Fred Rogers would have turned ninety this week. For nearly forty years, Fred Rogers invited children everywhere to join him everyday for thirty minutes of gentle, developmentally appropriate activities. Rogers flouted conventional wisdom that said children’s television needed brash gimmicks and high production values to capture the attention of young audiences. The Neighborhood was a calm oasis where you could visit with caring people and learn to be a good neighbor. Rogers and his friends took audiences—he called us his “television neighbors”— on fascinating adventures to real world locations. Some of these adventures were to places kids could go in their own hometowns: schools, restaurants, shoe stores, zoos, and of course libraries. But other field trips transported American children beyond borders.
In 1987, Rogers went to Moscow to visit the set of Soviet Union’s most beloved children’s television show Good Night, Kids, and meet the host, Tatiana Vedeneeva. At the time, the Christian Science Monitor reported the story with what can only be described as life-affirming awe:
Two days after George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard LShevardnadze announced their INF arms agreement, two other representatives of the superpowers locked in a warm embrace in Moscow. Far better known to their viewing public than either of the statesmen, the two belong to a growing number of citizen diplomats. The fact that they are puppets manipulated by grown-ups should not make their encounter any less vivid to the millions of children who will see it on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” For when the cheeky piglet, Hryushka, grabbed Daniel, the shy striped tiger, and chortled, `What a nice little one,” the chemistry was instantaneous.
If you need to get your Mr Rogers fix now, here’s a special treat. In celebration of this birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of his legendary children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the world got its first glimpse of the trailer for the upcoming documentary on his life and work Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Enjoy!