I think most people will agree that Mr. Rogers was a successful person. Since the 1960s he was tireless in his life’s work of encouraging the healthy emotional growth and development of children and their families. He won many awards and world-wide recognition for his work through his iconic TV program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. In fact, the Smithsonian in Washington DC has one of his red sweaters in their collection.
But Fred Rogers doesn’t fit the image of a successful person. He was soft spoken, sort of goofy, and the songs he wrote and sang could be quite corny. He didn’t dress in the latest fashions or live an elitist lifestyle. A friend of mine happened to be on the same late night flight as Mr. Rogers, who was sitting in the regular seats on the plane, and my friend said he was as genial and kind in person as he was on his TV program.
People made fun of Mr. Rogers, even before Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood became a success. And afterward, he was the butt of many jokes. Eddie Murphy and the Saturday Night Live cast did several parodies of him and his TV program.
Even so, Mr. Rogers never wavered in his passion for excellence in children’s TV programming. He kept on keeping on with what he knew was right and what he felt was his mission, his calling, to achieve. He was so firm in his convictions about good, nourishing, television programming for children that he stood up to the US Senate and convinced them to continue funding educational TV.
We can all take a lesson from Mr. Rogers. We don’t have to look a certain way or live in a particular area or be popular. We don’t have to be loud or extroverted We don’t have to do crazy, outlandish things to be noticed and we certainly don’t have to “sell our souls to the devil” in order to have an impact. It’s okay if others don’t get what we’re trying to achieve; it’s even okay if people make fun of us as we pursue our dreams.
We can do as Mr. Rogers did and give all of ourselves, every day, doing the very best we can toward making a difference in a way that matters to us.
Thank you for showing us the way, Mr. Rogers!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,