The Lessons of Mister Rogers

The Lessons of Mister Rogers

I never appreciated Mister Rogers all these years aside from the very cheap thrill I’d get walking through his actual neighborhood on my way to grad school. That changed after seeing the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I keep coming back to this film in my mind.

Columnist David Brooks wrote in The New York Times that we film-goers were moved to tears – (I know, tears, can you imagine?) – not by something sad, but by the opposite: Mister Rogers’ “radical kindness.” I was doubly moved because I recognized this as exactly what Hal baked into the DNA of our foundation: a radical kindness that we draw on every day to slowly but surely build a new economy and a healthy planet.

Like Mister Rogers, we are not flashy. We don’t adjust our programming to keep your interest or keep up with the competition. We are instead solid and persistent, resolute and resourceful, patient and impatient, but also creative. Our full endowment is in our Loan Fund and we invest it all in hand-selected, spectacular entrepreneurs, who are addressing and solving key problems. We stand by our entrepreneurs in all weather, and they stand with us.

You might think of Fred Rogers as the tortoise, but he was also the hare. He could be bold with a purpose. When, for example, black children were banned from public swimming pools during the civil rights era, he wrote a segment for the show in which he and a black cast member bathed their feet together in a tub.

We are bold with a purpose as well. We encourage other foundations to move their endowments into investments that match their missions vs. investing in things that harm the earth. We educate them on how to do it. There are trillions of dollars sitting in endowments that could be invested in radical kindness: new school buildings, open spaces, green businesses, clean oceans, and the list goes on. We are moving fast on this issue, and this advocacy may prove to be our most impactful work yet.

Meanwhile, we are eager to grow our modest endowment, aka Loan Fund. With 27 years under our belt, we know how to identify and invest in problem solvers. Will you help us by making a generous donation? Thank you for your support in growing our work!

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