And I got chills. Not bad, scary chills. Instead it was a warm, touching chill -- his show was for so many kids, a special moment in the day when make-believe and imagination were not only okay, they were exactly what you needed. And even now, it is something special.
You could see the reaction of the other attendees, sitting here in a crowded Hilton restaurant on a rainy Austin day ... all around me, wistful smiles appeared on faces. Even a few tears. Seeing that clip of him reminding us all that he did like us exactly as we were (and are) was clearly a message that still resonated with all of us.
I remembered a moment when I was a kid and I realized that for some kids, Mr. Rogers' expressions of love for them "just the way they were" might have been the only time they heard words like that directed that them. (OK, I was a weird child...but it was all right because Mr. Rogers liked me "just the way I am.") I cried when i first realize that, and I almost did again today. What a gift he gave to so many kids!
But the good news from this presentation is that Mr. Rogers' message, and his lessons about life, caring, self-esteem and of course, the power of imagination, will live on.
A new series called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood will be airing soon on PBS stations across the country. The animated show features the characters we knew and loved like Henrietta Pussycat, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and of course, Daniel Striped Tiger, but they are now the parents of preschoolers of their own.
The star of the show, Daniel Tiger Jr., will teach a new generation lessons about caring, taking turns, dealing with scary things, and being a part of a family. But above all, Fred Rogers message about being loved "just the way you are" comes through loud and strong. And that's the very best part of all.
Thank you Mr. Rogers. For the lessons we grew up with, and for leaving a legacy that will live on in this new series.
And just for the record, we loved you just the way you are, too.