Sunday, May 17, 2009

Repost #1: Fred Rogers

Since leaving MySpace is going to orphan a lot of blog entries, I'm going to start re-posting some of them here. The first is about Fred Rogers. Say what you will about Mr. Rogers. I was never what one would call a fan of his show. There was something about the puppets that always creeped me out. His contribution to a channel which had so much of an effect on me growing up, however, is beyond measure.

Original Post: May 30, 2006

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson recommended that Congress enact the Public Television Act. This would provide $20 million over two years as initial funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. By 1969, President Nixon was pushing Congress to cut funding in half.

In the middle of the Congressional appropriations hearing, Fred Rogers was called to speak in front of the committee, headed by Senator Pastore of Rhode Island, to support the original funding. Rogers was relatively unknown in the United States. His show Mister Rogers had aired on the CBC with many of the familiar puppets that would appear in the later show, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Senator Patore was combative and unfriendly. He begrudgingly allowed Rogers to speak, giving the impression that it was a lost cause and funding would be cut anyway.

Rogers began with his even, calm tone.

This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, "you've made this day a special day by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service.

In all he spoke for under six minutes, but in that time he managed to convince everyone, including Senator Pastore, that the broadcasting provided by PBS was vital.

After Rogers concluded his speech, Senator Pastore, simply said,

I think it's wonderful. That is just so wonderful. Looks like you just won the twenty million dollars.

PBS got its funding, and created a generation of children, myself included, eternally grateful to Fred Rogers for his brilliant, eloquent speech.

Meow meow, kitty, meow meow.

Full video of the speech is here.

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