Fred Rogers

Neighbor (1928–2003) 
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The formula for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood changed very little from its first broadcast in 1968 until its last in 2001. Invariably it began with Fred Rogers slipping into a zippered cardigan sweater and a comfortable pair of sneakers as he sang his theme song: “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine?” 

For over thirty years, before an audience of many generations of young children, Mr. Rogers conducted an ongoing seminar on kindness, gratitude, and the wonder of life. He might welcome famous musicians to talk about their creative work, or visit a factory to see how things are made. He often addressed hard topics: suffering, death, the divorce of parents, the pain of being bullied. He taught that it was okay and normal sometimes to feel sad or lonely, and how bad feelings were easier to handle if you could share them with someone. He showed that people come in all colors and shapes, that some have special gifts, while others struggle with disabilities, but that everyone is special. 

Though ordained as a Presbyterian minister, Rogers pursued a unique type of ministry in children’s television, spreading a message of love, gentleness, and the joy of helping others. His own reputation for kindness was legendary. People often stopped to tell him how much his program had helped them in a difficult moment. In every encounter he devoted his full attention, imparting the conviction that each person and each moment in life is precious. 

Fred Rogers died of cancer on February 27, 2003. 

“Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbor.”—Fred Rogers 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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