Notes & Quotes: The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King

The following are my favorite quotes from Maxwell King's The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.
  1. "There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind." Fred Rogers
  2. To Fred Rogers, every child required special attention, because every child needed assurance that he or she was someone who mattered.
  3. "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news," Rogers had told his young viewers, "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 the world."
  4. Fred Rogers never -- ever -- let the urgency of work or life impede his focus on what he saw as basic human values: integrity, respect, responsibility, fairness and compassion, and of course his signature value, kindness.
  5. You don't set out to be rich and famous; you set out to be helpful.
  6. Fred never accepted the advice that pretending not to care would alleviate his loneliness and pain.
  7. Although he was a strong figure in the family, Jim Rogers [Fred's dad] was tolerant and always very careful not to bully Fred. He treated his son with respect and support, no matter their differences.
  8. He found a way to turn adversity to a focus on what he wanted to study and where he wanted his life to go in the future.
  9. The essential is to be found in depth and introspection, in searching for meaning, and then finding the truth that comes from that meaning.
  10. Fred was always careful to manage his own time in the most thoughtful and deliberate way, and he honed his unique ability to focus on what was important to him, undistracted by his family or his friends.
  11. "The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away." Fred Rogers
  12. Rogers asked the wily Hayes how he managed to connect so well with his audience, and Gabby replied that the only way to manage a television role in which one is asked to speak directly to a disembodied, distant audience is to convince oneself that one is speaking only to one little child. "Just one little buckaroo," Hayes told Rogers; just think of taking only and directly to "one little buckaroo."
  13. The noblesse oblige that Fred Rogers adopted, putting his commitment to children and their education ahead of any personal gain, might never have been possible without the family wealth that gave him, and his mother, such freedom. If Rogers had been born poor, his attitudes would quite likely have been different.
  14. Religious faith should bring all sorts of people together, not pull them apart.
  15. Some of his friends in Pittsburgh were disappointed that Fred didn't speak out publicly on behalf of the disadvantaged or vocally champion tolerance and inclusion, the values in which he so fervently believed. But Rogers worried that such public posturing would cause confusion with the parents and children he reached on television. And he always felt that actions -- kindness, understanding, and openness in relationships -- were more important than words.
  16. The Presbyterian values -- hard work, responsibility and caring for others, parsimony, duty to family, ethical clarity, a strong sense of mission, and a relentless sense of service to God -- drove every moment of Fred Rogers's life.
  17. The best discipline is not punishment, but teaching a child the art of self-discipline.
  18. It was Fred Rogers who taught multiple generations of American parents how very critical the first few years of human life could be, and how social and emotional learning is more important at that age than cognitive learning. More than any other popular voice in American culture, Fred Rogers taught this powerful lesson to parents, teachers, and to children themselves through his gentle, slow-paced but richly textured programming.
  19. Roger's wealth gave him a certain "level of security"... He chose to dedicate himself to making the world better. He was always focused on "What good can come of this? Where do people need help?"
  20. Fred Rogers's respect for the people who worked for him made it a comfortable place to work.
  21. Everything he set out to do, he set out to do the best way possible. There's a poem he liked called "Be the Best of What You Are. If you're a janitor, be the best janitor -- or whoever you are. Whatever you do, do it the best way you know how.
  22. Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and the cofounder and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, is an accomplished puppeteer in her own right (as well as the voice of Audrey Duck). She points to the psychological power of puppetry: "The freedom we get from speaking through this creature that is us and not us at the same time makes [puppets] such incredibly powerful tools for therapy. Children -- and adults -- say things with puppets they absolutely wouldn't say otherwise."
  23. "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." Fred Rogers
  24. In a now-famous Rogers dictum, delivered in speeches and in his books, he advises adults: "Please, think of the children first. If you ever have anything to do with the entertainment, their food, their toys, their custody, their day care, their health, their education -- please listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them."
  25. Jeff Erlanger and Fred Rogers didn't meet again until nearly twenty years later, when Fred Rogers was being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. When Jeff rolls onstage to surprise him, Rogers runs up to the stage and hugs him as if they are the only two people in the auditorium. "On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups," says Jeff to Fred Rogers, "It's you I like."
  26. Every day Fred Rogers would rise early, read his Bible, and then go down to the Pittsburgh Athletic Association building for a long swim before he went to work. When Rogers traveled, he asked his staff to book him into a hotel with a pool, so he could continue exercising daily.
  27. Rogers's aversion to turning children into consumers was unique in American television. Operating in a free-market system, protected by the First Amendment, advertisers felt no constraint about going after young children who could push their parents to buy things.
  28. Rogers's antipathy to advertising extended to anything that might be construed as fooling a child; he viewed himself as a powerful mentor who must never abuse children's trust by pretending to be something else.
  29. Fred Rogers felt very strongly -- backed by the research of child-development mentors -- that the most effective gift to young children is nurturing the capacity for self-discipline rather than the imposition of it. He recognized the importance, and the value, of outside discipline, but he thought lasting benefit for the child came from developing the ability to concentrate and hold yourself accountable for your own actions.
  30. Being who you are was so important to [Rogers] that the only thing that would really upset him was phoniness. As long as I was being genuine and honest, he respected that.
  31. The white spaces between the words are more important than the text, because they give you time to think about what you've read.
  32. Fred Rogers got up every morning between 4:30 and 5:30 AM to read the Bible and prepare himself for the day before he went to the Pittsburgh Athletic Association to swim. But Rogers's preparation was not so much professional as it was spiritual: He would study passages of interest from the Bible, and then he would visualize who he would be seeing that day, so that he would be prepared to be as caring and giving as he could be. Fred's prayers in those early morning sessions were not for success or accomplishment, but rather for the goodness of heart to be the best person he could be in each of the encounters he would have that day.
  33. It's worth the struggle to discover who you really are.
  34. In the one life we have to live, we can choose to demean this life, or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.
  35. His power derived from a really unique place. It was his absolute self-possession, which is very different from self-interest or self-satisfaction, or selfishness. He didn't need anything from you or from me. He welcomed it, but he didn't need it.