Mr. Rogers' passionate defense of PBS from 1969 is more relevant than ever

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

As President Donald Trump's newly-released budget proposal threatens to decimate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, many are pointing out the vital service public television provides to Americans across the country.

One of the best defenses of public television, though, was already made nearly 50 years ago by one of PBS's most beloved icons: Fred Rogers.

"Mister Rogers," as he was known to millions of children from his long-running show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, went to Washington, D.C., in May 1969 to speak in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce's Subcommittee on Communications and advocate for $20 million in federal funding for the then-new CPB. 


Source: YouTube

In his speech to subcommittee chairman Sen. John Pastore, Rogers offered a passionate defense of public television and its children's programming, which would be further transformed just a few months later with Sesame Street's debut in November. To assert the programming's importance, Rogers pointed to his own show as a teaching tool for children and their mental health.

"I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique," Rogers said in his speech. "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.'"

Rogers continued:

And 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 for mental health. I think that it's much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger ... than showing something of gunfire.

Rogers' assertion of his show's importance quickly won over Pastore, who seemed to have no previous knowledge of Rogers or his show. 

"Well, I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy," Pastore said in response to Rogers' defense, "and this is the first time I've had goosebumps for the past two days." 

President George W. Bush presents Rogers with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
Source: 
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

To close out the speech, Rogers quoted from one of his children's songs, which offers an important reminder about how children can respond to anger when they feel mad.

I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish, Can stop, stop, stop anytime, and 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 be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.

In response to Rogers passionate recitation, Pastore had just one thing to say: "Looks like you just earned the $20 million."

As the CPB's federal funding comes under scrutiny once again, we'll have to wait and see whether current members of Congress will recognize the vital importance of this programming for themselves.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Alison Durkee

Alison is a New York-based news writer at Mic. You can get in touch with her at adurkee@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.