As someone who grew up watching his program, Fred Rogers remains a formative influence on my life. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of his “Neighborhood”, and the year is being marked with a variety of celebrations, from a postage stamp to a documentary to a feature film starring Tom Hanks. If you want the definitive explanation of why Mister Rogers was such a remarkable individual, then I would recommend this profile (warning, you may want to have a few tissues at hand — I’m not crying, you’re crying!).

As a child, you knew Mister Rogers would always tell you the truth, and never speak down to you, even when confronting frightening issues like death, divorce, or war.  A key character on the early days of the show was police Officer Clemons, the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series. In the early days of television, Rogers realized the cultural impact this technology would have, much of it negative, and devoted his life to, “the broadcasting of grace through the land.” As we grapple with new social and anti-social technologies, I often find myself wondering what he would have thought of our addictive new devices.

If you were a Mister Rogers kid (or the parent of one), I don’t have to tell you why he was special. If you aren’t so familiar, the video below will give you a sense of him. Appearing before Congress in 1969, as the Senate was about to halve the funding for the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rogers, in less than seven minutes, wins over the gruff and abrasive panel, saving the day for educational television.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He serves on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.

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6 Thoughts on "50 Years in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood"

I lived in Mr. Rogers’ real neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. When I was a child, we lived a couple of blocks away from him in Squirrel Hill. When I moved back as an adult, I lived a few blocks away in Shadyside, and I used to walk along the same route as he did to Oakland. The real Mr. Rogers was astonishingly like the TV Mr. Rogers–unassuming and unfailingly kind and polite.

He was amazing. Through “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” my daughter found the original 60s era ‘sodes (thanks, Amazon!), and as an adult watching with her, it’s remarkable how many timeless, essential lessons he was able to bring across, and how safe his tele-presence is able to make kids (and adults) feel. In the wake of so many tragedies, the only way I comfort myself, personally, as an adult and a parent, is to “look for the helpers,” as he famously advised. (proof of this: http://www.newburyportnews.com/letter-inspired-by-true-community-leaders/article_078e1eb5-022f-5633-bfa4-83b3c21e2d9d.html) This post made my morning! Thanks!

Thank you, David, for this remembrance. He was our comfort. So long ago and still so close in our hearts.

As a Pittsburgher, I can vouch that he was the same in real life as he was on TV: as a young librarian, I was asked to give him a tour of our library at Western Psych Institute. I was dutifully showing him around, and then just had to stop and tell him that my preschool daughter and I watched his show all the time, sang the songs together, and enjoyed it so much. He stopped the tour, gave me his full attention, asked me about my daughter (how old? who was watching her while I worked, etc), and we had a great discussion about how young children perceive television shows, and the impact of programming on behavior. What a gentle, intelligent, caring person!

Another Pittsburgher here who grew up in his television neighborhood. In a scrapbook, I have a letter he wrote to me in response to my request to be a guest kid on his show. He was as sweet and honest as you would expect in the way he turned my request down. Fred Rogers lived his life with generosity and in the fullness of love to all. I cannot imagine how he would try to explain our country or the world today, but I do know he would figure out a way to do it honestly and inspire us to be and do better.

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