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Attend a free screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at the Normal Theater

The Normal Theater in Uptown Normal

The public is invited to attend a free showing of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at the Normal Theater on Tuesday, February 26. The documentary begins at 7 p.m.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? looks back at the legacy of Fred Rogers and his long-running, children’s television show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

movie artworkThe Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning offers civic films each semester as an accessible way for students to gain civic knowledge. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was selected this spring because of the strong theme of empathy throughout the documentary.

“Empathy is an important element in effectively engaging in civil conversations, and we desperately need those types of conversations in the United States right now,” said Harriett Steinbach, assistant director of service learning at the Center.

Following the screening, a panel of faculty members from the Department of Psychology will discuss themes of empathy within the film and answer broader questions of empathy within society. Attendees are invited to come with questions for the panel.

The panel presentation is part of the Department of Psychology’s Extending Empathy Project, which kicked off last fall with a series of speakers and round-table discussions.

According to Department of Psychology Chair J. Scott Jordan, members of the department have been concerned for some time about the lack of empathy they are witnessing in our culture.

“Treating others with compassion, particularly children, victims, members of minority groups, and refugees, is basic human decency,” Jordan explained. “We initiated the Extending Empathy Project as a way to introduce a positive, empathic message into the university community and the public at large.”

It is Jordan’s hope, as well as Steinbach’s, that the film screening and panel discussion will help spark additional conversations about the power of empathy and kindness in society.

“I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on a 12-inch black-and-white television in the late 1960s early 1970s,” Jordan concluded. “And while I usually watched it alone, I never really felt that way. Mr. Rogers was kind, inclusive, and encouraging, and for that half hour, the world felt like a kinder place.”

About the film

For over 30 years, Fred Rogers, an unassuming minister, puppeteer, writer, and producer was beamed daily into homes across America. In his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rogers and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children about some of life’s weightiest issues, in a simple, direct fashion. There hadn’t been anything like Mr. Rogers on television before and there hasn’t been since.

In Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville looks back on the legacy of Fred Rogers, focusing on his radically kind ideas. While the nation changed around him, Fred Rogers stood firm in his beliefs about the importance of protecting childhood.

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