I got the most shocking news the other day: Mr. Rogers was NOT a marine sniper before airing Mr Roger’s Neighborhood! Having this “truth” revealed to be nothing more than a rumor, it shook me. I realized I knew nothing of a man that framed my entire early childhood. With that realization, I looked up who Fred Rogers really was. Here are 10 facts that surprised me:
- He was a Presbyterian minister.
- He didn’t get ordained to preach however, but was committed to minister to children through television.
- He was a vegetarian.
- He was known to talk to children with more respect and intelligence than most adults typically do.
- He stayed fit by swimming every day.
- He fought in court for the use of the VCR to record television. Most broadcasters tried to make recording TV illegal, but Rogers said that families should have the right to record his show to watch later as a family. (This ruling is why we can now have DVRs)
- He outraged the religious community by saying of the early gay/lesbian debate, “God loves you just the way you are”.
- He filed a Cease and Desist Order against Burger King, because they used a character named “Mr Rodey”, who acted and looked just like him with the sweater and all, to promote kids meals. He said it confused kids. And that he would never promote fast food to children.
- He loved Eddie Murphy’s parody of him on SNL.
- In 1997, He received the Lifetime Achievement award. Here is part of his awe-inspiring acceptance, as recorded by Esquire Magazine’s Tom Junod:
“Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”
And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.”
There you go. It’s amazing that you can spend so much time watching someone, and not know that much about them. Even though he wasn’t a Marine sniper, I believe his demonstrative life is worthy of our respect and gratitude nonetheless.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers.