Won't You Be My Neighbor? The Legacy of Mr. Rogers
It’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood thanks to Fred Rogers. For 33 years, he was the creator, showrunner and host of the American television series, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He transformed children’s television, promoting kindness and speaking openly about children’s emotional and physical concerns.
Rogers won the hearts of many people. He also earned honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Was there anything this man couldn’t do? Read on to learn more about the legacy of everyone’s beloved "neighbor," Mr. Rogers.
He Hated TV, So He Changed It
When Rogers turned on the television, he often saw violence and people demeaning each other. The inhumanity made him furious, so he decided to inspire change in the medium, believing there was a way to "nurture" viewers with a charming and gentle program. As a result, he created Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to spread knowledge and kindness. The show's production and sets were basic, but that didn't stop it from becoming groundbreaking television.
Celebrities and Even Animals Loved Him
Not only did Rogers make a significant impact on kids and their parents, but he also influenced celebrities. One of his fans is Michael Keaton, who ended up hosting a lovely Mr. Rogers documentary called It’s You I Like. Tom Hanks also adores Rogers and portrayed him in the 2019 film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
He Personally Responded to Every Letter from Fans
Rogers' daily routine included waking up at five every morning, praying, writing, studying, exercising and replying to all his fan mail. The show’s program assistant, Heather Arnet, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "He respected the kids who wrote them. He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."
He Was a Gifted Musician
After attending Dartmouth College for one year, Rogers transferred to Rollins College. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in music. As a talented songwriter, he created all the tunes for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which is more than 200 songs. He also played the piano magnificently, and it shows in each episode.
He Saved Public Television and the VCR
In 1969, Rogers went to Washington D.C. to help stop budget cuts for public television. He presented his case in front of the Senate, explaining how he could help children. "I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health," Rogers explained to the Senate. He did more than just stop the budget cuts by the end of the hearing. Within six minutes, he convinced the committee to provide $22 million in funding for public TV.
He Cared Deeply About Others
From 1968 to 2001, Rogers made sure to use his show for good. Focusing on children's emotional and physical struggles, he included many personal topics because he cared about his audience's needs, concerns and happiness. He answered questions about everything from scary haircuts to fights with siblings to divorce and war.