On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers, host of the (then) recently nationally syndicated children's television series, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (named Misterogers' Neighborhood at the time), testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Communications to defend $20 million in federal funding proposed for the newly formed non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was at risk of being reduced to $10 million. Subcommittee chairman, Senator John Pastore (D-RI), unfamiliar with Fred Rogers, is initially abrasive toward him. Over the course of Rogers' 6 minutes of testimony, Pastore's demeanor gradually transitions to one of awe and admiration as Rogers speaks.
Of course, all this talk about public TV feels more important than ever, given the Trump Administration's plans to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which funds PBS, where Sesame Street still airs, despite the show being sold to HBO) as well as three other independent agencies for culture and the arts.
In Mr. Roger's speech from the late 1960s, he touches on the importance of his own programs, which deal with the "inner dramas" of childhood in a way that can't be done with privately funded cartoons airing elsewhere, he said.
"We don't need to bop someone over the head to make drama on the screen," he told the committee. "We deal with such things as getting a haircut or the feelings about brothers and sisters or the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively."
The beloved TV host seems ahead of his time, explaining exactly why the physical health of children isn't the only thing to be worried about.
"I feel that if we, in public television, can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable," he said. "We will have done a great service for mental health."
The song he later recites will literally melt your heart. We still miss you, Mr. Rogers.