What We Can Learn From Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers

Guest Post – from Kazique Prince

Dr. Kazique J. Prince (pronounced ka-ZEE-kay) is founder and CEO of Jalani Consulting. Dr. Prince also serves as the senior policy advisor and education coordinator for Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler, and most recently, a board member of Earth Day Austin. 

As with a documentary and, most recently, a major motion picture depicting the life of the beloved Mr. Fred Rogers reminded me, many of us hoped on top of hope that these films would not ruin the image of our childhood hero. They did not thankfully. In this age of fallen heroes, it is a welcomed opportunity to experience a film depicting an honorable person who embraces the heart and comforts the soul.

Recently, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood came out in theaters, and it fulfilled my expectations to learn a little bit more about someone who embodied great qualities when it came to kindness, patience, wisdom, and commitment to serving children through PBS’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Mr. Rogers was not a character on a show, but a man who lived out his ministry to children through his TV show and relationships with people in his life. He also represented a different, non-toxic version of manhood, which offered me as a child a welcomed alternative to many of the images I recalled viewing. He was a gentle, unapologetically reserved man who seemed comfortable with creating a world to be fully ourselves.

Growing up into adulthood, as many of us had, we left Mr. Rogers alone to serve the next generation of children. We’d forget what he offered only to remember his kindness while flipping through channels, singing his opening song with: “Please won’t you, please. Be my neighbor.” Singing the song immediately has brought a smile to my heart throughout my life.

After watching the film, I recalled a clip from a Dartmouth College’s 2002 commencement speech. I immediately went home with my mind scurrying about like a little hamster in its wheel and found the video online. For commencement speakers, it was not jovial, commanding, and loud. Honestly, I’m not sure if people were actively awake as they were lulled into peace listening to Mr. Rogers’ quiet conjectures and storytelling.

Near the end, he said words many of us may not ever hear from anyone else in our lives except from Mr. Rogers himself. “You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you,” said Mr. Rogers, as it perked the attention of a noticeable number in the audience. It may seem antithetical to what most commencement speeches relay to the next generation called to conquer the world, beat a new drum, and aggressively pound the world into their image. We have someone lightly declaring love is not conditioned on what we do or not do. Love does not require herculean acts of heroism.

In my work in equity and inclusion, oftentimes that unconditional love is all too often missed or overlooked. We have people struggling with how to turn around a world with little idea of how best to go about it and breaking lots of eggs along the way. We have people actively and passively participating in the ongoing marginalization of women, children, communities of color, the LGBTQI community and many others, in part, due to ignorance but more than we like to admit because oppression serves their own self interest.

As we struggle through, I’m reminded that Fred Rogers oftentimes elicited the image and memory of those who loved and honored us the most. That love is incredibly important to each of us. When he asked friends and foe alike to “just take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being”, I find this to be one of the most powerful gifts of kindness we can bestow on one another.

What we can learn from and are reminded of by Mr. Rogers is that the love we cherish is the love that will abide in each us for us to survive to the end. Sprinkling in a healthy and repeated large sums of love and kindness can go a long way. It does not mean we stop challenging and cajoling arbiters of hate, racial bias, misogyny, homophobia, and discrimination. It means there is a place for love even in our most difficult work. Our job is to ensure it’s not forgotten and we prioritize it with those fighting in the trenches with us.

Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.

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