In our research, we came across a real gem. In 1969 Mr. Rogers went to Washington and testified before late Sen. John Pastore's subcommittee on communications. They were holding hearings on what would be Public Broadcasting's budget for the next year, and Rogers showed up as an unscheduled witness. At this point Neighborhood had been broadcast nationally only about two years. Pastore had never heard of Rogers or his show. And Rogers knocked him dead.
"I give an expression of care every day to each child," he said in the typical Rogers slow tone. "To help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, 'You have made this day a special day, just by being you. There is no person in the world like you, and I like you just the way you are.'"
When Rogers finished, Sen. Pastore said, "It looks like you just earned the $20 million."
Think about that for a second. Not the money or the quiet strength of that moment, but of what Rogers said, off the top of his head: "an expression of care every day to each child."
Who else does that? And he's been doing it, unchanged and simple, honest and decent, with such thoughtfulness, for such a long time.
I hope you watch our program, even if you're not a fan. I had to be an adult to appreciate Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the impact of the man, Fred Rogers. I'm glad I had the opportunity to bring you this story.
George Griffin is a producer for Nightline.