A Wonderful Neighbor

I started to simply tag this for the daily link dump, but after wracking my brain over how to do it justice in four sentences or less, I decided to simply write up a full post.

In 1969 Richard Nixon proposed a reallocation of funds from the newly formed Public Broadcast System towards the war effort in Vietnam. Needless to say, this would have effectively killed the PBS. A then relatively unknown man by the name of Fred Rogers appeared before the Senatorial Subcommittee to speak on behalf of the PBS.

From the Wikipedia entry on Fred Rogers:

In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications, which was a subcommittee of the Committee of Commerce. His goal was to support funding for PBS, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about fifteen minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs.

The chairman of the subcommittee,
John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers’ work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.” The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.

I watched Mister Rogers every day as a child. I loved that show, and as I now look back with my cynical adult-eyes at the ideas and philosophies espoused by Fred Rogers and compare them to the ones we espouse today I can’t help but feel incredibly sad.

See if you feel the same way. Here’s the video of Mister Rogers’s appearance at the Subcommittee from 1969 via YouTube.

The last two lines of his song bring tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

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