Fred Rogers, long a public- television icon for children, hangs up his hand-knit sweater today.
His thoughtful and gentle way of speaking, with its comforting magic, has graced the morning airwaves for 33 years. The show was a strong antidote to the battering of split-second images kids encountered elsewhere on the tube. Mister Rogers, like Captain Kangaroo, proved he could be a hit with children without an accompanying marketing blitz.
"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" filled a void in children's programming when it first aired in February, 1968. Teaching kids that it's OK to make mistakes, offering wise counsel to help them sort out the difficulties of their own and of the adult world around them, helped create a sense of security, and hope. And, although Mister Rogers has been an ordained Presbyterian minister since 1962, he did all that without preaching.
He won't totally disappear. He's on to the Internet, where he's weaving his low-key spell on an interactive program (www.pbs.org/rogers).
And reruns will keep him and Mr. Skunk, Daniel Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and Picture-Picture on the air for future generations of children. But the effects of his childlikeness and innocence will live on long after that.
We like you, Mister Rogers, just because you're you.