When the Department of Correction must decide where to place a prison, most citizens have the NIMBY attitude. Fred McFeely Rogers–“Mr. Rogers” to you and me–thought of the children, no matter whose children they were.
In the 1970’s, Fred Rogers was instrumental in changing how the State Correctional Institution-Pittsburgh approached the nurturing of the children of inmates.
I took my internship in prison library management at this prison in 1985-86. I remember the resentment of some SCI-P staff over this change that Fred Rogers was able to effect. Some employees felt that, for the sake of the victims, the children of inmates should suffer along with the inmate. I doubt these folks considered that the children of inmates were suffering.
Fred Rogers did.
Even now, 30 years later, some staff still feel that, for the sake of the victims of violent crimes, nothing should be done for the inmate, let alone for their children. Obviously, inroads have been made, and corrections has come a long way. But crime is emotional.
Because he lived & recorded his program in my hometown, I grew up watching and listening to Mr. Rogers, never suspecting that our paths would cross– however indirectly–in a prison.
Considering what the man accomplished, Fred was a force of nature. The wonder of it is that he’d never agree with that statement. What he wanted was for those of us listening to realize that we are all of us remarkable, and to live caring, compassionate lives for those who need us. Fred knew that the kids need us.
Below is a link to an ordinary video, ordinary to all but those who grew up watching the show. If you watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred’s words will challenge you, convict you, encourage you, and move you. If you didn’t grow up in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, this will show you the man (with heartfelt thanks to Raymond Dean).