Thursday, March 20, 2008

Did You Wear Your Sweater Today?

I forgot until about 11 p.m. tonight, when it was much too late (and it was a bit warm today to boot). But once I realized that it the celebration was today, I sat back and gave proper homage to the man being honored.

So what the heck am I talking about? This:

If the video won't load--or you're short on time--here's a summary:
In honor of what would have been Mister Rogers' 80th birthday on March 20, Mr. McFeely -- aka David Newell, the public relations director for Family Communications, Inc. (the nonprofit company founded in 1971 by Fred Rogers) -- has a special request.

"We're asking everyone (including members of the media) everywhere (from Pittsburgh to Paris) to wear their favorite sweater on that day," he asks. "It doesn't have to have a zipper down the front like the one Mister Rogers wore on the program, it just has to be special to you."

Sweater Day is part of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary celebration and the first-ever "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Days March 15 - 20.

"We wanted to recognize Fred in a way that would reflect his deep appreciation of what it means to be a caring neighbor," explains FCI's Margy Whitmer.

As a result, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Days was born as a means of promoting neighborliness throughout Fred Rogers' own backyard -- Southwestern Pennsylvania region.
Not only did I--like millions of kids across America--grow up watching Mister Rogers, but later in life I joined the same fraternity of which he also was a member. When we did the free-form radio show in college, we had a Mister Rogers album; it was meant to fall under the "novelty" category, but underneath the child-friendly lyrics was a crackerjack jazz band led by the amazing pianist Johnny Costa. The station also had a Costa-led instrumental album called "Neighborhood" or something like that; I think it had a picture of Trolley on the front. (Yes, I was correct, though it was a retitled remaster of a 1955 date; he also recorded a full album of music from Rogers' program.)

Some people bashed Rogers for overdoing the gooey self-esteem angle, but for his intended demographic, it worked like a charm (and there's nothing wrong with people of any age being more neighborly to each other). Even if he weren't my fraternity brother, the man deserves a moment of our thoughts today.

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