To the Editor:
“Won’t you be my neighbor?” These powerful words implying friendship, compassion and love for one another is also the title of the new documentary film currently receiving rave reviews by theater audiences throughout the country.
It documents Fred Rogers and his PBS program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” that began in 1968 and continued for more than 30 years. His TV show educated our children – adults too – about, among other things, how to respect the dignity of others.
Columnist David Brooks described Rogers as having the power of natural kindness in a time when kindness is scarce. At the film’s conclusion, wet eyes and thunderous applause became anti-climactic. Rogers’s unique charisma left a legacy of ethical dimensions that was grounded in civility and love.
His calm demeanor was infectious to his young viewers, his simplicity of teaching remarks, such as, “make the most of this beautiful day,” and “feeling good about ourselves is essential to our being able to love others,” had positive reinforcement for all of us.
This one is spot on: “Being able to resolve conflicts peacefully is one of the greatest strengths we can give our children.” Where is this compassion today? We need the application of more Rogers-like philosophy now, when distrust and hate abound in our society.
It can begin with your commitment and mine.
Appropriately, Rogers’s last PBS message shortly before passing on in 2003 were the very words he ended his programs with: “Remember, I like you just the way you are.”