The Neighborhood Manifesto: the Radical Kindness of Mr. Rogers


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first national broadcasting of the children’s television program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. “I never thought of wearing it like that. It’s pretty good” “It’s hard to balance.” Fred Rogers, the creature and host of this program, became a nurturing staple in the childhoods of generations of children with his warm, calming voice and his earnest expressions of caring, sharing and emotional well-being. “I like being with you.” “Today, I have… a book and a box.” Mr. Rogers had a tremendously deep understanding of the psychological and social struggles of young people. It’s easy for adults to forget how scary it can be to be a child, but Mr. Rogers remembered. He knew that childhood fears were not just about monsters under the bed or in the closet, but also about mundane, everyday experiences, like getting a haircut or going to school for the first time. I personally watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood almost every day when I was a child. He was as much a part of my world and my life as my grandparents or my dog or my Legos. I was too small to really understand that his words were teaching me and nurturing me and in a really big way but looking back, it’s impossible to overstate just how deeply his simple little show influenced my way of thinking and in my worldview. “We always have things to talk about, don’t we?” Throughout his long career, Mr. Rogers worked to make the world a better place. He had a view of pacifism and egalitarianism, he staunchly opposed the Vietnam War, he espoused feminist views on his show, he worked in Child Hunger and of course, above all, he fought for public funding for television programming. Although he’s never overtly partisan and never called himself a leftist, he championed so many leftist causes that I can’t help but consider him to be a comrade. In 1969, Fred Rogers famously appeared before the United States Senate to defend funding for the United States public broadcasting. The statement he made before the notoriously tough Senate subcommittee chairman John O. Pastore was the closest thing we have to a manifesto of Mr. Rogers. “I give an expression of care every day to each child,” “To help him realize that he is unique.” “I end the program 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 it was powerful enough for the impatient and brusque senator to react with uncharacteristic emotion. “I think it’s wonderful.” “I think it’s wonderful.” “Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars.” Mr. Rogers had a strong and clear vision for how humans should interact with one another in society. His mantra, which he repeated over and over again to children and adults alike, was that you are special. “You are my friend, you are special.” “You are my friend.” “You’re special to me.” “You are the only one like you, like you, my friend.” “I like you.” This is one of those rare and wonderful ideas that’s simultaneously as simple as can be and wonderfully complex. So let’s take some time and unpack this idea. At face value, it seems almost contradictory to say that everyone is special. How can everyone be special? Doesn’t the word special denote something that is rare and unique? Well, of course it does and that was what Mr. Rogers realized about humanity. We are a species that is wonderfully vibrant and diverse. Mr. Rogers wanted this message to be available for all children, regardless of their background. He wanted every child to know that they were special. And that’s why he was such a fervent activist for public broadcasting. He knew that if publicly funded television went away, then his message of kindness and caring would be lost and children would be left to the devices of the for-profit television stations, with all of the violence and peddling of plastic toys and breakfast cereal that they’re known for. Of course, Fred Rogers’ ideas were intended just as much for adults as they were for children. He was a man who made Joan Rivers, famous for her toughness and tenacity, cry on live television simply by telling her that she was indeed very special, just the way she was. “It’s you… I… like.” “So pretty, so pretty!” I’m actually getting a little emotional myself just reading the script back to you. And why? Why is this simple idea that that we are all special and that we should all care about each other and support each other so emotionally profound? Maybe it’s because it’s not a message we receive very much in our modern western society. See, under capitalist ideology, we’re trained from an early age to fight. We’re told that competition is what breeds excellence and that winning is what matters and that success and value, our self-value, is rooted in material acquisition and in the defeat of the competition. “There’s a million ways to get respect.” “There’s only one way to get the kind of respect that’s undeniable.” “A kind they could never take away from you.” “Win.” In this light, our neighbors are not seen as people to care about and nurture and enjoy, but rather as enemies, as competitors, as potential threats. Americans like to talk about our rugged individualism. As our history shows us, the ruggedness is shorthand for violence and opportunistic in-fighting and toxicity while individualism simply stands for isolation and distrust for one another. This is reflected in much of the media we share with our children, which is so often rooted in violence and strife. And of course, all of this propensity for violence and socially disruptive competition becomes internalized. We become resentful and fearful of other people, which causes us to build up walls and lash out at one another and anger and in shame. Just look at the vitriolic zeal with which reactionary is like to label those they disagree with as “special snowflakes.” Our internalized hatred of ourselves has become so strong that it’s become an insult to simply imply that a person might have self-value and self-worth and pride in themselves. It’s so common to have these kinds of toxic attacks levied at one another and yet it is so rare for us to hear about our own value from our friends and our neighbors. So rare indeed that we spend hours each day posting on social media, trying to garner likes from one another in the hopes of having some kind of quantifiable validation of our own worth. Would we be so obsessed with cultivating our online personalities and trying to get popularity online if there were more people like Mr. Rogers in our lives? People there to tell us that we are special just the way we are? “You’re special to me.” “You are the only one like you, like you, my friend.” “I like you.” When I was in college, I took a class with a naturalist named Rudy Mancke, who also had a nationally syndicated public television program called Nature Scene. He therefore knew Mr. Rogers professionally and they spoke on many occasions. Professor Mancke described Mr. Rogers as being almost creepy because he was so intent on genuinely listening to whoever he was talking to. It’s funny how rare and disconcerting it can be for us to just listen to one another. I know I’m really guilty of this myself. I often find myself in conversations, just waiting to speak instead of listening to what the other person has to say. But Mr. Rogers knew very well the importance of genuinely listening, because it shows other people that we do care about them and it validates that the people in our lives are important, and they deserve our attention. I could go on for hours and hours about Mr. Rogers. In my view, he was a radical and he was one of the great thinkers and philosophers in the 20th century. He was unique in the way he put his ideas into practice and influenced countless lives with his television show and his political activism. Y’know, in 2003, when Mr. Rogers died, I was just a freshman in college. I was immature, I was wrapped up in my own world, my first step into the adult world, to really notice the loss that the world had suffered and to really appreciate the loss that I was having. But today, when I look back 50 years after the first airing of the Neighborhood program, I realized that Mr. Rogers was leading a quiet, graceful revolution. And it’s still being… I don’t want to say ‘fought’. That’s not the word Mr. Rogers would have chosen. But it’s still being carried out today. It’s a revolution of kindness, compassion and caring that goes against the grain of american competitiveness and contempt. And it’s my hope that those of us who grew up in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood have been able to hold his values close to our hearts and I hope that we’ll continue to share them with our neighbors and with the children in our lives. For me personally, my political ideology is grounded absolutely in the values and philosophies of Fred Rogers. The reason I want to build a society that is based on equality and mutual respect and support for one another is that I do believe that every person is special. I believe that every child deserves a chance to be nurtured, which must include a quality education, health care and psychological protection and social support. “The most important thing is that we’re able to be one-to-one, you and I, with each other at the moment.” “If we can be present to the moment with the person that we happen to be with at the moment, that’s what’s important.” I believe that every adult has problems and failures from time to time in our lives and that in these difficult times, we deserve a hand up from our neighbors, not to be ignored with judgemental condemnation and scorn. I believe that society can advance only when people work together and come together and never when we try to step over one another to advance our own positions in life. I believe that society should be a neighborhood where we all take joy in watching and helping each other grow. Mr. Rogers, wherever you are, I hope you realize how special you are and how special you were in my life. And for those of you who are watching this video, I hope you too realize that you are special just the way you are, just the way Mr. Rogers always said. That’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you so much for watching. I’m Emerican Johnson, this is Non-Compete and I’ll see you next time, neighbors. “I’ll be thinking of you, even when I’m not here.”




Comments
  1. I saw a segment on Fox News saying how terrible his show was because it makes children feel entitled. I thought what? What? The kids are three or so. Why can’t they feel special? I watched as a child. Maybe that’s why I’m liberal lol. You helped me to explain why Fox despised him. They send a message of hate and intolerance so he doesn’t fit their narrative.
    That being said, I remember enjoying Sesame Street more, but I still watched.

  2. I just subscribed. I managed 15 community associations in Florida. I like it because they are not for profit. But, 15 is already too many, add in Trump supporters and I ended up in the hospital with high blood pressure and chest pains. I’m out and ok but have no job now. I have to get back in, where Florida is the most divisive state and most people on the boards are retired. I will have to channel my inner Mr. Rogers. I always listen to everyone. I spend too much time listening to their problems and trying to help that I fall behind. But, I can’t help that I care. To my own detriment and then I’m on my own.

  3. What we have now have in our society is massive fear. This fear is put forth by our egos.
    Mesages are sent out by the ego to the world through countless individuals and leaders that the idea of cooperation is valuless and weak.
    It has become adjusted to see other things as threats in our modern way of life including other humans as it directs humans to scratch and claw thier way to the top.
    The fear and the egos values can and do manifest in wanting to control others. This then causes the idea to get money that can buy this control. Wealth is then sought after and gets collected by means of competition fairly and unfairly in various ways.
    In many cases might makes right and wealthy preditors are seen as heros and become role models.
    Along with this many people are constantly seeking validation of themselves because inwardly they feel less than. This is more of the ego at work.
    Some will then seek wealth and power as a way to feel validated this and again the competion is involved and often the end will justify the means in the aqusition of wealth.
    The ego is actually a part of the mind that is our defence mechanisms. It is actually not needed to escape or fight preditory creatures as it has in the past. It uses fearful images to inspire the mind into manipulating our thoughts. It uses guilt and fear to keep us off balance and in control. It becomes like a virus in a computer program and grows the more we paty attention to it until we have a narcssistic personality .
    Narcissistic behavior is not about self love as many would believe. It is more of a way to take ones fears and self hatred and diguise it by being a grandiose pathological liar and self absorbed to compensate and block out those pesky feelings of shame guilt and self hatred. We then find ourselves with Donald Trump as President.

  4. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was one of two shows I grew up with as a kid that most affected my worldview. Of course, you go exactly into why here. The other show is Star Trek: The Next Generation. While Mr. Rogers taught us to respect and love one another, TNG taught that we can all become more than what we already are through learning to understand ourselves, the people around us, and the universe we live in.

    Between the two, I learned that we are all special, deserving of love, and through bringing everyone's special traits together and respecting those traits, understanding them, and putting them together, we will all become even better. We should not fight each other, but help each other.

  5. I love this and I'm teary eyed watching it. I think your words were well chosen in avoiding the word fight. Our power as leftists is empathy and care and we forgot that sometimes. We want to be the great philosophers or the badasses running down the cops in the revolution but who if going to make sure we don't love ourselves who is going make sure the elderly lady next door had food to eat and a friend to talk to? There is so much power in the earnest soft mushy kindness and it's so easy to forget. It's so easy to measure ourselves with the metrics that capitalism uses for us. Thanks for making this!

  6. It was a creepy Show. I did not like it as a child. It was TV not real. Who knew if he was a good man and who cares if he was in real life you didn't know he nor did he know you.

    He played a TV character of a creepy neighbor, the show was boring with lame puppets. He talked to a Stupid trolly that dinged back and forth. I got this guy who is talking to a trolly telling me that I'm special? I just did not like the guy, maybe because I knew he didn't know me. So, how did he know that I'm special?  I didn't want to be his neighbor. I wanted to find Seaseme street and hang out with the Cookie Monster and Grover they were cool.

    Even Davey and Goliath was better than Mister Rodgers. A dog talking with more wisdom than a child, "Hey Davy, don't steal that pie out of the window" was more believable then a strange man telling me I was special. Wow, TV. PROGRAMMING at its finest. Come on everybody the show sucked. Would have never made it on a network t.v. because it was unwatchable. I did learn something from Mister Rodgers. It was way better to go outside and play than sit around and watch a guy change his shoes and hang jacket up in a closet and sing the same song every day. Thank You Mister Rodgers for teaching it's ok to Turn OFF the TV.

  7. You might say his show wasn’t about pitching plastic or consumerism, but I always wanted that flatscreen picture frame with the flush vcr built in the wall. One day. Rise and grind.

  8. Fred Rogers is what a real super hero is. I rarely watched his show growing up, I got caught up in all the violent cartoons as a child, but as an adult I realized what an amazing man he was.

  9. 3:17 I wished those were sold in stores when I was a kid. I had some MisteRogers books and paper hats, though.

  10. The documentary mentioned that Mr. Rogers was a Republican, but dropped it almost immediately.

  11. I absolutely bawled while watching this video. Mr. Rogers was such an important influence on my life. I met him once in an airport when I was travelling with my family when I was around 4 years old. He was wearing his glasses then and I had never seen him with them on on the show so I was scared and hid behind my mom. I'll never forget his kindness and compassion. Thank you for making this video and reminding me of this incredible human being and his immeasurable influence on my life and so many others.

  12. Not gonna lie ,Emerican when I feel down and I feel sad when I see the struggles and pain of humanity ,knowing it stems from all the things children face and how important it is to embrace them and let them all feel loved ,I come here and always rewatch this ,it makes me feel emotional because I feel like theres a child crying and scared in all of us ,thank you for this comrade ,love to you ,long live the Revolution of peace and kindness

  13. What was amazing was that he was a staunch conservative, and even us leftists love him, that is an effect that everyone should have, and that no matter what, we CAN all get along.

  14. Rest In Peace Mr.Rogers, you were truly a special person yourself. You certainly left an imprint on me and my sister when we were young children through your one of a kind, groundbreaking public television children’s television program.

  15. He sounds nice to you guys in America? He sounds creepy to me. Waay too creepy. And this is coming from someone who nourishes tight bonds with family, relatives and gets intimate easily.

  16. He was a quality person that proves still gentleness is not unmanly and will not make you weak under the right conditions. I really think he was special for not going with the grain. You're doing a great analysis too. I have thought about these conclusions a lot after delving deeper into developmental psychology via attachment styles and attachment theory after.

  17. I can hear mr roger's voice in my head saying "Well I don't know that I'd call myself a comrade but I'm certainly in support of every laborer being treated and compensated fairly according his or her own need and ability"

  18. one of my earliest memories was when I watched one of the last ever episodes of mr rogers. I don't remember what he said but I remember that there was a woman on his show and they were running through a sort of small castle type thing. it had to have either been a rerun or the last one he made before he died because I was born in 2001

  19. It's funny you show The Avengers, but the incredibly simple and basic message is that they need to get over themselves and work as a team

  20. As much as I love your other videos, this is hands down my favourite. I grew up with Mr. Rogers too, and he shaped my life completely. I cried through so much of this video. Thank you

  21. I’ve been trying very hard to be kinder in my interactions with strangers online, especially with people who dislike me, a minority in a white country. It’s very very difficult because I often feel personally threatened by the ideas and attitudes that they have. But sometimes if I have the space to think about it, I can guess at the pain and alienation that underscores these ideas, and I’m able to step outside the topic of conversation and try to talk about those more universal themes instead.

  22. I’m so thankful you made this and that I got to grow up watching him. What a gift to us all as are you for reminding us how important his message was and is. 🙏

  23. I never watched this series as a child ( I'm English by birth and now live in Canada) but I am truly touched by what you have shown me and find a in it someone who truly understands the nature and value of compassion, and acknowledges that every human in the world can contribute something, however small that no one else can.

  24. I never got to watch him when I was little, I wish I did though. This video made me cry and watch Mr Rodgers and its an amazing feeling to be told you're special in a world that doesn't say it so often and perpetuates the idea were not unless we have "special skills" for profit or something. It's comforting to be valued as a human and not a commodity, you still have worth, there's other qualities that matter more than your ability to profit.

  25. Whenever I hear Mr. Rogers speak I almost always start crying. I never watched him growing up, but his honesty just comes right through.

  26. Its ironic that his views of loving others and ourselves are so often shunned in the modern west. Now its all about "Being the next big thing" or "the one on top". Seems only the further left understands that we should love all.

  27. so what your saying is mr. rogers is why i, for the most part, hate competition?

    fuck

    now im miss him

  28. I watched his show into highschool. I used to get stoned with my friends before we all watched Mr. Rogers. I also have a deep respect for the man that only grows with time/more info about him and his life. He truly is an inspirational human being and we're kind of short on those nowadays imo.

  29. I'm sorrounded by people who know me personally, telling me I'm special. And yet: Your closing statement of me being special was practically the first one I ever trusted.
    Maybe it is, because the realization came from inside of me. Thank you.

  30. You should do other video on great important giants like Roger's. I would love to see videos like these on someone like Mark Twain, MLK jr, or El Hajji Malik el Shabazz!

  31. I still remember the day Mister Rogers told me that nobody owned me. Who, if anyone, owned me wasn't something I had given any thought to in my ~5 years of life, but if you had asked me I would have said my parents. It was a profound revelation to learn that I was nobody's property but my own.

  32. He was the person who influenced my life towards the positive more than anyone else. I cried more when he died than all of my grandparents combined. Thank you Emerican for making this video!

  33. fighting back tears from the mr Rodgers line about being you. Jesus Christ, that’s a message not found in society much. I needed to hear that.

  34. Mr Rodgers
    George Orwell
    Karl Marx
    Albert Einstein
    Fred Rodgers
    Dalai Lama
    Buddha
    Jesus Christ
    Martin Luther King
    Mother Teresa…
    Nikola Tesla

    What do all kind and loving compassionate empathetic people support?

    The end of suffering, anarchic and communistic means.

  35. I come from Poland and I never watched Mr. Rogers, but I heard about him a lot of times as a positive example of healthy masculinity. I am looking desperately for other examples, from Poland, or at least from more current anglophone culture (because at this point we have easier with anglophone culture than back then).

  36. I think your projecting political ideological bias and interpretation on him and his words. In my opinion, His behavior and actions support the best of both spectrums of American political values and I don’t think we should use his example to cause strife or champion a side. However I agree with you that Mr Rogers is a gem of a person who really tried to spread emotional health and positivity for children. We should follow his example

  37. Dang best oration I've ever heard NC give… What a beautiful interconnection of the influence of a good heart and the leftist roots … 🙂🙂🙂

  38. I didn't have Mr Rogers growing up as a kid, but my dad taught me something much in the same vein : "Everyone you meet in the street will be better than you at something, and you'll be better than they are at something else. We can all learn from each other. We all have something of value to contribute." I will take those words to my grave having repeated or paraphrased them to as many people as I possibly can.

  39. On the first day of the revolution, KINDNESS will be better currency than money or implied threat ever was.

  40. While it's nice to reflect on the small gems of a better world that could have been, I've pretty assessed that authenticity is dead and we're just a zombie society waiting to rot on this grave planet we're making.

  41. Crazy to think the guy was a lifelong Republican….I'm a Brit so I only know of Mr. Rogers through that Netflix doco….he seemed like a genuinely lovely guy though.

  42. I personally don't agree with your economic ideology, however I agree, a better world starts with the children. How ever could we expect the kids to love one another if we ourselves are not willing to put our own hands out to help our neighbor?

  43. Mr. Rogers and Jesus were my role models a child. Both men were outspoken activists and championed radical compassion for our neighbors and ourselves. That message was pivotal to surviving an abusive childhood. I felt empowered because I could decide to be a “good neighbor” by demonstrating kindness even when it’s difficult and unreciprocated.

  44. I grew up in the Neighborhood and I’m a christian, right winged libertarian. The idea of loving your neighbor is not a leftist ideology, it is principle, but there are people out there who are racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and extremists. Extremism is terrible and leads to Nationalism, War, and destruction. Socialism, when taken to the extreme, is like someone taking another person’s fish and handing it to you while Capitalism, when taken to the extreme, is like a competition where you constantly try to catch the biggest fish. But with a healthy mix of both, with a little christian ideology, is like you fishing for yourself and when someone next to you can’t seem to catch anything, then you give them some of your fish. That is what Mr. Rogers wanted kids to be like, not violent comrades who despise border security, love for their country, and those who oppose them, and definitely not rich egotistical businessmen who care for only themselves. Stop making Mr. Rogers a political extremist with a one thousand page manifesto on why kids will overthrow the world with leftist ideology.

  45. Mr. Rogers always makes me want to cry, realizing just how awful the world is and how strongly he contrasts it. He's so wholesome, kind, warm. It's great.

  46. there is no phrase more humanizing than "i like you just the way you are", and i want to remember to use it more often.

  47. I used to like to watch this as a kid reruns on PBS in the 90s too bad we don't have kids shows like this now

  48. LMAO, let me find out, Mr. Rodgers radicalized Emerican! Fucking awesome…

    Also keep in mind EJ, in his era macarthyism was in full swing and he was a public figure, coming out and saying he was a dirty commie could have gotten him blacklisted…

  49. He was radical. I wish he had affected more people. In a way, I'm glad he's not here to see where this country has gone. He tackled issues of nationalism, racism,divorce and even a show dedicated to talking about building a wall. Oddly enough, he was a life long republican. His party would be unrecognizable to him. Even his wife said that he would probably have come out of retirement to speak against Trump. I feel like the only reason he was conservative was because of theology. His beliefs didn't seem to match up with the party. He was always cognizant of conservative parents "taking his kids away from him",which was all of us. Which may have been another reason for him being conservative. Complex man. He was definitely an anomaly. He came from a time when Republican didn't always mean what it means today.

  50. Every vid of Mr Rogers always makes me teary eyed. He was such a loving and wonderful man and I wish I'd been allowed to watch TV when I was a kid just so I could have seen his show. I was aware of it, but I'd only ever seen a few episodes. Mom never got the message that the Satanic Panic of the 80s was over in the 90s, so she was still firmly of the mindset that everything was "satanic" and banned pretty much everything popular from the house – especially if it was seen in anyway "leftist." That included shows like Barney and Sesame Street.

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