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 FB 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 EmmyTVLEGENDS.org (Warning: 26 minutes long)
“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,
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: