welcome idea to take a break from human problems and reflect on human goodness. The next time you come across a TV spot, billboard or download from The Foundation for a Better Life, stop and notice. Then join me in saying thanks and “Here’s to you, Mr. Anschutz.” Gratitude…pass it on.