This blog post was created by KCTS 9 marketing and communications intern Danielle P. in collaboration with KCTS 9 staff.
“It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”
Each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood began with this welcoming lyric, accompanied by a simple tune on piano. Whether you were a kid or a parent, from the late 1960s all the way through the early 2000s, you will probably recognize this iconic opening theme.
Every kid wanted to live in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make Believe. I myself longed to one day ride the red and yellow trolley that traveled throughout the town and interact with the eccentric puppet residents. This was always my favorite part of the show. But Mister Rogers’ main intent was to teach young viewers meaningful life lessons. Topics included expressing creativity, being yourself, learning ways to save the environment, understanding feelings and so much more.
Occasionally, Mister Rogers would enhance these life lessons by taking viewers on field trips to museums, factories and theaters. I recall one episode where we ventured to a crayon factory to learn how crayons are made. The main theme of the episode was competition, and the story featured a coloring contest among the neighborhood’s puppet inhabitants. This theme was spread across several consecutive episodes; in them, Mister Rogers explained the best ways to handle loss and victory, as well as the importance of humility.
The show bridged a gap between generations, airing for more than three decades. My mother grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, and she began watching the program before color TV was common. I was born in 1997, and I spent a lot of my childhood with my parents, my nanny, and our TV set in the family room of our home. Whenever the TV was on, I was learning something new from PBS’s children’s programs.
Despite his death in 2003, Fred Rogers’ impact on child development remains prevalent. He has inspired a variety of new television programs designed to educate kids and encourage togetherness. One of these is the PBS animated series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which was introduced in 2012 as a spin-off to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Daniel Tiger, who is the son of puppet Daniel Striped Tiger from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, gets to live my childhood dream of riding in that red trolley through the Neighborhood of Make Believe, while at the same time teaching kids many life skills they’ll need as they mature.
Although kids today may not be familiar with Fred Rogers himself, his lessons are carried on by Daniel Tiger and his friends. There are hundreds of life lessons Mister Rogers taught through his series. However, there is definitely an overarching theme that he wanted his young viewers to understand: how to be a good neighbor. According to Mister Rogers, being neighborly can mean many things. The most important of these are giving and acceptance. In his book Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers, Mister Rogers writes “Life is for service.” He believed that every person has the chance to make a difference in this world by helping others.
The legacy of Mr. Rogers continues because people are willing to give, accept, and show compassion towards others. Looking back, the characteristic I admire most about Mr. Rogers, along with his vast collection of cardigans, is his wholehearted kindness. His entire life was dedicated to helping future generations thrive, and through him, we as viewers learned this is most attainable simply by being a good person.
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” —Fred Rogers
Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press