In concert with the unveiling of his administration's new early childhood
learning initiative, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush hosted
some PBS stars -- including Elmo, the Vowelles and Mr. Rogers -- at the
East Room of the White House Wednesday to thank them for the contributions
public TV has made toward promoting early learning.
One of the PBS stars on hand was Mr.
Rogers, whose presence the president credited with the unusually large contingent of White
House staffers in the room.
The president said it was impossible to count the number of lives Rogers had
touched, but there were 'thousands and thousands' of children who had been
welcomed into his neighborhood.
Laura Bush provided specifics on at least two of those lives. She told
Rogers his name (actually, 'oddah' is as close as they could come) was one of the
first names Jenna and Barbara had said.
President Bush saluted PBS for shows like Sesame Street, Mr.
Rogers' Neighborhood and Between the Lions for combining charm and
entertainment with 'proven teaching methods.'
More broadly, he thanked broadcasters in general for playing 'such an
important part' in the nation's life.
In the most recent budget, public broadcasting's 'Ready
to Learn' early learning program got a $6 million increase over last year, and
it is funded through 2007.