The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media honors and builds upon the legacy of the beloved creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was known for his creativity, kindness, spirituality, and commitment to the well-being of children. Lovingly called “America’s favorite neighbor,” he used his many diverse talents to inspire, nurture, and educate.
Not only was Fred Rogers a pioneer in children’s media, but he also was an artist, minister, composer and musician, environmentalist, and advocate for children and families. With his gentle, unassuming manner, he made a profound impression on everyone he encountered.
More than 60 years ago, Fred Rogers pioneered the use of television—the emerging medium of that time—to nurture and educate young children. He set the highest possible standards for his work—standards that were based on the most careful academic rigor regarding child development, combined with the strong universal values he understood—and then, without ever compromising on those standards, he reached and held a mass audience of millions for decades.
He built great loyalty and complete trust among the families he served. Fred was able to do this because he truly met the real developmental and educational needs of the children who watched the Neighborhood. They knew he was the genuine, authentic article. He had many opportunities to cash in on his fame and success. He never took them; he never allowed his work to be exploited commercially in ways that might be hurtful to children.
This bedrock honesty ran throughout Fred’s life. He treated everyone with the same respect and sensitivity that he knew had helped him as a child. His strong moral code informed every aspect of his life, from how he lived to the community he chose for his family and work.
He was able to integrate all his interests and aptitudes—his music, his writing, his creativity, his faith, his sense of family and community, and his sense of service—all into a coherent whole that gave a special power to his life and his influence. Fred was careful not to use that influence carelessly. He did not often endorse viewpoints or tell others how to live. Instead he led—as the best leaders do—through example.
The legacy of Fred Rogers is of great importance; not just to children, though it surely is to them, but to all of us. And his thoughtful, sensitive, integrated approach can continue to be of great value to many future generations of children, through his programs and through the work of others who follow his example.
In late fall of 2002, Fred gave what turned out to be his final public speech in Houston to a small gathering of child advocates and philanthropists. He began simply and deeply,
Every one of us—no matter how much money we have—needs to know that there’s something about us worth giving.
“The Wonder of It All: Fred Rogers and the Story of an Icon” (PDF)
Margaret Mary Kimmel, Ph.D., and Mark Collins
“Fred Rogers: A Legacy of Caring” (PDF)