May 1, 1969. Twenty-million dollars hung in the balance. Even though, two years earlier, the Commission on Public Broadcasting (CPB) was established, congress wouldn’t consider endowing a long-term funding source and there was absolutely no guarantee of success in obtaining the ground-breaking funding. Regardless of how many individuals spoke before the Senate Subcommittee that day, only one testimony is etched in history.


Peabody Award Winner, Fred McFeely Rogers, has been lauded for cinching the $20 million funding for public television. What is less discussed is what it was about his testimony that won the day. Here is what can be learned from this crucial 6-minute speech that gave the committee leader “goosebumps for the first time in two days.”


So, what was the secret sauce? What clinched it straight-out-the-gate was a crucial decision. He flipped the script by putting aside his prepared remarks, opting to talk “about” what he described as a “philosophical statement” that would have eaten up “10-minutes” of precious time. Then he proceeded to do three remarkable things.

  • He told a story of purpose and passion instead of regurgitating facts, figures, and philosophical points of view.
  • Instead of relating his credentials, skills, and abilities. He spoke of the “why” behind the “do.”
  • He appealed to the heart as he spoke from his heart.


How leaders communicate with various clients, customers, and stakeholders should be crafted from the perspectives of those to whom the message is communicated. Again, the theme of meaningfulness arises. All things retention and engagement come back to the matter of what is meaningful for others.

There is a place for facts and figures. There is a place for passion and purpose. There is a place for combination of logic and emotion. Regardless of which method you choose, it should always be powered by matters of heart and authenticity.

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