Mr. Rogers: The Celebrity Who Taught Resilience and Self-Regard

Fred_Rogers,_late_1960s“Would you be mine, could you be mine? Won’t you be…my neighbor?”

How many of us can sing that song without a hitch?

On June 8, a new documentary was released to theaters recalling the life of a man who affected so many of our childhoods. Countless children felt like members Mr. Rogers’ beloved neighborhood, along with Daniel Tiger, Mr. McFeely, and the rest of the neighbors.

Fred Rogers’ life was filled with fame and success, but he was quite unlike the celebrities we so often see on TV or on our phones. In one broadcast hour, Mr. Rogers made it his business to reach out to hundreds of thousands of children and teach them skills and attitudes that would protect their mental health. Rather than focusing primarily on advancing his career, he sought to make a kind, thoughtful generation. As a Christian minister trained at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, he took it upon himself to use the power of his position on television to teach children about moral values. Check out this article to learn more about Mr. Rogers’s life.

Mr. Rogers’ mission was to devote his life to caring for and developing strengths and resilience in the coming generations. He worked very closely with several University of Pittsburgh scholars, notably Dr. Margaret McFarland, a child psychologist and Pitt faculty member. He was extremely interested in child development, and Dr. McFarland helped him include her reliable academic knowledge in his media content. Visit this website to learn more about Mr. Rogers’ work at Pitt.

Armed with advice from Dr. McFarland, a few unique songs, and his distinctive voice that created characters out of puppets, Mr. Rogers taught young viewers about real world issues and values for over 40 years. A mild-mannered person, he still didn’t shy away from difficult issues, such as civil rights, conflict resolution, depression, disability, and divorce.

His teachings about self-love stayed with his audiences throughout their lives, helping to create a foundation for positive self-regard that is the basis for resilience later in life. His overriding message: each viewer was special just for being themselves! Many of his messages and songs still remain in the hearts and minds of adults today. One of the neighbors from the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” now has his own show for young children, called Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Did you feel like a member of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, too? What are your memories of watching Mr. Rogers’ show? Let us know in the comments!

To learn more about Pittsburgh’s own Mr. Rogers, check out his new documentary in theatres now. And remember, you are special!

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