What Would Fred Rogers Do? 2.0
Sometimes it takes staying true to your roots to discover your voice. By focusing on the themes that were central to Fred Rogers’ life we’re connecting with people in news ways to advance his legacy.
On January 2, 2014, I walked through the doors of the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College to start my role as Executive Director. It was an incredible opportunity as well as a challenge to be tasked with honoring the legacy and intentions of a true icon in children’s television. I had two thoughts running through my mind about our next planning phase: one was Fred’s incredible ability to connect with people, and the other was how important it was to stay true to our roots. As a team, we embarked on a path of what I like to call “Frederization”—focusing on Fred in everything we do.
Over the next several months, photos of Fred from the Lynn Johnson Collection at Ohio University Libraries replaced our once bare walls, the conference room was repurposed into Incubator 143—a social change lab for undergraduate students named after Fred’s favorite number, and the Fred Rogers Archive became a much-used resource. With the warmth and wisdom of “America’s favorite neighbor” surrounding us, we formulated a new mission, to help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings based on a question Joanne Rogers herself once posed to Fred.
You see, Fred knew the inherent value of childhood, and the importance of strengthening all adults in their roles as caregivers. Our initiatives focus on three themes that were central to Fred’s life and career. We aspire to help children grow on the inside, learn through relationships, and give meaning to technology.
Something about Fred and his work touched millions of children and grown-ups. No matter how or when we got to know him, we may still find ourselves wondering what Fred might do if he were in our place facing our challenges.
While most of us are drawn to the legacy by “what” Fred did and produced, the Fred Rogers Archive holds the best answers to the “why” and “how” inside Fred’s work. Understanding the principles that supported Fred’s public service helps us to adapt and apply them in our own contexts.
For us, it’s about human connection—something Fred Rogers exemplified. Part of creating connection is sharing what we’re learning and building a sense of community. As you experience our new website, I hope you’ll see an embodiment of Fred’s commitment to the “deep and simple.” Upcoming posts to our blog will truly represent the Center’s voice and programs as we advance Fred’s legacy.
Moving ahead, you’ll see posts on our main areas of focus: Simple Interactions, Digital Media and Learning, and Archiveology. Yes, we even coined a term to talk about our study of the Archive! You’ll learn with us as we explore Fred’s approach to a variety of topics that “think of the children first” and, ultimately, provide insight into how we can nourish children’s (and adults’) lives with positive interactions.