God, Fred Rogers was great.
I’m not going to pretend that Rogers played a big part in my childhood, at least at an age where I can remember it. When most people think of Rogers, they think of his iconic television program, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” They think of the opening theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” as well as, some of the classic characters the show brought us, such as mailman “Mr. McFeely” and “King Friday.” Rogers’ legacy, however, is so much more than his TV show, his soothing voice or his trademark red sweater. When I think of Fred Rogers, “King Friday” and “Mr. McFeely” hardly come to mind.
What comes to mind when I think of Rogers is a conversation I had with my father when I was in high school.
I don’t remember what year it was, and it doesn’t matter.
I don’t remember why WQED programming was on our television, and that doesn’t matter either.
What I do remember is watching TV at roughly 6:45 a.m., waiting to leave for school.
I remember it being dark outside, so it was probably during the winter.
I remember the program relating to Rogers in some way, and part of the program highlighting Rogers’ relationship with Jeff Erlanger, a young man who was paralyzed due to a spinal tumor.
I remember my father, who is rarely emotional, looking at me and, with an unusually serious tone, telling me, “he was a wonderful man” in reference to Rogers. My dad wasn’t on the brink of tears or anything of that nature, but I could definitely sense that he said those words with the intent of me hearing them and thinking about them. I’ll never forget that.
The city of Pittsburgh has been blessed with many notable figures. I’m referring to those who are actually from Pittsburgh, not the Joe Greene’s and Mario Lemieux’s of the world. Among those born and bred in my home city include; Andrew Carnegie, Jonas Salk and Andy Warhol. Of those people, however, I don’t feel any hold a candle to the person Rogers was.
Perhaps others have had more impressive accomplishments than Rogers. Carnegie was a pioneer in the steel industry, and Salk literally cured Polio. As far as who they were as a person, however, and for the impact he had on other people, Rogers is No. 1, and that’s why he has a statue by the Allegheny River.
Rogers has a movie coming out about him on Nov. 22. It specifically focuses on the impact he made on a journalist. Portraying Rogers will be none other than the great Tom Hanks. Hanks is one of the best ever, and I’m already certain he nailed the part just by watching the trailer. I teared up during that trailer, and I’m proud to admit that. I’m also proud that Fred Rogers is somebody that Pittsburgh can call their own.
With so much hate in the world, it’s time to think about one of its greatest gifts. Rogers died in 2003, but his impact will never perish, and his kindness will never be duplicated.