Please watch Fred Rogers’ 1969 congressional testimony

Dear President Trump,

There are a lot of beautiful scenes in “Won’t you Be My Neighbor,” the movie about Fred Rogers, but my favorite covers his 1969 congressional testimony in support of continued funding for PBS. I was all of six years old at the time so I wasn’t aware that President Nixon wanted to reallocate $20 million from the PBS budget to fund the Vietnam war. I do remember, though, watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and feeling like they were buddies who spoke my language.

At the congressional hearing Mr. Rogers apparently followed a whole slew of other witnesses who must have read their scholarly testimony dryly and efficiently because Senator Pastore had had it and forbade anyone else to read aloud. After earnestly urging Mr. Pastore to read his testimony, Mr. Rogers proceeded to give the senator and all present an impromptu heartfelt lesson on the necessity of unconditional love for each unique child. No fancy constructs or theories, just simple words coming from a deep well of care and understanding for the children of the world and the adults they would become.

Then Mr. Rogers went on to tell Mr. Pastore the words to one of his songs about down-to-earth, practical ways to help kids learn how to stop themselves from acting impulsively when they are angry and how to feel proud of themselves when they exercise this ability. Do they pound some clay or dough? Do they round up some friends for a game of tag? He tells us it’s great when we can stop in our tracks and not do the bad thing we’ve planned and choose to do something else instead. In the movie clip it’s clear that Mr. P was tearing up when he told Mr. Rogers he’d earned the $20 million to keep PBS afloat. I wanted to clap at this point in the movie but everything was so quiet and even keeled I decided to exercise some impulse control and just cheer in my head.

Goodness and love and the best interests of children won that round and the war had to make do with less. I strongly encourage you to watch at least that one scene from the movie and imagine you are the young child who is angry and doesn’t know what to do with those feelings and then really listen to what Mr. Rogers is telling you. It could save us all.

May you and your actions be safe.
May you find happiness and joy in connecting with unique individuals of all sorts.
May whatever heartache has led to your impulsive, angry acting out be healed.
May you turn things around and be an advocate for children and for peace.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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