If you were a child in America anytime between the ’60s and ’90s, there’s a certain man in a red sweater who was probably there for you.
Fred Rogers, better known as the one and only Mr. Rogers, spent over four decades hosting educational TV programs for kids. In 1969, the same year PBS was founded, he appeared before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and gave a moving speech on what publicly funded TV programs could offer.
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.