The Vision of Mr Rogers

Happy Birthday, Fred Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003)

Last fall, I shared a photo that was buzzing around facebook. Here it is:


At the time, I saw it as an adage about love:

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle.
To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly

the way he or she is, right here and now.

It was a message that I had tried to convey in my memoir. At the end of the subplot of Woody’s and my struggles — well, my struggle with Woody — I wrote about how love is a choice one makes, an active choice, a decision we make regularly.

When I saw the Fred Rogers meme, I thought it would bring comments about love to my Facebook page. From there, I could segue into my memoir.  

My Facebook Friends had other ideas.

In the comments that followed my sharing, no one mentioned the quote. Instead, they spoke of  Mr. Rogers directly, of how much  his life had impacted theirs. Among the many descriptions, these stood out. He was, my commenters said,

a kind and loving soul
a great man
caring and genuine
The greatest role model I know.

Fred Rogers’ message over the years — love, unconditional acceptance, kindness, peace — was consistant and undeniable and, as my commenters showed, inextricably woven into who he was as a person.

His values are ones I try to bring to my blog: acceptance, curiosity, caring, connection, peace.

I maintain this site as a safe place for sharing views. Grounded in inclusion and respect for the other, it is a blog that seeks to foster community, conversation, and connection … across differences.

Let’s see how this applies to Mr. Rogers, whose birthday is coming up soon. 

Fred McFeeley Rogers was born on March 20, 1928 and died on February 27, 2003, both in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

Besides the TV personality children came to know, did you know these facts about him? 

  • He was a licensed pilot, an ordained Presbyterian minister, the husband of one, and the father of two.
  • Trained in Music Composition, he composed the songs used on his show and provided the voices for most of his puppet characters.
  • And he was color-blind. Literally as well as figuratively.

In researching for this post, I learned more.

Here’s an interview from Esquire Magazine, November 1998, that was posted online just a few years ago. It’s long, as these things tend to be, but, written by Tom Junod, it’s a keeper. Perhaps you can come back to it.


I’d long wondered what Mr. Rogers had thought of the famous Eddie Murphy parody of his show on Saturday Night Live. I discovered that while there were a few parodies he disdained, the ones Eddie Murphy made famous on SNL were not among them. And, if you have an interest in seeing the SNL skit, here it is.  It’s not quite 4 minutes long.

There were many parodies made of him over the years. And Fred Rogers appeared to have enjoyed most of them. Here he is discussing ones by Henry Korman, Johnnie Carson’s, and then Eddie Murphy’s.   My thanks to

It’s part of the culture, now” he says.

Fred Rogers also appeared in one episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on TV, one of the rare occasions, a biographer said, when he appeared on TV as other than he truly was, although in the short snippet I watched here, he seemed to maintain his same persona. Which brings to mind this quote of his,

Thanks to

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.

The gift of our honest self.  How hard is that? Do you know your honest self?

It occurs to me, as we look ahead to what would be Mr. Rogers’ 88th birthday on Sunday (March 20, 2016), that perhaps the best way to honor him would be to get reacquainted with our own honest self, and commit to presenting that face as often as we are able.

Perhaps in a future post, we can talk about the masks we all wear, from time to time.

How about you? What has Mr. Rogers meant in your life?  

Happy Birthday, Fred Rogers.  This one’s back to you:

19 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I think being honest with yourself is important, as are the points you make about choosing to love, being kind, and other embodying other values Mr. Rogers tried to impart.

    I can’t say Mr. Rogers actually meant something to me. Rather, I would say I admired him a great deal. I think children could relate to him. I remember my younger daughter loving his show. For some reason though, she took to Mr. McFeeley, and we joked about her saying with a big smile, “I YUV Mr. M’Feeley.” (She was probably two.) 🙂

    We will be good neighbors this week.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I must admit, I had to Google Mr. McFeeley. Thanks for starting us off this morning, Merril. Glad that you’re my neighbor (even if just for the week).

  2. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet, Mr Rogers could bring calm to any household. I remember my children being mesmerized by him. More important was his consistent message of honesty and decency. I appreciate the lengths and depths you go to present your material. I’ll be revisiting and clicking on the links. What a nice break from all the scandal, terror and chaos of our current world. Thank you!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You know, Kathy, when I bumped this post off of the Wednesday slot, I had a curious sense of missing it. Now I understand it had to do with just what you are saying: he brings a calmness into a room, even just his memory, and we can certainly use it these days. I had fun pulling the various skits together. And, when I found the Esquire article, some of the SNLs had to go. There’s much good stuff about him out there, it was difficult to narrow it. So I didn’t much. 🙂

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    This refreshing post brings back memories of the sweet strains of Mr. Rogers’ voice when my children tuned in. He must have been the daddy or uncle many children did not have, a benign presence.

    I heard Diane Rehm say on her show once: “I. Just. Loved. That. Man.” A journalist interviewing her in her crescent-shaped office notes that it is filled with family photos, honors and an image of Mr. Rogers.

    Happy Birthday indeed, Mr. Rogers and brava to you, Janet, for the reminder here. Now to check out your links . .

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for that link, Marian. I’d known Diane Rehm was tackling the right-to-die issue, but I didn’t know she was planning to retire in December. That will be a huge loss; her voice has always been one of moderation and intelligence, even when it’s shaking. (well, except for the inexplicable gaff with Bernie; at least she apologized). Welcome to my neighborhood today. 🙂

  4. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    I remember Mr. Rogers. As a kid I liked Mr. Dressup a little better, but as an adult, much respect for this man.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Respect. Yes, I think that sums it up for me too. Thanks for popping in, Lyndsey.

  5. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Not being resident in north America, I haven’t comer across this fellow before, but he sounds like a really good genuine sort of man. Quite a role model. Thanks for telling us about him. My life has been enhanced.

  6. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Isn’t that the real power of leaving a legacy, Ian? That we can have an impact on someone’s life even after we have died? Is that why we all write books? I wonder.

    Glad you have you back with us. Hugs across the pond.

  7. Laurie
    | Reply

    When I was a new mom, I only the Mr. Rogers as a joke. My kids taught me otherwise. I tell people Mr. Rogers taught me how to parent (I was a barely twenty-year-old mom whose family of origin was pretty darn dysfunctional and I had no models). I love that man. There a great documentary titled Mr. Rogers and Me–well worth watching.

  8. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Ah, yes. Mr. Rogers. I miss him! Every evening while I was cooking dinner I watched his show with my kids. We all learned a lot.

  9. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    Nice to see you back. This is such a great post, full of Mr. Rogers wisdom. Thanks.
    Darlene Foster recently posted…The Many Stories of YorkMy Profile

  10. Bette A Stevens
    | Reply

    Three Cheers for Mr. Rogers every day! 🙂

  11. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    They had an interview with his wife—I guess a yr or so ago and it was really interesting

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