Mister Rogers Leaves Courtroom In Tears With Simple Request
Kristin Danley 3/29/2018
Many of us grew up relishing the fun and craziness of The Electric Company on our local public television station and remember the life lessons learned through catchy songs on Sesame Street. You might even be able to recall and recite part of Schoolhouse Rock's "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function" or "I'm Just a Bill."
But those wonderful childhood memories would not have been possible if it weren't for the legendary Mister Rogers. Clad in his staple sweater, Fred Rogers used a soothing, calm voice to educate children and focused on feelings during his show.
His hit show Mister Rogers Neighborhood had a theme song that signaled kids to come running to the television: "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." The subjects he broached ranged from happy birthday celebrations to the sorrowful passing of a pet.
But none of these classic children's shows would have been possible if it weren't for Fred Rogers swapping his sweater for a suit and tie and traveling to Washington, D.C., where he appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce's subcommitee on communications on May 1, 1969. Federal legislators intended to slash in half the proposed $20 million federal funding for the then newly formed non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Mister Rogers spoke soothingly of the merits of public broadcasting and how invaluable the children's programming was for future generations. Subcommittee chairman Sen. John Pastore (D-RI) was a bit stodgy and verbally abrasive toward the beloved Mister Rogers at first.
Mister Rogers had less than seven minutes to explain why federal officials should not save the country $10 million by cutting the public broadcasting network's budget. With all eyes focused on a young and debonaire Mister Rogers, he began to speak.
"I give an expression of care every day to each child to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program saying 'You've made this day a special day just by you being you. There's no person in the whole word like you and I like you just the way you are.' I feel that if public television can make it clear that feelings and mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service."
Mister Rogers shared that he was "constantly concerned" about what children are seeing and watching on TV. He would rather highlight how men can work out feelings of anger in a peaceful way rather than with gunfire.
"I've tried in this country and Canada to present what I feel is a meaningful expression of care."
Sen. Pastore quizzed Mister Rogers as to his role on the show, then demanded that he be shown an episode. Doubtful at first, the legislators gradually warmed to Mister Rogers and his mission.
When Mister Rogers shared lyrics of a song below with the cantankerous legisltor, Sen. Pastore softened even more. He actually smiled.
"What a good feeling to feel like this and know that the feeling is really mine, know that there's something deep inside that helps us become what we can, for a girl can become someday a lady and a boy someday a man."
Amidst the shuffling of papers and note taking, Mister Rogers made an impact. We can see it on the faces of the officials captured in the video below and in Sen. Pastore's response.
"I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy and this is the first time I've had goosebumps in the last two days."
But would it all be enough to convince the legislators to retain the proposed $20 million for public broadcasting? Watch Mister Roger's heartfelt speech before federal legislators in the video below and learn the outcome of his fight for the funding.