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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: Mr. Rogers Before Congress on Early Childhood TV Programming 
16th-Jul-2008 05:20 pm
Something led me to looking up something about Pittsburgh favourite Mr. Rogers yesterday before getting together with Andrea and Patrick, and I found myself really struck by this story where, according to Wikipedia,
In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about six 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 subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.
Then, thanks to that occasional Wonder of Information Access that is YouTube and its cousins, I was able to watch his actual congressional testimony, which was oddly compelling. I'm wondering now about showering the nieces with Mr. Rogers DVDs....
16th-Jul-2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
I love that story every time I hear it. Because I love Fred Rogers. His whole life is amazingly compelling.

When I was a TA in undergrad I was the one to tell the class that Mr. Rogers had died. We were talking about wearing black armbands when the professor walked in. He was too old to understand our grief, even though he was often called "the perfect mix of Garrison Keillor and Fred Rogers" himself...

And, as you may recall, Steph and I have X the Owl guarding our cubicle.
16th-Jul-2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
No, I forgot that bit with you and Steph. The fact is that I don't remember Mr. Rogers well at all. We only had PBS when I lived in Springfield, Virginia, a DC suburb, when I was in first grade. When I moved to Oregon, Illinois for the start of second grade, from that point on we never had cable. So I have hazy memories of very much liking Mr. Rogers, a few vague image-memories of some of his settings (I seem to remember being very entranced by some sort of carousel?), and that's it. I have stronger memories of Eddie Murphy on SNL doing his "Mr. Robertson" sendup.

I think I read more about him and began to be impressed as an adult when I applied here and found that Marquette had just had him as commencement speaker.
16th-Jul-2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
My advisors' sons are getting into Mr. Rogers now, and so it's become a topic of conversation for many of us -- it's odd what we do and don't remember (I was fond of X's tree, and thought the castle was by turns boring and mildly freaky). What's interesting to me is that it's only our memories that are selective -- even a group of rather broadly-separate ages all had the same program presented to us, in format, set, etc.

Which is radically different from trying to have a conversation about Sesame Street, which is now almost unrecognizable from what it was like when I was a kid, and that too was a very different show from when it debuted in 1969...

The piece in Esquire about him was the best profile ever, incidentally
17th-Jul-2008 01:44 am (UTC)
Yes. I've heard that story but never seen the testimony. It made me cry.
17th-Jul-2008 04:25 am (UTC)
Compelling indeed! thanks for this
first mister rogers for me in a long
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