The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Adios, neighbor.

February 28th, 2003 · 1 Comment · Misc., Politics

Mr. Rogers passed away this week. He retired in 2000, after 32 years and briefly came out of retirement to record messages to parents designed to offer advice on how to talk to their children about the September 11th attacks.

Not unlike Dr. Seuss and Charles Schulz, I only remember how important Mr. Rogers had been to me when I was a child now that he’s gone. As the tributes and memorials begin to emerge certain things come into sharp focus. Specifically, that “Mr. Rogers” wasn’t a character - he was exactly what he appeared to be. Unlike so many of our childhood heroes, you can tell Mr. Rogers really lived the lessons he taught us - tolerance, courage and compassion.

NPR’s This American Life produced a touching and personal segment with Mr. Rogers for a 2001 episode about neighbors. Throughout it, the host presents Mr. Rogers with various situations. Some trivial issues - like a neighbor’s loud music - as well as larger issues - like middle class fear of urban youth. In each case, his steadfast message was that it takes courage to see those who are different from us not as adversaries or as objects to fear, but rather as individuals of worth and value and that that courage should allow us to engage them as unique, important people.

When asked why our response to difference is so often fear or hatred, Mr. Rogers responded:

Perhaps we think that we won’t find another human being inside that person. Perhaps we think that ‘Oh, there maybe are people in this world who I can’t ever communicate with and so I’ll just give up before I try.’ And how sad it is to think that we would give up on any other creature who’s just like us.


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