A Mister Rogers Movie? Here He Is Singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” at Commencement
TV star received 1992 honorary degree; trailer for his new biopic starring Tom Hanks just released
The trailer for Sony Pictures’ Fred Rogers drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks was released Monday morning, and immediately brought to mind an epic moment in the history of BU Commencement ceremonies.
BU got a visit from the cardigan-wearing star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood at its 1992 Commencement, when he delivered the Sunday morning Baccalaureate address as well as the main event’s invocation ceremony. While the invocation normally serves as an “introductory prayer” of sorts, Rogers got a raucous, standing ovation from the crowd when he stepped to the podium. His opening line? “You want to sing with me?”
From there, he led the crowd of 20,000 in a rendition of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and then delivered a short prayer to open the ceremony, held on Nickerson Field. Rogers received an honorary degree that year alongside others, including musician Wynton Marsalis (Hon.’92) and American author and social historian, Sue Bailey Thurman (Hon.’92).
As for the forthcoming biopic starring Hanks (who else, right?), the film is loosely based on a 1998 Esquire article by Tom Junod, and is about a jaded journalist writing a profile of Rogers. The two eventually become friends, with Rogers imparting empathy and kindness along the way.
That kindness was on display throughout Rogers’ visit to BU in 1992.
Earlier that Sunday, Rogers visited Marsh Chapel to deliver a speech at the Baccalaureate ceremony. The BU Bridge (BU Today’s predecessor) reported that an overflow crowd packed into Marsh to hear how children had been touched by watching his show. “Then he asked the graduates, ‘I wonder what will be in store for you and what you will make of it. Who will help you? What will you do about your hard times? How will you respond to your successes? In other words, what kind of a person will you be? On the average, each of you has about 20,000 days left to answer those questions, and each will answer them in a unique way,’” the Bridge wrote.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired on PBS stations throughout much of the country for more than three decades. Over his career, Rogers won four daytime Emmys, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the 2002 Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. He died in 2003 at the age of 74.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens in theaters on November 22.