Fred Rogers Presence – Steven Emmanuel

May 13, 2022 | aging, books, culture, Health, politics, seniors, technology

The Not Old Better Show, Smithsonian Associates Interview Series

Welcome to The Not Old Better Show, Smithsonian Associates Interview series on radio and podcast. I’m Paul Vogelzang and today’s show will be a fan favorite for a couple reasons: Steven Emmanuel, our guest today, is known for his depth, consciousness, caring and for excellent Smithsonian Associates presentations. He’s always been a fan favorite, too and today’s subject by Steven is none other than Fred Rogers, of PBS and public television fame.

For 33 years, Fred Rogers opened each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with a cheerful smile and a heartfelt invitation, delivered in the show’s iconic theme song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Steven Emmanuel says being a neighbor in the moral and spiritual sense of the word entails a kind of presence that goes beyond mere physical proximity: It is a way of being that expresses care, compassion, and unconditional acceptance. Steven M. Emmanuel, is the dean of the Susan S. Goode School of Arts and Humanities at Virginia Wesleyan University and will tell us today that It was Rogers’ extraordinary capacity to make himself fully present to his audience that made him such an endearing figure to the millions of children (and grown-ups) who watched his show.

We will also talk to Steven Emmanuel about Fred Rogers’ motivation to enter the arena of broadcast television which was out of a deep concern about its potentially harmful effects on children and society. To do that he developed a pedagogy that allowed him to connect with his young viewers in a way that transcended the limitations of the medium, preserving the ethical quality of interpersonal communication. Fred Rogers envisioned the possibility of public television creating a network of interpersonal relationships aimed at building self-esteem and greater self-understanding in viewers.

Steven Emmanuel will examine how Fred Rogers was able to create a powerful sense of his personal presence using the impersonal medium of television. Emmanuel takes us on a close look at Rogers’ ideas about the role of television in the moral and psychological development of children and its potential for building healthy communities based on the values of care and mutual respect.

Turning his attention to today, he reexamines the value of Rogers’ contributions at a time when education is increasingly shifting to remote platforms and the pervasiveness of technology and media seems to be driving people away from each other, creating deep social and political divisions that tear at the fabric of communities. There is still much that we can learn from Rogers, holds Emmanuel, about how to preserve our humanity in the digital age.

Please join me in welcoming to The Not Old Better Show Smithsonian Associates Interview Series on radio and podcast, Smithsonian Associate, Steven Emmanuel.

My thanks to Steven Emmanuel. Steven Emmanuel will be appearing at Smithsonian Associates and you’ll find out more in our show notes today. My thanks always to the Smithsonian team for all they do to support the show. My thanks to you, my wonderful audience here on The Not Old Better Show on radio and podcast. Be well, be safe, treat one another with kindness and Let’s Talk About Better, the Not Old Better Show on radio and podcast. Check out our website; for past shows and other FREE resources. Thanks, everybody and I’ll see you next week.

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