Fred Rogers would have turned 93 today if he was still with us. Everyone knows him, but most know Fred as simply Mister Rogers. The Presbyterian minister turned television host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a part of countless children’s lives each day on-screen. During his 33-year run on the popular kids show from 1968 to 2001, Rogers taught young kids with his trademark gentle and kind demeanor.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is still lauded for the show’s impact on children’s lives. The educational show focuses on kids’ emotional and physical concerns, including death, divorce, sibling issues, and challenges at school. Mister Rogers helped normalize people with disabilities. He showed that all people are created equal, no matter their background, race, religion, etc. Mister Rogers spoke to children directly and tackled both fun and tough subjects with class and reverence.
Let’s be honest, if everyone was a little more like Mister Rogers, the world would be a better place. His genuine love for people, and children in particular, made him the perfect teacher and role model for young, developing minds. Although only a small window into his long, impactful career, let’s take a look back at some of Mister Rogers’ best moments while celebrating his March 20th birthday.
Fred Rogers Defends Public Programming In Washington
Back in 1969, only a year after Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood originally aired, he appeared in front of the U.S. Senate to defend public programming. President Richard Nixon was considering possible cuts to federal funding that public broadcasts relied on.
Mister Rogers went to Washington and gave an impassioned speech as to why the government should continue supporting public programming. In true Mister Rogers fashion, he made his point clear without even raising his voice. His touching words made a difference that day, as Sen. John Pastore acknowledged during the hearing.
“Well I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy,” said chairman Sen. John Pastore. “And this is the first time I’ve had goosebumps in the last two days.”
His Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997
In 1997, the Daytime Emmy Awards honored Fred Rogers with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Of course, Rogers used his time while at the podium to honor others instead of focusing on his own accolades.
Instead of the typical acceptance speech, he asked the audience to join him in taking 10 seconds to think of the people who “helped you become who you are.”
“So many people have helped me to come here to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away, and some are even in heaven. All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds, I’ll watch the time,” Fred Rogers said to the audience.
“Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they have made,” he added when the 10 seconds came to an end.
Mister Rogers Inducted Into Television Hall of Fame
In 1999, during a ceremony in Los Angeles, California, Fred Rogers was inducted into the TV Critics’ Television Hall of Fame. The well-deserved honor became even more special that night when a former guest on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made a surprise appearance.
Jeff Erlanger, who visited the show as a young boy in a wheelchair to talk about his disability openly, surprised Rogers on stage and thanked him for his work. It was a touching moment between the two old friends. Additionally, the heartwarming presentation left the crowd and likely many viewers at home teary-eyed.
During his speech addressing the audience of TV celebrities and producers, Rogers spoke about the power of television, and the difference it can make in people’s lives.
“How do we make goodness attractive?” Fred Rogers asked aloud.
Fred Rogers Says His Final Goodbye On ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’
On August 31, 2001, the final original episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired. Mister Rogers addressed the children that had watched his show for the last 33 years as he thanked them for their support.
In addition, he specifically addressed the children that had grown up and passed the show and its teachings on to their own kids. Rogers stepped away from the longtime educational show with class and poise, and made sure to let his fans know once more how special they are.
“I’m just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us,” Rogers said to his audience. “And I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger, ‘I like you just the way you are.'”
“It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re life-long friends,” he concluded.