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Before I had children, I didn’t quite “get” Mister Rogers. I thought the slow, gentle way he talked was odd.

But then I saw how John at the age of three reacted to him, and the penny dropped. I hadn’t been able to figure out Mister Rogers because he wasn’t talking to me! He was talking to three-year-olds.

Mister Rogers did know how to talk to grown-ups when needed.

Recently, during the national discussion about possible funding cuts for the arts and Public Broadcasting, someone posted on Facebook a 1969 video of Mister Rogers testifying before US Senator John O. Pastore of Rhode Island. At the time, Sen. Pastore was chairman of US Senate Subcommittee on Communications.

It’s a great, great speech. It’s even recognized as such on the American Rhetoric website. The testimony won PBS $20 million in funding from the originally skeptical Sen. Pastore.

But what strikes me most strongly is that its power comes from the speaker’s clearly communicated belief in the essential goodness of his listener. It is communicated through Mister Rogers’s tone of voice and body language.

Faith in the listener is what came across to three-year-old John, too. “You are special. I like you just the way you are.”

See what you think.

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