Remember Mr. Rogers as a great man
This week, I wanted to take time to talk about one of the most influential people in my life. It is the eleventh anniversary of his death today, and I think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the one and only Fred Rogers. You would remember him as Mister Rogers from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, which is, in my opinion, probably one of the best shows made for children ever. He has left a mark on all of us, whether you know it or not.
Fred Rogers was born March 20, 1928. When he was a child, he spent most of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, who was very interested in music. If that name rings a bell, it’s because there was a character on Mister Rogers Neighborhood named after him; Mr. McFeely, the postman. Not only that, but Rogers’ grandfather’s interest in music contributed significantly to Rogers’ life, as he graduated from Rollins College in Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition. Later in his life, he met Sara Joanne Byrd, whom he married on June 9, 1952.
In 1954, Fred Rogers started working at a public television station in Pittsburgh called WQED, as a puppeteer on a kid’s show called “The Children’s Corner”, where he created many assets that would later be used in his own productions, such as the puppets King Friday XIII and Curious X the Owl.
At the same time he was in television, he would use his lunch breaks to go study at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he would later become an ordained minister.
After a few more years of working at various television stations, Fred Rogers developed his own show, called Mister Rogers Neighborhood. It first aired on the Eastern Education Network, but was moved to PBS in 1969.
However, around this same time, PBS was in danger of having its funding cut to around $9 million. Fred Rogers appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications to increase the funding of PBS to $22 million. He argued passionately about the benefits of his show, even reciting some lyrics to one of his songs. The chairman of the committee, John O. Pastore, had never heard of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and was notorious for being a tough cookie. However, this is what he had to say about the program: “I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”
From then on, Mister Rogers Neighborhood was broadcast across the United States until 2001, with a total time of 33 years on the air. I will never forget the cherished moments of being a young kid sitting around the house, when all of a sudden, that familiar theme song came from the TV, and I ran over to see what would be going on in the Land Of Make-believe that day.
He taught me it was okay to feel the way I was feeling. The fact that it is our feeling, makes it unique. In the words of Fred Rogers, “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive. And when you wake up ready to say “I think I’ll make this a snappy new day.” It’s such a good feeling, a really good feeling, the feeling you know that we’re friends.