A statue was unveiled today.
A friendly likeness of Fred Rogers now looks over the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is depicted smiling in kind greeting while tying his shoes.
When I saw the news about it, I felt compelled to write, to rejoice, to share, and to feel immense gratitude that he had the courage to offer himself so honestly to the development of children everywhere.
For those of us who grew up in the United States, his is a familiar face. More commonly known as "Mr. Rogers," Fred was a youth minister who left his vocation to become a children's television host.
It didn't matter what kind of day you might be having. Watching Mr. Rogers changed your outlook. His program was a safe, gentle oasis of love and learning. He taught many types of things—most notably how to honor yourself and others for unique differences. We were immersed in his gentleness and grandfatherly feeling.
Sadly, Mr. Rogers left this world in 2003, after having touched many, many hearts since his program debuted in 1968.
This is the remarkable part of his story...
Fred Rogers' gentle television personality was not a television personality. It was who he was. He was gentle and kind when he was off-camera, at work, and at home. He was a simple man. He believed in goodness. He believed in listening to people from the heart. And he believed that children deserved respect and love.
For those of you who may not know Mr. Rogers, here is a little video clip that was made to introduce his lifetime achievements at the Emmy Awards for daytime television in the US.
When Fred stepped up to receive this award, he did so—so, so, so very humbly. He used that one moment in the spotlight to honor not himself, but others—all those who helped those in the audience and those viewing from their homes—achieve their highest potential.
Here is that clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Upm9LnuCBUM
As children, Mr. Rogers used to sing a song to us. Yes, admittedly, to all the millions—but I think that his intention was that the message be received by each one of us so that we would feel like the one special one he was speaking to...
I'm Proud of You I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. I hope that you're as proud as I am proud of you. I'm proud of you. I hope that you are proud And that you're Learning how important you are, How important each person you see can be. Discovering each one's specialty Is the most important learning. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. I hope that you're as proud as I am proud of you. I'm proud of you. I hope that you are proud of you, too! By Fred M. Rogers © 1970
I just want to thank you, Mr. Rogers. For caring for all the millions, and for showing us how to be good parents and teachers when it came turn for us to pass on this message to the next generation.
It's our turn to look into a child's eyes and tell them how special and unique they are.
Next time, I'm in Pittsburgh, I'm going to come and give you a hug.
p.s. Mister Roger's Neighborhood is still available for children. Here is their web site: http://pbskids.org/rogers/index.html