I was watching the auto tuned Mr. Rogers that PBS put out a few weeks ago and I accidentally ran into this video of him testifying before congress regarding whether PBS ought to be given lots of money. Now, whatever your philosophical underpinnings, it’s difficult to listen to this without being very touched. Fred Roger’s kindness, thoughtfulness, incredible care and simplicity that made his show so wonderful for children are on full display. Without embarrassment, he says to congressmen thinking about making huge cuts to PBS, which was in its infancy, “we deal with such things as getting a haircut or the feelings about brothers and sisters…. We speak to it constructively…[for] a half hour everyday.” To the calm and earnest testimony that is enough to bring anyone to tears, “I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goosebumps in the last two days,” Senator John Pastore from Rhode Island told Mr. Rogers. To which the young and still relatively unknown tv host humbly responds, “I’m grateful…for your interest in our kind of communication.” He goes on to recite a child’s song that he wrote called “What do you do with the mad that you feel”.
The enamored Senator looks at Fred and says, “Looks like you’ve just earned a $20 million.” Sometimes, utter kindness and earnestness are so genuine that it’s hard not to reward it with every inch of the world. And while there are an awful lot of people who may not love the idea of Public Television getting funding from the government, it’s hard to imagine a single person watching this video and feeling angry. Mr. Rogers makes not a single philosophical appeal for the money, though he presents a paper that he claims contains some sort of screed. Rather, he simply sits there and calmly tells America about his work in child development. He is an adult that plays with puppets, sings songs, and aims to teach the most simple messages. And yet, it’s obvious that there is only one kind man in all the world that is capable of teaching America’s children the lessons they need to learn. And for that, Mr. Rogers earns PBS $20 million.