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We could use Fred Rogers again

February 13, 2019

Simon and Garfunkel once asked for a return of Joe DiMaggio. Chicago wanted Harry Truman to resurface. Archie Bunker told the whole nation “we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.’’

In these modern times, perhaps the person from the past we most need now is Fred Rogers.

Many of us were reminded again of Rogers’ universal appeal when HBO debuted the fine documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor’’ last weekend. The title is a reference to the long-standing PBS children’s show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,’’ which was created by the man named in the title.

Rogers also starred in the show, which accentuated themes of kindness, inclusiveness, tolerance and above all, love. Rogers would end each show by proclaiming to the audience: “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”

Such acceptance seems in short supply these days. If someone doesn’t look the same way we do, or think the same way we do, we are more likely to belittle them than offer encouragement.

Some of these disputes are based on political and spiritual beliefs. Rogers eschewed such a stance. Even though he was an ordained Presbyterian minister and registered Republican who never hid his spirituality, he welcomed those who were different to come into his midst. At various times, his program promoted civil rights and the rights of the physically disabled.

But the show ended in 2001, and Rogers died in 2003 after contracting stomach cancer. In the succeeding years, the world has seemingly become more cold and less kind. We sure could use a man like Fred Rogers again.

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