Please Won’t You Be, My Neighbor

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Today would be Mr. (Fred) Rogers’ 80th Birthday.

“This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, “you’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service.”

Mr Rogers would walk in with a smile, singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, hang his coat in a closet, put on a cardigan zipper sweater, and remove his dress shoes to put on sneakers. A framed picture that said “Hello”, feed the fish, make something from a TP roll, listen to my parents, be creative. Anna Platypus, Trolley, Henrietta Pussycat, King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Prince Tuesday, Purple Panda.

The last episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired Friday, August 31, 2001. Fred Rogers died shortly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2003. He was buried in a private ceremony attended by sixty relatives, co-workers, and friends, but he told very few people he was sick.

At the 1998 Daytime Emmys when Mister Rogers was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. From Esquire magazine-

“…Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone: 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. Ten seconds of silence.

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, I’ll watch the time. There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, May God be with you to all his vanquished children.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers. These next ten seconds for you.

One Response to “Please Won’t You Be, My Neighbor”

  • Mr. Rogers was my favorite.

    TB — March 20, 2008 at 1:31 pm
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