Fred Rogers changed television — and the lives of many thousands of children.
The children’s-TV legend hosted the pioneering “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on PBS for 33 years, starting in 1968. With his calm, inviting manner, the Presbyterian minister taught his show’s young viewers about kindness, acceptance and self-esteem, and he even tackled difficult current events.
On Thursday night, Donald Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp likened ABC’s Joe Biden town hall, which aired opposite President Trump’s similar event on NBC, to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” She apparently meant it as criticism of either Biden’s performance or the way ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos questioned the former vice president.
The result: Americans flooded social media with expressions of love and respect for Rogers.
Rogers won a Peabody Award and multiple Emmy Awards during his career, but he made clear that such recognition was not one of his motivations.
“It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls,” he said in his 2001 commencement address at Middlebury College. “It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff. That’s what makes growing humanity the most potentially glorious enterprise on earth.”
Tom Hanks played Rogers, who died in 2003, in the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
A recent YouGov poll found that “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” is among the most beloved TV shows of all time — for Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials. The reaction to Schlapp’s tweet last night proves that Rogers’ popularity shows no sign of waning.