Will You Be My Neighbor?

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I’m not ashamed to say that I have a copy of a little book by my bedside entitled ‘Wisdom from The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember’. It features quotes and anecdotes by Fred Rogers about courage, love, inner discipline, and, of course, being good neighbors as citizens of the world

For those of you who don’t know who Mr. Rogers was (he died in 2003) he hosted a revolutionary children’s television show called Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for over three decades. Wearing his signature zippered cardigan, knitted by his mother, and joined by his puppet friends, he spread the message of kindness and love, always respecting kids and never talking down to them.

It was just announced that the U.S. Postal Service will immortalize Mr. Rogers with a Forever postage stamp. A documentary about Fred Rogers recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. And if this isn’t enough, Oakland’s own Tom Hanks has recently signed on to star in a biopic about Mr. Rogers.

Why all the sudden interest in Mr. Rogers? He’s certainly been spoofed before— Saturday Night Live comes to mind—but this is different. This man, who was gentle and encouraged kids to be their best, authentic selves was also very special off-screen. In 1997, Fred Rogers testified before a Senate subcommittee to push for public broadcasting funds. Amazing. He also moved an entire Emmy Awards audience to complete silence—and many to tears—when he instructed them to think of someone to whom they owed gratitude.

Mr. Rogers’ widow Joanne recently told the New York Times that she thought he’d be pleased with the idea of a stamp in his honor. She said, “I think that people must need him. Just look at what goes on in the world. He always wanted to provide a haven and a comfortable lap for children, and I think that is what so many of us need right now.”


My favorite Mr. Rogers’ quote? “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

With a Perspective, I’m C.J. Hirschfield.

C.J. Hirschfield is executive director of Children’s Fairyland in Oakland.