No matter how cold and grey a late winter’s day in Canada can be, it was always a beautiful day when we tuned in to visit Fred Rogers’ neighbourhood—not that we ever called him Fred. To us, he was Mr. Rogers (after all, most viewers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were just kids) and he was the person who taught us the importance of kindness, love, acceptance, and diversity (way before it was a buzzword).
As children, Fred Rogers entertained us, educated us, and made us feel safe and happy—he was the friend we all had in common. As adults, we’ve come to appreciate how important those lessons were. It makes us wish that our kids had a Mr. Rogers of their own. March 20 would have been Fred Rogers’ 90th birthday. To celebrate his life, we’re looking back at some of the most beautiful, moving moments that Rogers shared with his viewers, both young and old. So put on your cardigans, grab the tissues, and watch Fred Rogers work his magic.
He led by gentle example
Mr. Rogers taught us that it’s what’s inside that matters and that kindness and inclusivity should be at the core of everything we do. He also introduced us to the idea that kids that look different are, on the inside, a lot like us. It’s the message behind his oft-sung song ‘It’s You I Like.’
He saved public broadcasting
Funding for the new non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting was in peril back in 1969 when Fred Rogers stepped in to testify before a Senate committee. In today’s common parlance, we’d say that Mr. Rogers ‘killed it’ (with kindness). If only he could step in to speak for Planned Parenthood today.
He didn’t shy away from the hard lessons
Mr. Rogers tackled the tough topic of death and what it means in a simple and gentle way that was easy for us to understand. He told is that it was perfectly okay to cry, to feel sad, and to miss people. It’s the kind of validation not everyone gets, but that we all need.
His love had reach
Like, beyond the borders of our species. When Mr. Rogers met Koko, a gorilla who knew sign language, she had a very important message to share about love: that she loved HIM and the fact that he visited her. Wonder if she could tell that he was a committed vegetarian….
He showed us that we could all use a time out
Not as a punishment, but as a way to pause and appreciate everyone who’s helped us or cared about us. By using the platform of his Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech at the Daytime Emmys, he showed us that there’s no such thing as being too busy for gratitude.
He was happy to share the secret behind all those cardigans
Every year, Fred Rogers’ mother would make 12 sweaters for everyone in the Rogers clan. That’s where his amazing cardigan collection came from (even the one Joan Rivers is wearing in this clip from The Tonight Show).
He told us we had to be good, not perfect
Sometimes Mr. Rogers’ messages were so short and sweet, you could blink and miss them—but that doesn’t mean the didn’t reach us. It’s important for someone to simply say, “It’s okay to make mistakes. People will still love you.”
He showed us why it’s best to be ourselves
“I found out I was okay just the way I was” sang Mr. Rogers. Repeat it, make it your mantra.
He reminded us that there’s more than one way to say I love you
…And that just being there is the most important one.