What I Learned From Mister Rogers

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

I recently read an article from Success Magazine about a person of great influence and wisdom. A gentleman that many of us spent hours with each weekday during our childhood.  That person had a cardigan sweater, wore tennis shoes and had a wonderful smile.  That person is Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers lived an incredible life of purpose.  He dedicated his life’s mission to educating children, often times parents as well.  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 to 2000 on PBS with over 900 episodes.  It is public broadcasting’s longest running show.  Fred Rogers received numerous honors including more than 40 honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, four Emmy Awards, and the Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. Fred Rogers is an American icon.

As I thought about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and the impact it had on my brothers and me as we watched on Channel 23 in Richmond, Virginia, I noted three life lessons that were reinforced for me through the show.

  1. We all have something special.  This was the biggest influence for me from the show.  Fred Rogers was talking to me every day.  He had a way of looking at you through the television to make me feel at home.  His pace was slow and deliberate, not my normal style, but it worked. I felt secure and listened to every word he said.  The statement he would say resonated with me “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
  2. Striving to be a role model is critically important. As I have learned more about Fred Rogers, I am confident that he lived every bit of his life with the highest integrity.  In 1969, before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications, he fought for a federal grant needed for funding the newly created Corporation of Public Broadcasting.  The grant was in serious jeopardy until Fred Rogers spoke and convinced the chairman, Sen. John Pastore, on the show’s philosophy.  I can’t imagine a childhood without Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
  3. We must be stewards for children. Fred Rogers was a soft spoken man but he fought hard to serve children.  As I watch television with my two kids, I often have them turn it off.  The violence, inappropriate language and disrespectful behavior are not what I was taught by my parents and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  We must not rely on television to teach or reinforce the values that Fred Rogers taught – respect others and ourselves, self-discipline, nurturing friendships and facing our fears in life.

Fred Rogers passed away in 2003 at the age of 74 from stomach cancer.  His legacy for my generation and others will live on for a very long time.  I am very grateful for Fred Rogers and the lessons I learned from him.  It is wonderful to know 35+ years later that I am still special.  Fred Rogers – You were something special!

If you have memories of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, please feel free to comment and share.  What a special time in life that was.

Until next time, Leaders Develop Daily…Not in a Day.

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