What Is Forever?

On Friday, March 23, 2018, the United States Postal Service will release a Mister Rogers forever stamp recognizing Fred Rogers as a beloved television neighbor.

“In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what  eternity is made of – moments when we human beings can say “I love you,” “I’m proud of you.” “I forgive you,” “I’m grateful for you.” That’s what eternity is made of: invisible, imperishable good stuff.” -Fred Rogers

Freud, Skinner, Jung, Piaget, Maslow, Spock—in the world of psychology, these giants are instantly recognizable by one name. Generations of students have studied their work to gain deeper insights into human development. In translating theory into practice, perhaps nobody did it better in early childhood than Fred—Fred Rogers.

As both a student and a teacher of child development, having studied in graduate school at The University of Pittsburgh, Fred strived to understand children’s innermost needs. Through his daily “expression of care”—the broadcast of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—he comforted, encouraged, and nurtured young lives with warmth, compassion, and a unique soulfulness.

Fred Rogers respected the value of childhood. He had the ingenuity to use the new technology of his time—the television—in ways that attended to children’s deepest concerns. He believed in a world in which love, understanding, and kindness could triumph.

The relationships that Fred Rogers built, personally and through television, were lasting. For many children, he was a reassuring adult presence who reminded them that they were special—sometimes, he even became a father figure for cast members and viewers alike. For parents, educators, and other caregivers, he was a trusted source of wisdom and affirmation. By comforting, educating, and empowering generations, Fred redefined the concept of “neighbor.”

Today marks what would have been Fred’s 90th birthday. In celebration of that milestone and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the national debut of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the United States Postal Service is releasing a forever stamp. Although Fred is depicted in his familiar red sweater with King Friday the Xlll, it is not the yarn, or the puppet, or even the King’s castle that made him truly iconic.

It is the universality of his message, “It’s you I like,” that appeals to our most significant longings—whether we are young or old. Through our work in rural China, to group homes in Canada, to our early childhood efforts across 19 states, we have seen the impact of these powerful words. Reminding each person their inherent worth and their impact on the world is a public service like no other. That is the makings of forever.

Fred started his work in television because “I saw people throwing pies at each other’s faces, and that to me was such demeaning behavior. And if there’s anything that bothers me, it’s one person demeaning another.” He found a way to deliver content that elevated the medium to become a tool for social-emotional development, and in doing so, became a pioneer in educational programming and voice for children and families.

In carrying forward Fred’s legacy, we may all strive to answer Fred’s call to “make goodness attractive” by “doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own – by treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything we produce.” After all, the stamp is just a small reminder of what is truly forever: the personal note of kindness, compassion, and love that the stamp helps to deliver, to a loved one, to a child, to a friend, and to our neighbors.

Through the ages, we’ve often recognized significant contributors—researchers, artists, musicians, and even public servants—by a single name. We hope you’ll add another to that list ranging from Erikson to Elvis, Pavlov to Picasso—Fred. Forever Fred.

 

Photo courtesy of The Lynn Johnson Collection: Ohio University Libraries.

No Comments

Leave a Comment