Gone 15 Years, Here’s Why Mr. Rogers Is Still Constantly In the News

There’s been a lot of talk about Mr. Rogers this week, despite the fact that yesterday, February 27th, 2018, was the 15th anniversary of his death (and coincidentally, my son’s 14th birthday, I’ve always thought this interesting that I had a baby on the first anniversary of his death, since my son and I both loved him as a child, thank goodness for PBS re-runs!) In recent weeks a video of his testimony before the U.S. Senate in which he basically saved public television’s funding has one viral. The reason? It’s not only a super-inspiring video, it also happens to be the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood debuting on public television, and PBS is celebrating in a big way: by showing a whole week of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episodes in tandem with the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes that they inspired.

Screen shot: PBS

{Insert emotional sigh}

This brings up SO much emotional nostalgia for me: Mr. Rogers was a big part of my childhood and my oldest son’s as well, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has been a big part of my youngest son’s. The most important lessons these shows taught kids about their value as a person and about the validity of their emotions (and how to handle them!) will, I pray, be ingrained in my kids, and in so many millions of American kids for a lifetime.

There’s a reason Mr. Rogers was able to change so many little lives through TV; he had a light within him. As a Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers knew Christ—and God’s love radiated from him. His show broke racial barriers, highlighted people with disabilities, and taught our kids that they are of value merely because they are alive. He truly was a friend and neighbor to us all.

In case you have forgotten or never knew what an amazing man Mr. Rogers was, here’s his 1997 Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech to remind you. Notice that he focuses not on himself…not even for a minute.

Speaking very briefly, he says:

Thank you. Thank you. Oh it’s a beautiful night in this neighborhood. So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away, some are even in Heaven.

All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.

[10 Sec Pause]

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made. You know they’re the kind of people television does well to offer our world. Special thanks to my family and friends, and to my co-workers in Public Broadcasting, Family Communications, and this Academy for encouraging me, allowing me, all these years to be your neighbor. May God be with you. Thank you very much.

If your kids have never watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, I encourage you to seek episodes out on your PBS station or online. Let’s use the wonders of technology to keep exposing our little loves to this wonderful man of God — and of television. I feel he was truly an angel on earth, and I am really looking forward to meeting him in heaven one day!

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.

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