“This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, '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.' And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.” -Fred Rogers
An anomalous YouTube video crudely entitled “Mr. Rogers is a [sic] Evil Man” stands at over 1.8 million views, with 1,000 likes and a whopping 30,000 dislikes. Similarly, saying an ill word about the universally adored Mister Rogers on the forums of the imageboard, 4Chan, will get the commenter torn to shreds by even its notoriously toxic anonymous users, and almost definitely ousted from the Online community for good. In an age where even the motives of Gandhi and Mother Teresa are questioned by the cynical and they are at times vilified as “frauds,” one would be hard-pressed to find a rational argument against the untouchable character of Mister Rogers.
When one does happen upon such an abnormality, the public is quick to defend the gentle soul. “It takes a special kind of scum to hate Mister Rogers,” reads the top comment on the aforementioned video, posted by user Sergei Ivanovich Mosin. The video has been picked apart by multiple journalists from the likes of Huffington Post and the Pittsburgh Magazine, among many others.
So who exactly was Fred Rogers, and how did the host of one of history’s most beloved shows win the hearts of children around the world?