Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Favorite TV Neighbor

Kim Klaver's blog shares a moving speech from 1969, when Mr. Rogers went to Washington to ask for money so he could continue his fledgling public-TV program. Watch for yourself and witness a man who had a genuine dedication to children framed in humbleness and love.

In less than ten minutes, he had the money.

Watching this video, I remember Ed Murrow's speech "Wires And Lights In A Box," in which one of the greatest broadcast journalists reflected upon TV's vast power and lamented the failure of networks to serve the public a balanced diet of both information and entertainment. Mr. Roger's statement does not draw a sweeping portrait of the industry or warn us of dire consequences. Yet you hear in his voice a soft-spoken urgency delivered from a counselor who understood what children dealt with and the need for somebody to address their needs through a comforting medium.

To say Fred Rogers understood children is like saying Julia Child understood food. "Understand" is a wimpy understatement. As a young boy, his program, "Sesame Street," and "The Electric Company" were on my must-see list. He talked to millions of children, but I always felt he was talking just to me in that loving and steadfast voice. This was an age where we called ADD hyperactivity, and we talked to our children before we wrote them a prescription.

Fred Rodgers passed away a few years ago, but his program is still running. How many of our children are visiting his television neighborhood? Or has he, like so many re-runs, been relegated to our TV attic, something the grown-ups appreciate but the children shrug off as boring and lame? With TV doing so much of our surrogate parenting, I can only pray for the best.

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