Mr Rogers Birthday: TV Show Used to Minister to Children

Fred Rogers, better known to the public simply as Mister Rogers, would have been 82 on March 20. He left behind a lasting imprint on children's television with his series "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" but many may not know that he was also an ordained minister who used the show as a form of ministry.

Rogers built an empire around his TV show, which sought to teach kids the basics of life while sending them a strong message of encouragement and friendship. The opening song invited viewers into his home and community with the chorus "Won't you be my neighbor?"

Before appearing on "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," he began studying for ministry and graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963. Though he was never assigned to a church, Rogers received a call to appear on NBC. He specifically studied child communication and used the series to talk to children about serious subjects.

"The world is not always a kind place," the Times quoted him as saying. "That's something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them or not, but it's something they really need our help to understand. I think people who produce and perform on programs for children should have as a prerequisite some sort of course to understand their audience."

Rogers won the trust of children and their parents through his puppetry, simple messages, and music. "You are special, you're the only one, you're the only one like you," he often sang.

Rogers expanded his ministry into the world of publishing with books tackling parenthood: "Helping to Understand Your Young Child."

During his acceptance into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, Rogers challenged the audience to remember their roots and remember those who helped them along the way. He gave them 10 seconds to pause and reflect before saying, "We 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."