Quotes From Mr. Rogers' Speech To Congress That Prove Why Public Television Is So Important
Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the children's program Mister Roger's Neighborhood, appeared before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communication in 1969 to stand up for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after then-President Richard Nixon proposed cutting CPB's $20 million budget in half. Rogers traveled to Washington, D.C. to argue against the budget cuts and explain why public television was vital for the United States, but especially for its children. Rogers' moving speech about his life's work has unsurprisingly gone viral once again, as President Donald Trump moves to make similar budget cuts to the arts and public broadcasting in his proposed 2018 budget. And just as it did in 1969, these quotes from Mr. Roger's speech to Congress prove that PBS and public television in general is still an important part of life for kids today.
The White House announced Trump's first proposed budget for 2018 on Thursday. While Nixon aimed to slash the funding by half back in 1969, Trump plans to terminate CPB's federal budget completely. The Trump administration has proposed making massive cuts to a number of well-loved arts programs as well, and many high profile individuals, following Rogers' lead, have begun to speak out in their defense (just take a look at the iconic Julie Andrews' moving op-ed for CNN, for example). Others have turned once again to Rogers himself, sharing snippets from his thoughtful speech to Congress, which remains one of the most relevant arguments against budget cuts for public services.
Below are a few of the most impassioned and heartfelt moments:
On The Impact Federal Funding Has On Public Broadcasting
Rogers revealed the huge difference federal funding made in public television's budget. While $6,000 is a small amount of money compared to shows on other channels, it was that federal funding that finally allowed Rogers and colleagues to make meaningful, educational television programs for children:
On How Children's Educational Television Changes Lives
There are plenty of children's shows that lack real substance. Rogers' programs and others like it on public television were never like that: They aimed to deal with real problems children faced in a gentle way and taught them how to deal with those issues in a positive, constructive way — and they continue to do so to this day:
On The Positive Influence Public Broadcasting Has On Children's Mental Health
Rogers said his aim was not just to entertain the children who watched his shows. He wanted to teach them important lessons about their feelings and mental health that they would be able to take with them throughout their life. The same could be said for most kids shows on public television these days, including Arthur, Sesame Street, and more:
On The Safety Net Public Broadcasting Offers Children
Throughout his speech to Congress, one thing was abundantly clear about Rogers: He and his colleagues genuinely cared about the children who were tuning into his show and public broadcasting in general. Rogers knew that those shows provided a safe, positive, and informative space for kids — and that it was especially necessary when what was happening in the world was too much for them to process:
Sure, most children's programming these days aims to provide meaningful content to kids — but there's something genuine and real about public broadcasting that gives all kids (low-income, privileged, able-bodied, disabled, children from all ethnic backgrounds) the ability to retreat to a carefully crafted, non-commercially driven space like PBS.
On The Important Lessons Public Broadcasting Teaches Kids
Despite having a vastly smaller budget than children's programs on other channels, Rogers was still able to reach his views in a meaningful way. One way he did this was through song. During his address to Congress, Rogers read the lyrics to his song "What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?" which addresses how to deal with feelings of anger; The lyrics are still moving today:
This lesson and others like it are continually taught on public broadcasting to this day. Take away PBS, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger, Arthur, Wild Kratts, Peg + Cat, and many others, and you're taking away the one source of life learning many kids get outside of school — one that would be sorely missed.
Rogers passed away in 2003, but his words have proved timeless again and again. He worked to make the world a safer, more thoughtful place throughout his career. Without financial assistance from the U.S. government, children across the country would have missed out on the vital educational programs Rogers created. Even though he's gone now, Rogers' legacy is a prime example of why public television is still necessary today.