Friday, July 6, 2012
Mister Rogers Goes to Washington
Recently, PBS Digital produced an auto tuned version of the wisdom of Fred Rogers called The Garden of Your Mind. It was produced by John D. Boswell, (aka Melodysheep) and went viral within days, re-creating moments from Mister Rogers' Neighbohood, when he talked about being afraid, how we are all different, and how healthy curiosity fertilizes one's imagination. Food for thought is important, after all.
If you grew up watching this friendly neighbor and his land of 'Make Believe', the strangeness of auto tunes forming his voice into a melodic, breezy song might be a bit eerie. As a child who grew up with Mister Rogers and adored him, I found it refreshing, and a reminder of the important work he did through the medium of television. Mister Rogers was a kid's therapist, an un-intimidating grown up who worked with a child one on one, through the camera, to gently explain that they were special, that he liked them for who they were, no matter how different or scared they might be in this world.
What would it have been like if Mister Rogers never existed, or if Sesame Street never made it past its first few years or teaching? What if The Electric Company never happened? Or Barney and Clifford were never born? These sad notions could have been a very real reality today if Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian Pastor, father of two boys, and student of child psychology in broadcasting had not raised his voice to the powers that be, and helped paved the way for PBS' brand of children's programming to continue to grow.
Back in 1969 a $20 million dollar grant proposed by former President Lyndon Johnson for the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was in peril. President Nixon wanted funding cut in half, which would have effected PBS' education output. Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to plead the cast for Public Broadcasting. Like a cool, collected Jimmy Stewart, he sat within the formidable marbled walls of the Senate as no-nonsense Senator Pastore (D) chaired the hearing. With grace, calm and straight forwardness, he almost made Pastore break down in tears.
Needless to say, Mr. Rogers won the day, and the CPB received the funding to produce important childrens programming, including Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, for generations to come.
When Fred Rogers passed away in 2003, he left an indelible legacy. How wonderful to leave having made such a difference in this world.