We live in a world that would be far better served if people asked themselves more often, “WWMRD?”
As a kind, compassionate leader of neighborhoods both real and make-believe, Mr. Rogers has influenced generations of children to not only be proud of who they truly are but be kind to those who are different from us.
In fact, he is famous for saying, “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
And he not only preached it, he lived it. According to Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons, the friendly neighborhood singing cop on Rogers’ renowned children’s show, Fred was a deeply genuine, kind-hearted soul. Clemmons often even refers to him as a loving mentor and surrogate father who truly knew and accepted him for all that he was.
While neither Fred Rogers nor his brand was perfect, there is one thing that rings clear—his priority was acceptance and love, and he used his influential position to take a stance on some important issues. Some of which we could stand to learn more of today.
In 1969, amid tragically lingering issues of a segregated nation, an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood aired that let children and their parents throughout our troubled country know just where Mr. Rogers stood. And that was by his black friends.
In the episode, Mr. Rogers invited his friend Mr. Clemmons to share a refreshing moment in a miniature swimming pool on a hot day. As they soak their feet together, breaking long-standing color barriers, Rogers looks to the camera in what feels like a pointed way. I can imagine him ready to take on the challenge of anyone who wanted to challenge his choice, but more importantly, honestly imploring anyone watching to see and choose not only reason but love. Right alongside him.
The scene was recreated 24 years later on the show, with Francois beautifully singing There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You.
Francois Clemmons recollects:
“On the show, [Fred] would say, ‘I love you just the way you are.’ One day I said, ‘Were you talking to me?!’ And he looked at me and said, ‘I have been talking to you for two years. And you finally heard me today.’”
“I found it hard to believe that a white man would make that kind of deep commitment to a black man like myself.” Those are words no man or woman should ever have to say, or think, or feel.
So, today, and every day—go ahead and ask yourself: What would Mr. Rogers do? What can I do each day to use my personal influence for good? How can I make life better for those around me?
And when in doubt, remember these three things:
1. Be kind.
2. Be Kind.
And 3. Be kind.