At least once a year, I re-read Tom Junod’s article on Mr. Rogers in the November 1998 issue of Esquire magazine. The theme of the issue was new American heroes, and Mr. Rogers, wearing a red cardigan, was featured on the cover.
With each year that passes, the truth of the article, its simplicity and profundity, and importantly, the excellence of the writing that does justice to the man, becomes clearer and clearer. Fred Rogers was so concerned about children and what they were watching as pie-in-the-face “children’s programming” on television, that he spent the rest of his life making TV programs that would teach children about themselves, their families and their communities; that would teach them they were lovable and capable of loving.
He accomplished this through interviews with people from the neighborhood; in visits with various professionals at their work sites; through music––he himself was an accomplished musician and composer; through puppetry; and all of this with a small cast of regulars who acted out make-believe from scripts written by Mr. Rogers.
Tom Junod had the courage as a writer to not distance himself from his subject. He was drawn in by the accessibility and sincerity of this American hero, this American saint. In these challenging times, when true heroes are scarce, here is a model that deserves emulation and celebration. Who––man or woman––has the existential courage to embrace it? A measure of humility would help with that.
You can read the entire article at