Happy birthday, Fred Rogers!
Our favorite children's television show host would have been 85 years-old Wednesday, but his impact on all of us collectively has been timeless, thanks to his long-running show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which ran for over three decades.
Who else could have instilled warm fuzzy feelings about zip-up cardigans, navy blue sneakers and hand puppets, or inspired us to go make friends in our own neighborhood? Who else made us want to ride a make-believe trolley to somewhere special, or go and visit Pittsburgh? With his gentle voice and seemingly unwavering understanding of our feelings, Mister Rogers acted like a surrogate grandfather in all of our lives.
No one said it better than Mister Rogers himself, of course. The beloved television icon (and ordained minister) died of stomach cancer in Feburary 2003, just short of his 74th birthday. But in a message he recorded in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Rogers recorded this "Message of Hope" for his viewers. The words, in a way, can also be seen as words of comfort for the many fans, now adults themselves, who would have to say goodbye to Rogers two years later:
"I walk down the street and someone, 20 or 30 or 40 years-old will come up to me and say, 'You are Mister Rogers, aren't you?'" And then they tell me about growing up with the neighborhood and how they're passing on to the children they know what they found to be important in our television work ... I'm just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us. I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are ... It's such a good feeling to know we're life-long friends."