Gods of Pennsylvania: Mr. Rogers

The most precious commodity in the state of Pennsylvania is not the landscape nor the many attractions, but the people who call this place home. Among the almost thirteen million people, some rise above the rest, and in essence become gods among men.

One such individual is the late Fred Rogers...or better know to most as Mr. Rogers.

He was born and raised in Latrobe, PA about forty miles southeast of Pittsburgh. After getting his music degree in Florida, he was hired by NBC in NYC to do a production job but then came back to Pittsburgh to work at the public television station - WQED. During his time in Pennsylvania, he was ordained as a minister and was charged by the seminary to continue his work with children’s television. After a short time in Toronto, he moved back to Pittsburgh and started doing the show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. 895 episodes later, a children’s television show turned into an American classic and cemented Fred Rogers as a legend. (Paragraph references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogers)

But even more than being the host of an educational kid’s show, Mr. Rogers was:

Consistent: I’ve never known someone to be the same weight for over thirty years...well Mr. Rogers was! (143 pounds was what the scale showed everyday.) Other daily consistencies include: taking a morning swim, napping every afternoon, and never eating meat. Not to mention his show had the same format from start to finish -- walking in, changing jacket for sweater, lacing shoes, etc.

Proactive: Fred’s reason for getting into TV was because he disliked TV. The first thing he saw on television was angry people throwing pies at each other. He vowed to make TV better and went into the industry to change it. Instead of just complaining about a problem, he went about trying to fix it.

Respected: There’s a story that floats around about Mr. Rogers having his car stolen while working. The news of this happening was picked up by the media and within 48 hours, his car magically appearing back in his parking spot with a note reading, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.” He is also credited with saving the VCR and public television simply by testifying before congress.

Kind: He was a big promoter of tolerance to all people and practiced his good neighbor mantra on camera and off. I remember watching an episode of Candid Camera where they were trying to provoke Mr. Rogers into losing his temper. As hard as they tried, he was understanding and spoke kindly to those who where trying to embrace him.

I probably know more about Mr. Rogers than I care to admit, but I do hope to follow his example of being consistent, proactive, respected, and kind.

If your curiosity has been peaked, I encourage you to read more about Fred Rogers by checking out Tom Junod’s incredible article “Can You Say Hero?” It’s worth your time.

BTW...my favorite Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episode was where he went to the marble factory! What is yours?

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