This posting marks the first of what I hope will be ongoing audio portions of actual interviews I’ve conducted with thought leaders and fascinating people over the decades of my career in journalism.
In October 2000 I had the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh to spend a day with Fred “Mister” Rogers and his colleagues for a cover story that appeared in Christianty Today. The project had been a pay-off assignment for me in the aftermath of intense traveling, interviewing and reporting about the Columbine school shooting, about which I had also written a cover story for CT.
The piece I was writing about Fred Rogers focused on the spiritual side of his “ministry” with children (a term he proudly adopted) through the medium of television. Few people knew that he had been ordained in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. A. specifically for the work of evangelizing children through television.
Fred loved the piece I wrote — and repeatedly asked me to send him more copies of the issue in which it appeared.
I have written extensively elsewhere about my visit to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but only now am I publishing original audio portions of my interview with him. I have broken the interview into approximately 15-minute segments, each focusing on one aspect of our conversation.
Fred Rogers died in February 2003, not long after the cover story came out. I was so sad to hear of his passing, but so grateful for having had the chance to meet him, explore his spirituality, and write about his spiritual vision for his television ministry. Mine was the only major exploration of him that explored this, and he was so grateful.
The audio below includes the first portion of our lengthy interview in which he talks about the influence of his family on the world he created and how his puppets friends came alive. Other portions of the interview will be published subsequently.