Paul  Kengor

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

I was walking by Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue last week when struck by our city’s “Unity Tree.” It’s a curious thing about the Unity Tree: it only comes out at Christmas time—yes, Christmas. This self-proclaimed source of “unity,” like much of modern liberalism, preaches inclusion while it excludes. It boldly expunges “Christmas” from what everyone knows is a Christmas tree. Remarkably, even the banner adorning the tree takes care to exclude Christmas. “Season’s Greetings,” it tells us.

Well, what season? We know but can’t say.

As I continued down Stanwix, I was struck by a legitimate source of unity, one that didn’t divide us, and who didn’t refrain from the Christmas message. There he was, captured in a big poster in a window: Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers.

Some readers might remember that Mister Rogers recorded an hour-long primetime Christmas special in 1977. His first primetime show, it was titled “Christmas Time with “Mr. Rogers,” not “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” with Mr. Rogers.

At the same time, it featured real unity. Fred Rogers discussed Hanukkah as well as Christmas. The trolley clicked through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe with a banner wishing “Happy Chanukah” on one side and “Merry Christmas” on the other. “Silent Night” was sung. It wasn’t like today’s phony “unity” where the apostles of “diversity” banish references to Christmas.

When I saw that poster in the window on Stanwix, it occurred to me that it has been 10 years since Fred Rogers left this world. Can you believe it?

What is it about the man that still makes us smile? That still touches a soft spot? That still genuinely unites us?

For me, it’s partly my age. I was born in 1966, when there were a handful of TV channels. “Kids programming” consisted of a few PBS mornings shows, with Pittsburgh’s own Fred Rogers the feature attraction. His comforting, patient demeanor drew you in. He was more than a friendly face in the neighborhood. He was a teacher.

One of my favorite Mister Rogers stories was told by my pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville in the 1990s.