20 Gentle Quotations from Mister Rogers

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In times of tragedy, we look to teachers for guidance and hope. I can think of no better teacher than Fred McFeely Rogers, better known to us as Mister Rogers--our friendly neighbor--for his gentle wisdom on children, humility, grief, and the specialness of every person. Many of these quotations are collected in the posthumous volume The World According to Mister Rogers, though they come from various sources, including his many television appearances.

1. On Heroes Without Capes

"When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 501-503).

2. On Sharing Responsibility

"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."

Spoken in 1994, quoted in his obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

3. From a PSA Following September 11, 2001

If you grew up with our Neighborhood, you may remember how we sometimes talked about difficult things. There were days ... even beautiful days ... that weren't happy. In fact, there were some that were really sad.

Well, we've had a lot of days like that in our whole world. We've seen what some people do when they don't know anything else to do with their anger.

I'm convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings--ways that don't hurt them or anyone else--we're helping to make our world a safer, better place.

I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are.

And what's more, I'm so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you'll do everything you can to keep them safe and to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods.

Also, regarding the anniversary of the attacks: "[Children] don't understand what an anniversary is, and if they see the tragedy replayed on television, they might think it's happening at that moment."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 596-606) and as quoted in his obituary.

Fred Rogers and Steve Wozniak

4. On What We Do

"What matters isn't how a person's inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life. What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of a war or the description of a sunrise--his numbers for the final count at Buchenwald or the specifics of a brand-new bridge."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 621-623).

5. On Looking for the Helpers

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 645-647).

6. On Helping

"I hope you're proud of yourself for the times you've said 'yes,' when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 390-391).

7. On Pain

"There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 389).

8. On Accepting Our Feelings

"There's no 'should' or 'should not' when it comes to having feelings. They're part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 131-133).

9. On "Disabilities"

"Part of the problem with the word disabilities is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 142-146).

Koko and Mister Rogers
From Koko.org

10. On Facing Sadness and Anger

"Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 111-114).

11. On Love

"Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 214).

12. On Humanity's Intrinsic Value

"As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has--or ever will have--something inside that is unique to all time. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 463-465).

13. On People We Love

"It always helps to have people we love beside us when we have to do difficult things in life."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (p. 45).

14. On American History

"A high school student wrote to ask, 'What was the greatest event in American history?' I can't say. However, I suspect that like so many 'great' events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important 'great' things are never center stage of life's dramas; they're always 'in the wings.' That's why it's so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 496-500).

Fred Rogers

15. On Life Not Being Cheap

In February of 1999, Fred Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. This is an excerpt from his speech (emphasis added).

Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.

I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn't matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen--day and night!

The conductor of the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl grew up in a family that had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television.

Last month a thirteen-year-old boy abducted an eight-year-old girl; and when people asked him why, he said he learned about it on TV. 'Something different to try,' he said. 'Life's cheap; what does it matter?'

Well, life isn't cheap. It's the greatest mystery of any millennium, and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that ... to show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own--by treating our 'neighbor' at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you ... who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let's just take ten seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life--those who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight--just ten seconds of silence.

[Ten seconds elapse.]

No matter where they are--either here or in heaven--imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.

We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 540-558).

16. On Peace

"Peace means far more than the opposite of war!"

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 613).

17. On Solitude

"Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn't have to be a lonely kind of thing."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 158).

Mister Rogers
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18. On Strength

"Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It's something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words--like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 161).

19. On Generations

"One of the greatest dignities of humankind is that each successive generation is invested in the welfare of each new generation."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 586-587).

20. On Forgiveness

"Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life's important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives."

From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Location 296).

Mister Rogers with Trolley
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More from Mister Rogers

There's a lot of wisdom packed into the book The World According to Mister Rogers. You also should look at Mister Rogers Humbly Accepts a Lifetime Achievement Emmy (warning: it may very well make you cry) and 15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever. You can also watch Mister Rogers' Neighborhood online.

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December 17, 2012 - 6:15pm
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