Wednesday, June 07, 2006
It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
While I was on my blogging sabbatical this week, I had time to finish "The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers," a memoir of Amy Hollingworth's friendship with Fred Rogers. While the writing was nothing special, I loved absorbing insight into the character of this godly man. Though his quiet and rather slow nature soon became the butt of many jokes, Mister Rogers consistently broadcasted biblical principles on his daily program. The concept of identifying your feelings and controlling them was a thread throughout PBS's longest running program. He sang songs such as "I like to Take My Time," reminding us to think before we act. (Did anyone notice that the traffic light fixture was always blinking yellow.....slow down?) Fred Rogers' advocacy for "quiet time" is a contradiction to most contemporary children's programming, and his passion for spiritually/emotionally healthy children was admirable.
Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, a detail I didn't realize when I was a young girl watching the program. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. While he didn't proselytize the gospel verbally on his show, his values were plastered all over the script. Children find esteem in his mantra, "You make each day a special day by just your being you." I remember anticipating time in the "Land of Make Believe" and especially trips to the factory as seen in "Picture Picture." I remember the tinkling soundrack of the piano embroidered throughout the program, and can imagine the smell of the musty closet from which he pulled his trademark cardigans. A proponent of routine, you could always count on the changing of wardrobe, the feeding of the fish, and the greeting of the trolley.
In 1969, a year after his children's program began it's multi-decade run, funding for public television was in jeopardy due to new legislation from President Nixon. A twenty million dollar grant was the cause for his appeal at the United States Senate. I was captivated by the clip below, as I think you will be. Notice that Senator Pastore begins his dialogue with Mister Rogers seemingly abrasive and rude, as he is unfamiliar with this particular children's program. Note the change of attitude that occurs halfway through Fred's heartfelt appeal. You'll also notice that Fred has the same patient, slow nature in the pressure-cooker courtroom environment that he does on his television show, a testimony to his authenticity. This, in part, was what ultimately led to the securing of the government's grant. Take a few minutes and remember the sound and heart of Mister Rogers.
Mr. Rogers vs. The US Senate