Opinion | Fred Rogers’ legacy lives on

By Noah Nelson, Senior Columnist

Since the birth of our great nation 243 years ago, countless Americans have not only made an impact on the world but left a legacy for generations of people to come. President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery after a bloody civil war. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright created the world’s first airplane. Baseball player Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports. 

But there’s one man who, although sometimes forgotten or misunderstood, should also be applauded for his everlasting legacy: Fred Rogers.

Known for creating and hosting the beloved children’s television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Rogers made it a lifelong mission to spread kindness to children, and all people for that matter, around the world. Throughout the program’s 33 year duration on television, Rogers taught viewers valuable lessons like accepting oneself and showing kindness to those around you.

At the beginning of each episode, Rogers stepped foot into his fictional home singing the show’s theme song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” before greeting his viewers. Then, he would change out of his suit jacket into the now-famous cardigan sweater and his dress shoes to sneakers. 

Each episode would continue in different ways. Some segments occurred in The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where Rogers used and voiced numerous hand puppet characters like King Friday and Daniel Tiger. This enhanced each episode’s particular message to viewers while entertaining them at the same time. In most episodes, he taught positive lessons, but other times, Rogers touched on various issues like divorce, racial segregation and war. 

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Using his soft-spoken tone, he made it simple for children to learn such serious issues. He let them know that no matter what might be happening in their lives at any given time, everything was going to be okay. This is his legacy. 

Each day, consumers are flooded with current events via newspaper, television or social media. Although positive events still occur on a regular basis, stories ranging from gun violence, racism and constant hatred of others continue to make their way into the spotlight. And sometimes, much too frequently.

In an upcoming biopic film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” accomplished actor Tom Hanks portrays Rogers in a way that lets viewers discover what kind of life he led and those he helped along the way. The film’s date of release — today — could not have been more perfect. 

In these mind-boggling times, the world needs Rogers and his powerful lessons of kindness now more than ever. 

With the exception of Sesame Street, it’s also rare to find popular children’s shows now that teach children the value of loving one another, helping thy neighbor and being a good person in society. Rogers used the power of television to spread his message of kindness across generations of people. He should be remembered even more so now in that regard.

Noah is a sophomore in LAS.

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