Paul W. Smith: Today, we need Mr. Rogers

Paul W. Smith

“Outta’ my mind on a Monday moanin’”

Last week I told you about being sent to Pittsburgh by my Toledo television station many years ago to interview a very successful public broadcasting children’s show host named Fred Rogers. That’s “Mr. Rogers” to you and me and virtually everyone else, other than his immediate family.

I was invited into his “neighborhood” and immediately felt comfortable — right at home — just as millions of little kids did every week for years.

Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in a scene from "A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood."

His television show was his ministry.

And he served his congregation well.

He spoke to all of us, in person, and through the camera lens, in a most soft-spoken and thoughtful way that doesn’t seem to exist anymore — certainly not on television.

In fact, I shudder to think how TV would treat him now. But frankly, the world could sure use Fred Rogers today.

As I spent a few hours with him putting together our special half-hour show, it became obvious to me I had never met anyone like him, so full of gentleness, kindness, concern and love. I remember telling family and friends at the time, I had never met anyone so full of unencumbered pure love and commitment in my entire lifetime.

This image released by Focus Features shows Fred Rogers on the set of his show "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" from the film, "Won't You Be My Neighbor."

Some 40 years later, I still have not.

Having this tiny, yet impactful moment with Fred Rogers, I couldn’t wait to see Tom Hanks bring Mr. Rogers back to life in the film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

I knew immediately there would be talk of an Academy Award for Hanks, but was confused when I heard it would be for “best supporting actor.”

Now, after seeing this very good film, I know why.

And it left me wanting more.

Of Mr. Rogers.

Paul W. Smith is the host of "The Paul W. Smith Show" on WJR-AM (760) from 5:30-9 a.m. Monday.