Professor whose Mr. Rogers article went viral: We need him now more than ever

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A New Jersey professor who wrote an article about educational television icon Fred Rogers says that society could use some of his wisdom now more than ever.

Louis Benjamin Rolsky is a professor at Rutgers and Monmouth universities. He has written articles, lectures and books about the intersection of religion, history and culture. But he says that he was surprised to find recently that the biggest splash he's made so far was a piece he wrote for the blog “The Conversation” and reprinted in the publication “Rutgers Today” about Mr. Rogers.

“It’s as close to going viral as an academic is sort of going to get. If that makes any sense,” Rolsky says.

Rolsky says that in this age of political division, name-calling politicians and Twitter wars, the message of the late Fred Rogers may be just what the world needs.

“Just taking a moment and listening to someone before you start speaking back. It's a blueprint for trying to understand people from where they're coming from,” he says. “[Mr. Rogers] he taught us how to listen to the smallest of voices. The softest of voices. I think we need to take a lesson from that and be able to try to hear those voices that tend to be the loudest as well.”

Interest in the teachings of Mr. Rogers has been high lately. There was the acclaimed 2018 documentary “Won't You Be My Neighbor” Later this month will be the film release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers.

Rolsky says the work and the life story of Rogers, a Presbyterian minister whose PBS show spoke to generations of kids and adults, broaching subjects like race, war, divorce with simplicity and compassion, may have never been more relevant.

“Rogers as a way to of sort of building a bridge between conservative and liberal people of faith,” Rolsky says.

The new feature film starring Tom Hanks opens Nov. 22.

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