My three-year-old grandson has become fascinated by watching the original Mr. Rogers shows on PBS Kids. As I watched with him while Mr. Rogers zipped his sweater, fed the fish, and explained why computers are important but lack the creativity of people (this was one of the last episodes), I felt frustrated beyond belief at recent events. Watching the spectacle of political leaders once again abandoning our children to preventable violence, I was reminded of the virtually universal respect for Fred Rogers among parents, educators, and people who truly care about protecting kids. Mr. Rogers died fifteen years ago; he would have turned 90 years old next month. Watching his shows renews my appreciation for his ability to reassure children without patronizing them, as he repeats, again and again, that adults will always do our best to protect and accept them, “just the way they are.”
Some of his original books explaining ordinary life events are still available (for example here, and here, and here). I prefer these to the condensed guidebooks and calendars distilling his wisdom for adults, although I suppose that those also play a role in keeping his values alive. There is also a new postage stamp to be released on March 23, in time to honor the debut of public t.v. program on February 19, 1968.
We sometimes refer to members of Congress as “spineless” as they allow the NRA to dictate public policy in exchange for that organization’s financial support, but callous indifference to human life needs to be called by a more accurate term, which is evil. In a sickening modern version of Grimms’ fairy tales, teenagers protesting at the Florida statehouse were met with the insane assertion that automatic weapons are needed to hunt boars.
If you have never watched the footage of Mr. Rogers’ testimony to Congress as he calmly but passionately explained the need for children’s public television, this would be an appropriate time to do so.