I watched a video the other day of Mr. Rogers speaking to the U.S. Senate about funding for the public broadcasting system back in 1969. It was in jeopardy of losing its funding and this was the avenue that Mr. Rogers used to share his children’s show each day. In just six minutes, he convinced the committee to keep the $20 million in funding that was in place.
He mentioned that each show offered children a “meaningful expression of care.” They felt understood and safe. He said, “When feelings are mentionable and manageable, it is a great service to mental health.”
He was authentic and emotionally intelligent. And although the man he was addressing in the Senate had not heard of his show before, he spoke to the boy that man had been and the family man he was. He made him feel something.
At one point Senator Pastore said, “Well, I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps for the last two days.”
Then Mr. Rogers asked if he could share a song that is part of his show. He said…
“What do you do with the mad that you feel? When you feel so mad you could bite. When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right. What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go? It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned the thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead — and think this song —
‘I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime. And what a good feeling to feel like this! And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.'”
The Senator replied, “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the 20 million dollars.”
No matter who we are or what our message is, if we are true to ourselves and make people feel something, we can make a difference. I know Mr. Rogers did. So many of us grew up watching his show and it shaped who we are. How can we shape the world today?