“People can like you exactly as you are,” Mister Rogers says at the end of the animated short served up today as the heartwarming Google Doodle celebrating the 51st anniversary of the day Fred Rogers began filming Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The landmark public-TV show went on to run for 895 episodes that endeared itself to generations of children and adults across America with a message of acceptance and kindness that is still worth obsessing over.
Google’s mini-movie is set to the show’s theme song, “Won’t You be My Neighbor?”—also the name of the award-winning documentary about Rogers released earlier this year. (A biopic starring Tom Hanks as Rogers, who died in 2003, is to be released next year.)
Melissa Crowton, a Google Doodle team project director, explained the vision in a “Behind the Doodle” video: Mister Rogers “is sending out his love and he is sending out a message and he is hoping that his audience takes that away, and I want the Doodle to be the same.”
Here are some of Quartz’s favorite things about Mister Rogers, and his legacy:
Mister Rogers took children very seriously
As Susan Howson and Adam Pasick wrote for the Quartz Obsession: “Rogers carefully addressed kids’ deepest fears, from death and divorce to war and discrimination, while assuring them that they were worthy and deserving of love.”
Rogers’ on-air speaking even had its own name, “Freddish,” and this language was governed by how best to communicate with children, including speaking clearly, positively, and eliminating factors that could seem prescriptive. Being mindful of children doesn’t mean minimizing their knowledge. “The world is not always a kind place,” Rogers once said. “That’s something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them to or not.” The key, Rogers knew, was in helping them make sense of it all.
Mister Rogers had many words of wisdom
Just as in the Google Doodle, Rogers often reminded his audience of essential principles that are sometimes drowned out in the noise of the world. Here are some of our favorite quotes:
“Perhaps we think that there are some people in this world who I can’t ever communicate with, and so I’ll just give up before I try. And how sad it is to think that we would give up on any other creature who’s just like us.”
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
Mister Rogers protected public media
In 1969, Rogers delivered six minutes of testimony to the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications to promote funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after budget cuts were proposed. His heartfelt argument centered on how educational television is invaluable to guide young people through the “inner drama of childhood” amid a flood of otherwise harmful content in the media.
Rogers’ testimony was so moving that John O. Pastore, the Rhode Island senator overseeing the proceedings, said: “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps for the last two days…Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”
Mister Rogers can still make us cry
The nostalgic Google Doodle was enough to make fans of Rogers cry, but so, too, does pretty much anything that involves him.
We will leave you with this: In a 1981 episode called “It’s You I Like,” then-5-year-old quadriplegic Jeffrey Erlanger explained how his “fancy machine” wheelchair worked to Rogers, before they both sang “It’s You I like.” When Rogers was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1999, Erlanger made a surprise appearance, and many of the audience were in tears.
Erlanger said to Rogers: “When you tell people it’s you I like, we know that you really mean it. And tonight, I want to let you know that on behalf of millions of children and grown-ups, it is you, that I like.”