When you think of Mister Rogers, what words come to mind?
Kind? Yes.
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.

Want my question set and answer key? Click here to see more.

Photo credit: U.S. Senate, WikiMedia Commons, screenshots of enhanced public domain video file

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Why did his testimony make me cry?

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  2. I know, atoney. I know. I’ve probably watched this 20 times as I built this lesson and he gets me every time. Every. Time.

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  3. Oh, this is so awesome! I love Mr. Rogers! He makes me cry every time I watch him. In fact, I had to wait to see the Tom Hanks movie until I could watch it at home and cry as much as I wanted to. :-). My comp kids will be starting a persuasive writing unit next, so this will be perfect.

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  4. Yup, Jenny, I’m right there with you. I think we all need more tenderness and gentle compassion in our lives. Glad this will be a good match for your unit and I hope your kids will love Mister Rogers as much as we do. ❤️

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