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Fred Rogers: The Gentle Strength of a Soft-Spoken Man

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

By Rick Henry Christopher Published 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 4 min read
Fred Rogers - Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood


Fred Rogers is a television icon whose scope and vision broke barriers that others were not able to touch. Mr. Rogers opened the door to forward-thinking not only to children but also adults. Mr. Rogers was woke before woke was even a thing. May, I state that I use the term woke in a positive light? The world would be a better place if we were more in tune with what is going on with other people and turned on by compassionate thinking and yearning for learning for the betterment of society and getting along as one. United we stand, divided we fall comes to mind. Fred Rogers was very much about uniting people.

Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1928 into a wealthy family. His father ran a few manufacturing firms. One is a very successful brick company. As the Great Depression hit Rogers witnessed the divide between the rich and poor at a very early age. As a result, Rogers learned the importance of spending your money wisely. These lessons were often used in his television show as he encouraged his young viewers to use money for the good of all and worked to halt the widening wealth gap in the United States.

As a child, Rogers spent a good amount of time alone playing with puppets and playing the piano. Introverted Rogers was bullied because of his weight and was called “Fat Freddy” by the children in the schoolyard.

Rogers lived a lonely childhood playing with a ventriloquist's dummy and stuffed animals. He'd often lose himself in fantasy worlds he created in his mind.

In 1950 Rogers graduated from college with a Bachelor of Music. After graduating in 1951, he worked at NBC in New York City as floor director of Your Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour, and The Gabby Hayes Show, and as an assistant producer of The Voice of Firestone. Rogers continued through the 1950s and early 1960s developing, producing, and appearing on various children's programs.

In 1962 he attended a theological seminary and graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister. Instead of working in the church, he worked as a minister for children and their families through television.

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood began airing nationally in 1968 and ran through 2001 producing 895 episodes.

The show ran for 33 years making it the second longest running children's program. Sesame Street holds the record with 54 years and counting.

Fred Rogers was a very special man. He always put the well-being of others first. He chose to lift others and give them a feeling of self-confidence and self-worth. He spoke slowly and carefully enunciated his words. His tone was kind and gentle.

With his show, Rogers continuously strived to break barriers and bring people together.

Lifetime Achievement Award

In 1997 Fred Rogers was given a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award. The presenter stated, “For giving generation upon generation of children confidence in themselves, for being their friend, for telling them again and again and again that they are special and that they have worth.” This statement was the embodiment of Fred Rogers' philosophy in life, not only toward children but toward all people.

Educational Television

Fred Rogers set a high standard for educational television, emphasizing character development and emotional intelligence. He was not afraid of tackling controversial or taboo topics such as race, self-confidence, and disabilities. He did this with grace.

Racial Equality

Fred Rogers always championed racial equality. In 1968 Rogers cast African-American actor François Clemmons as Officer Clemmons on his show, marking the first time a Black actor was given a recurring role on a children's show. To drive the point the following year Rogers had a scene in the show where he was resting his feet in a kiddie pool, and invited Clemmons to do the same. This was during a time when swimming public pools were still segregated across the United States. It was a strong statement against racism, made even stronger when Rogers let Clemmons dry his feet with his towel on screen.

Bold Topics

Rogers took on many other bold topics and explained them to children in a non-judgmental, non-threatening manner in which they could understand.

In 1981, Rogers took on the subject of divorce on the show, making it clear to the children watching that they were not to blame for their parents' struggles and that even adults weren't comfortable with the topic. (


In 1983 Rogers produced a five-episode series called "Conflict" addressing the fears and misunderstandings during the height of the Cold War, using the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to depict the escalation of tensions and the importance of diplomacy. He described the matter in an understandable way, without being condescending.


Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003 at the age of 74 from stomach cancer. He remained busy to the very end having served as Grand Marshal of the 2003 Rose Parade, with Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby, in January.


Fred Rogers was not only one of the greatest communicators of our time but also a philosopher whose ideas are still relevant today.

“The only thing evil can't stand is forgiveness."

“Taking care is one way to show your love. Another way is letting people take good care of you when you need it.”


Sources: IHeartRadio blog / Wikipedia / / YouTube

With Love, RHC ❤️

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About the Creator

Rick Henry Christopher

Writing is a distraction to fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and soothing the bruises of the day.

The shattered pieces of life will not discourage me.

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Comments (21)

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  • River Joy3 months ago

    Always love revisiting this. Mr Rodgers is the best.

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    Definitely falls under hopeful -what a lovely man! I really enjoyed your thoughtful write up of his legacy -Thank you! 🤍

  • Melissa Ingoldsby4 months ago

    Great overview of a truly wonderful and thoughtful man! I enjoyed his show and its good you brought up how soft spoken people can be just as impactful or more than loud.

  • Excellent writing and very interesting! I had no idea this show was on so long. A great person to honor.

  • Teresa Renton4 months ago

    Sounds like a great role model! I didn’t know who he was before (maybe not a UK programme?), but this was an interesting read 😊

  • Wow... this was a fascinating read! I only know of him... not having a TV back then & still not being keen on it. What a trail blazer... "He became an ordained Presbyterian minister. Instead of working in the church, he worked as a minister for children and their families through television." Also, sharing the wading pool with an African American actor. Thanks.

  • River Joy4 months ago

    I love Mr Roger's what a great tribute! He's a good man to try to emulate, always a voice of calm. I admit to still turning on an episode or two for background noise when I am having a stressful time b

  • Irene Economou4 months ago

    Rick, I learned a lot about Fred Rogers that I never knew before. Thank you for writing this most thoughtful and beautiful tribute to honor this great individual.

  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    I always admired his gentle, kind spirit as well as his compassion! He truly did God's work! Thank you for showcasing Mr. Rogers. He was such a great role model! Rest well Mr. Fred Rogers!

  • Cheryl E Preston4 months ago

    This is excellent

  • J. Delaney-Howe4 months ago

    Great tribute to a great man.

  • Dana Crandell4 months ago

    Thanks for writing this one, Rick! He set a new standard for the word, "hero."

  • Jason Ray Morton 4 months ago

    Nice tribute to a classic.

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Terrific tribute!!! Loved your inspirational story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Oneg In The Arctic4 months ago

    Great tribute article to all Mr.Rogers did!

  • I've never heard of him before this. It broke my heart so much to know that he was also a victim of bullying. He did so many great things. The world needs more people like him.

  • JBaz4 months ago

    In Canada we had a similar hero. 'Mr. Dress up ' Aka Ernie Coombs who got his start in thank to Fred Rogers. These two were very similar in beliefs and lived as honest as they could. Well done

  • We are in absolute agreement on both Mr. Rogers & the subject of being woke. Well done, Rick.

  • Scott Christenson4 months ago

    He sounded like a great individual, but when I was 6 years old oh how I hated Mr Rogers Neighborhood when they played that on our TV (with 4 channels) when I wanted to watch cartoons! Not that the Coyote and the Road Runner had much of a positive message in it;) Sesame Street, which also had a lot of good diversity and life messages, had the cookie monster and those cute martian in it which was fun for a 6 year old.

  • Linda Rivenbark4 months ago

    Thank you, Rick, for writing this heartwarming story about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood! He was an outstanding person who embodied empathy and compassion. I very much enjoyed reading it!

  • Mother Combs4 months ago

    He was a great man

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