Mr. Rogers leaves children’s TV legacy

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2003

Fred Rogers was creating a &uot;virtual&uot; neighborhood for children before we really knew the meaning of the word.

But his neighborhood was far more peaceful than the virtual neighborhood children find in video games and on Web pages &045; it was a world filled with love and kindess and compassion.

He became such an icon for generations of young television viewers that his sweet, gentle persona was teased on &uot;Saturday Night Live.&uot;

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But Mr. Rogers never wavered from the format he favored &045; welcoming child viewers to his neighborhood, reinforcing fundamental values as he introduced them to real-life guests who taught them how to make shoes or fly a kite or play a guitar.

And he took them to a Land of Make Believe populated by puppets who mirrored the children’s own feelings.

But Mr. Rogers did not confine his work with children to his long-running public television show. After Sept. 11, for example, he recorded public service announcements to guide parents through helping their children deal with the tragedy of the terrorist attacks.

By all accounts, Fred Rogers &045; an ordained Presbyterian minister &045; was exactly who we saw when we tuned in to the cardigan-wearing &uot;Mr. Rogers&uot; on PBS.

He was kind, gentle and humble. He was a familiar face from whom children could learn and who parents could trust to guide their children without the violence increasingly found in today’s programming for youth.

Mr. Rogers created a legacy &045; a TV neighborhood in which we all should want to live and generations of &uot;neighbors&uot; who could take those values into their own grown-up neighborhoods.