Friday, June 22, 2012

Mister Rogers

Not long ago, I posted links to my "greatest hits" based on readership statistics. Jeanne from Zella Said Purple then asked me if there were any posts that I wished had enjoyed a larger readership when they were originally published. This is one of those, originally published in June, 2010 under the title "The Truth Will Make Me Free." We often think of Mister Rogers as a gentle man who lived inside the box of television, but he was a fierce advocate for young children who seemed to always be living his message of honesty and gentleness everywhere he went, from the halls of Congress to the bright lights of Hollywood. 

I just planned to share the lyrics today to one of my favorite Mister Rogers songs, "The Truth Will Make Me Free," but in the fruitless search for a video or recording of the song, I found myself lost on the internet, viewing video after video of this incredible educator and life-long advocate for children.

The last time I mentioned Mister Rogers here, it was brought to my attention that if you didn't grow up in the US or Canada, you probably don't know about him. Even if that's not the case for you, I urge you to spend a little time this Saturday taking a look at some of the 26 full length episodes available here.

Mister Rogers taught children that confronting feelings and giving them appropriate expression is a sign of 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 for help and comfort when we need it."

Here are the lyrics I wanted to share:

The Truth Will Make Me Free

What if I were very, very sad
And all I did was smile?
I wonder after awhile
What might become of my sadness?

What if I were very, very angry
And all I did was sit
And never think about it?
What might become of my anger?

Where would they go,
And what would they do,
If I couldn't let them out?
Maybe I'd fall, maybe get sick
Or doubt.

But what if I could know the truth
And say just how I feel?
I think I'd learn a lot that's real
About freedom

I'm learning to sing a sad song when I'm sad
I'm learning to say I'm angry when I'm very mad
I'm learning to shout, I'm getting it out
I'm happy learning exactly how I feel inside of me
I'm learning to know the truth
I'm learning to tell the truth
Discovering truth will make me free

But Mister Rogers did much more than teach children. This first clip shows him testifying before the US Senate in an attempt to save funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The senator starts out sounding like he wants to pick a fight, but ends by being entirely won-over. I love that Mister Rogers quotes, on the floor of the Senate, in it's entirety, the lyrics to one of my other favorites, "What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?" This just makes me proud to be a preschool teacher.

And this is Mister Rogers accepting his Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award. This humble man, even at this moment, one that is all about him, used it as another opportunity to teach others about themselves and to remind them that they are loved. I'd never seen it before and it made me cry.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you, Teacher Tom. I have reposted this on my FB account. We need more people like Mr. Rogers and YOU in this world!
Michelle Mullen
Milwaukee, WI

Alec @ Childs Play Music said...

I had heard of Mr Rogers, but as far as I know it was never shown here in Australia. And from the segments you have posted, and from other ones I've seen on YouTube that seems to have been our great loss - really, Mr Rogers was clearly exceptional educational television, from an exceptional man.

His gentle warmth and deep compassion shines through - it's not like any children's television I've ever seen.

In the main I have little love for children's television - even most "educational" programming is pretty dire, and children's "entertainment" is, on the whole, repellent, exploitative and designed to sell useless junk to children too young to understand they are being manipulated.

But if young children are going to watch TV (and of course they will) then Mr Rogers seems like the model on which we should be basing it. Gentle, slow paced, and about real and important things in children's lives.

Sadly, I've not been able to watch the full shows you link to in your post. When I click on them I get a pop-up saying that the videos are only viewable in the US.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all your messages!
I LOVE your blog and often share it on my FB account!
The video link of Mr. Rogers' acceptance speech made me cry, too! What an inspirational man!!
His shows/messages should be somehow compulsory for both adults and children. Although I agree with very limited screen time, there are some shows/activities that I do believe are very beneficial - and Mr. Rogers' is one of them!!

Misty said...

It made me cry, as well.

We recently obtained a number of episodes and I've been letting my kids (a 5 year old and two 2 year olds) watch them right after afternoon nap. It's a little slower-paced than the 5 year old is used to, but they're worth it!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I loved Mister Rogers as a child, but didn't really appreciate him until adulthood when I started working with children. He was such and advocate for all children, and I miss him.

Nancy Gaumer said...

30 years ago when my son was two, he came running to me exclaiming "Mr. Rogers likes me! Just the way I am." I'll never forget it.
He was one of my heroes. I got to see him speak at NAEYC one year and it was amazing. Had lunch with Mr. McFeely once and he was wonderful too.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the first posts I ever read here - I have no idea how I happened across it before any of your others, but I promise that it was "widely read" by me :)

Both you and Mr. Rogers (by his legacy) do great work. I don't have kids, I don't work with kids, and I have professed in the past not to like them much, but your writings are nonetheless fascinating to me. Goes to show that sometimes you just need the right teacher to make a subject appealing. Thank you for sharing your talents with us.