Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fred Rogers Re-Emerges as Champion of Arts Video from 1969 Used to Fight Budget Cuts

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fred Rogers Re-Emerges as Champion of Arts Video from 1969 Used to Fight Budget Cuts

Article excerpt

A video of Fred Rogers testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 1969 has re-emerged as a rallying cry for opposition to President Donald Trump's spending plan to cut off federal funds for the arts.

For seven minutes, a steady but emotional Mr. Rogers is seen convincing Sen. John O. Pastore, D-R.I., that federal funding of children's programming on the Public Broadcasting Service would be dollars well spent.

In 1968, the creator of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" was appointed chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth, and he often was consulted as an expert on children's programming. A year later, the Senate Subcommittee on Communications was considering $20 million for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as proposed by President Lyndon Johnson before he left office. The new president, Richard Nixon, wanted to cut the proposed funding to $10 million.

"I'm constantly concerned about what our children are seeing, and for 15 years I have tried in this country and Canada to present what I feel is a meaningful expression of care," Mr. Rogers told Pastore, who was unfamiliar with the Latrobe native and his work on television.

Mr. Rogers then recited the words to one of his songs, "What do you do with the mad that you feel?" to which Pastore replied, "I think it's wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million."

Fred Rogers, whose "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" was produced at WQED, Pittsburgh's PBS station, died at age 74 in 2003. During the final episode in the fall of 2000, he said, "Those of us in broadcasting have a special calling to give whatever we feel is the most nourishing that we can for our audience. We are servants of those who watch and listen."

Flash forward to 2017, and immediately after it became apparent that Mr. Trump intended to defund PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other arts-oriented groups, the video of Mr. …

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