Won’t you be my neighbor?

Fred Rogers

On May 1, 1969 Fred Rogers, host of the longtime children's television landmark Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, appeared in Washington before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications to express his disagreement with a proposal by President Richard Nixon to cut federal funding for public broadcasting from $20 million to $10 million.

Mister Rogers defending PBS to the US Senate

He addressed subcommittee chairman Senator John O. Pastore by outlining his submitted testimony, stating that "one of the first things . . . a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust . . . that you will read this. It's very important to me."

Rogers continued to detail the emotional impact that television had on children and how the medium could be used to provide a guiding influence to them. He said that his program's entire budget of $6,000 was equal to the cost of "less than two minutes of cartoons," referred to by Rogers as "animated . . . bombardment." Over the course of Rogers' passionate yet respectful testimony, Senator Pastore's gruff demeanor slowly softened. The chairman even said that, though he was "supposed to be a pretty tough guy," Rogers' fervent plea had given him "goosebumps." Pastore effused: "I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful," and, after a slight pause, he made his conclusion clear: "Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars."

More than forty years later, Fred Rogers’ compelling words about the power of television to help children grow up, dealing sensibly and humanely with others even when they are feeling angry, still resonate in living rooms, school rooms, and neighborhoods nationwide.