While researching for a segment tonight on Mitt Romney’s plan to fire Big Bird and cut funding to PBS, we came across an amazing piece of video on YouTube from 1969.
The video shows the late Fred M. Rogers (better known as Mr. Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) testifying before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications.
The subcommittee was considering a $20 million grant for the funding of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, proposed by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson before he left office in January 1969. The new president, Republican Richard Nixon, wanted to cut the proposed funding to $10 million.
On May 1, 1969, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided, saying he found the “inner drama of childhood” far more fascinating than violence.
“We don’t have to bop somebody over the head to make him – to make drama on the screen,” Rogers said. “We deal with such things as getting a haircut or the feelings about brothers and sisters and the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively.”
The committee’s chair, Democratic Sen. John O. Pastore of Rhode Island, clearly had no clue who Rogers was and came off as gruff and impatient.
But after Rogers recited the lyrics to What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?, one of the songs from his show, Pastore declared, “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”
The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.
Thanks to Mitt Romney, we need Mr. Rogers more than ever before. But unfortunately, Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003. At least we have his moving testimony preserved on video.