When you think of Mister Rogers, what words come to mind?
Nurturing? Of course.
Master of debate? Wait…what?
Oh yeah, Fred Rogers was a whip-smart debater who quietly unleashed his masterful use of rhetorical tools when he was tapped to defend public broadcast funding before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.
Let’s set the stage. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Public Broadcasting Act to establish a funding path to help support public broadcasters, like PBS and NPR.
In 1969, President Richard Nixon was now holding office and proposed cutting Johnson’s public broadcasting budget from $20 million to $10 million.
Cue Mister Rogers.
Rogers was asked to speak on behalf of program creators. In just under 7 minutes, he’s able to win over a gruff Sen. John Pastore and secure the bag:
While building a biography research grid for Rogers, I stumbled upon this video gem and knew it needed to be part of our rhetoric studies. I’ve used Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech, Steve Jobs’ graduation address at Stanford, and Jason Reynolds’ beautiful presentation at Lesley University. Now, let’s add Mister Rogers to our list of guest experts who’ll show students how to win an argument.
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Photo credit: U.S. Senate, WikiMedia Commons, screenshots of enhanced public domain video file