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June 02, 2015

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Remarks of Ambassador Samantha Power at the 2015 Sesame Workshop Gala

By Dan Lewis


Last week, we presented Ambassador Samantha Power with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award for her work as a champion of women and girls around the world. She spoke about how Sesame Street impacted her life – as a child, as a parent, and as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nation. Her complete remarks are available below.

Transcript

Thank you Joan for that very generous – overly generous introduction – and much more importantly, for having the smarts, the drive, and the imagination to help create Sesame Street nearly five decades ago. I’m hugely honored and very humbled to be up here and will just say a few words about what Sesame Street meant to me and what it means in the world.

I was born in 1970, the year after Sesame Street was founded.  I spent the first nine years of my life in Ireland, was born to Irish parents. And we didn’t have many American imports to Ireland back then. We had Chevon gas, we had Coca Cola, and we had Sesame Street. We had three channels on our TV and two of them showed programming that was in Irish, in Gaelic, much of the time. While that was a worthy effort on the part of the government not everybody was super fluent in Gaelic. And so it has to be said that Sesame Street which was on the third channel, was something of a salvation. And so I want to say a personal thanks to Joan because Sesame Street was my first introduction really to America.

And now I get to represent the United States at the United Nations and I just think it’s an extraordinary life journey to have been exposed to the diversity and wonderment in a way of this country and then to be here even for 30 seconds sharing the stage with Joan is extraordinary, as you can imagine.

As many of you in the audience know Sesame Workshop’s philosophy is founded on the idea that what kids see from a very young age has an outsized impact or imprint as we heard on the rest of their lives. And that is not only true for literacy and numeracy, but also for values.

And I see this with my own two small kids. I have a daughter who’s two named Rian and a six year old named Declan. And I make a point with my two kids of talking with them of about what I am doing in my day job. I do this in part because I myself saw through Sesame Street and through the way my mother, who is a physician, talked to me about her values and about her patients treating me early on as if I was kind of up for kind of hearing about what was going on during the day with her. In my case, it can have some slightly problematic consequences. I’ll give just one example here tonight. Which is when President Obama negotiated the beginnings of the Cuba normalization process, we were, of course, all sworn to secrecy, but I was bursting with this information and with this potential breakthrough.

So I decided to engage my then five year old Declan, as a Sesame Street adult would do, treating him with respect and seeing his dignity and his ability to take on new information. And he asked all the right questions. Where is Cuba? What’s an embargo? What did they ever do to us?

And all of it went very well. I felt I got to share this news. He seemed to get it and seemed very excited himself in his own way.  But about 7 hours later I was at the office and I got a call from the school nurse and he been involved in some rough play on the playground and been kicked in the nose and had a bloody nose and the school nurse was calling of course to tell me that; and he grabbed the phone from her the boy he was playing with his name was Sawyer, and he said “Mommy, Sawyer needs an embargo.”  I think that’s a bit of Sesame Street parenting to takeaway, but I do wonder everyday whether or not we wouldn’t in fact have world peace if more of my counterparts hadn’t been groomed on Big Bird instead of perhaps Big Brother. And so I think the global reach Sesame Street is having is likely to have ramifications for many years to come.

Now one of the reasons that Sesame Street has been so effective in shaping kids is that it meets those kids where they are.  Parts of Sesame Street look like their streets, and the parts that don’t, prepare them to walk down streets that don’t look like their streets with people who might look different than them or people who might come from a different neighborhood.

And it was no accident that when Sesame Street was launched in 1969 at time when there was a scarcity of African American male role models on television, the program created the character of Gordon Robinson, an African American to be the loving dad on the show.  And while we may take for granted today and shouldn’t take for granted today, that a cast of furry Muppets could be joined by an African American family and a married couple named Louis and Maria, for its time this was ground breaking.  And so much that has come since goes back to the decisions that Joan and her team made before it was fashionable.

This approach of meeting people where they are is something I try to do at the UN.  It is a key part of the way President Obama asks his diplomats to go about their business in the world.  We understand that America is stronger when we know how to see the world through the eyes of other countries, whether they are allies or adversaries, and when we do some listening as well as some speaking.  And this can be done in some really small ways.  The UN has 193 member states; most of whose streets look very different from ours; and since taking up my post I’ve tried to visit as many of the missions in the UN as possible.  I’m up to about 120 missions.  It’s their embassies.  These are their homes. They put their pictures on the wall.  They hang their art.  It’s the books that they have carried with them often thousands of miles to put on their coffee tables. And I think in a way by going to them and meeting them on their street we show an America that actually respects and cares about the dignity of other countries.  And I think that’s a version of Sesame Street diplomacy.

So finally, this approach of meeting people and physically and metaphorically where they are is what Sesame Workshop expansion into countries around the world is all about.  And I know it’s been said here earlier this evening, it is one this for children in India to be told that proper sanitation will keep them healthy; it’s important.  But it reaches kids in an entirely different way, when Rana, the fuzzy green Muppet girl on Galli Galli Sim Sim India’s version of Sesame Street explains to kids why she always wears sandals to protect her feet when she goes to the latrine.

It is one thing to tell girls in Nigeria and their families about the importance of getting an education; it resonates in an entirely different way when they see Kami, a bright yellow girl Muppet on Nigeria’s Sesame Square talking about how much she loves school and sports.  These Muppets may be fuzzier than the normal kids but they speak their languages and they speak to the challenges in the world that so many are facing today.  And in those fuzzy Muppets little Indian and Nigerian kids see themselves and they see what they are capable of just as my son and daughter do by watching Sesame Street; and just as I did as a little girl watching one my 3 channels and watching Joan’s tremendous creation.  So I am incredibly grateful, and I thank you Joan for your leadership and I thank you all for this very kind honor.  Thank you.

 

 

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October 03, 2014

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The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families Hits a Major Milestone!

By Dan Lewis


Nicole McClendon is the tour manager for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling USO tour created exclusively for troops and their families.  As the tour prepares to celebrate visiting and entertaining more than 500k service members and their families, we asked Nicole to share some of the experiences she has had while traveling to military bases around the world with Elmo and friends.

Milestone of 500K service members and their families set by Sesame Stree/USO.Nicole, what made you decide that you wanted to be a part of the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families?  Do you have family in the military?

I have always admired the USO and what it has done for our troops all over the world.  My grandmother was actually a “USO girl” during World War II, and I grew up listening to her stories, as well as those of my grandfathers and uncles that served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The USO was always a bright spot in their service. I have an uncle who is now an award winning gourmet chef, and to this day, he rates all egg salad sandwiches by the delicious ones served by the USO that he enjoyed in Vietnam. I also have many childhood friends who served and continue to serve in the military.

That said, I have always wanted to find a way to express my gratitude to our troops stationed at home and around the world for the sacrifices they make every single day that allow me the freedoms that I enjoy as I travel our country and the world.  This particular show is especially meaningful to me because I have many friends who grew up as military kids themselves, and they have often talked about how hard moving can be.  This show is catered to today’s military kids, who are experiencing the same thing many of my closest friends did when they were young.  It’s an ideal way for me to express my gratitude and give back to the folks who need it most.

How is this show special?

This show is special in so many ways.  First, we bring the show right to the base so there’s no need for families to travel far.  Second, Sesame Street is an American treasure that so many parents trust and grew-up with, and this show is an outgrowth of Sesame Workshop’s military families initiatives Talk, Listen, Connect.  It’s fun, entertaining and hits on important topics that today’s military families face every day.  Kids and parents dance and sing, but the show is also an icebreaker for parents to talk to their children about their feelings after the final curtain.  And last, but not least, the partnership between Sesame Street and the USO just works.  The USO has been lifting the spirits of troops and military families for more than 70 years, and is always by their side.  Sesame Street knows kids. And when you put the two together – it is a perfect combination.

What is it like living on a bus for six or seven months at a time? 

Living on a bus for six to seven months at a time is a great way to see the country.  As we drive from place to place, we often watch the scenery rather than the television.  After about a month, the novelty of eating out at different restaurants every night wears off a bit and we find ways to “cook” for ourselves.  Care packages from home with such treats as home baked cookies go a long way, especially since Cookie Monster shares them with everyone on the bus.  Just like our troops that are far away from home, a home cooked meal is often the highlight of wherever we are.

Do you feel like traveling from base to base, making new friends and then leaving provides you a glimpse into what it is like for military kids who have to move?

Traveling on this tour and being on the road certainly allows me a glimpse into what military life is like.  Of course I have the benefit of being an adult and not having a parent in the military who happens to be deployed at the moment.  We pack-up the show and move to the next military base every few days, so just as Katie says in the show, just when we feel settled in a place, maybe even just unpack our suitcase, it’s time to pack it all up on the bus and truck again and head down the road.  Of course, traveling with Elmo by my side makes it a wee bit easier to make friends at each new base we go to!

What makes this whole experience worth it for you?  Have you experienced any moments during the tour that made you think, wow, I’m part of something so much bigger?

Seeing the smiles on hundreds of kids and parents faces each day makes the experience more than worth it for me.  When parents take pictures of their kids enjoying the show and tell their youngsters that the Sesame Street/USO show is for military families like us, it definitely resonates with me. When we bring the show to these bases, it means so much to the military families, and they tell us that every day.  It’s wonderful to think that just be getting up in the morning and doing my job, I can help spread happiness from base to base.

Why is the 500K milestone worth celebrating?

Pausing for a moment to recognize that we will have visited and entertained more than 500k military family members is essential to celebrate.  The fact that all these years, performances and bases later, this show is still something that military families show up for in droves and still enjoy attending, means that Sesame Street and the USO have succeeded in their mission of lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families.  If 500K military family members have seen the show, that means we’ve made that many military family members smile and know they are not alone.  As smiles are contagious, we can only hope that the 500k visitors spread smiles to at least one other person, which would mean we’ve helped create almost a million more smiles and special moments amongst our military friends.

What’s the best thing about this experience for you?

There are so many things that I enjoy about this Sesame Street/USO Experience, but the thing that gives me the most warm fuzzies every single performance is seeing parents in uniform enjoying the show with their kids.  Bringing families together is always a tremendous thing to witness.

What’s the coolest thing you have seen?  The craziest?

In Fort Lee, VA, we had a 40-member volunteer detail for load-out that showed up early in order to watch the last show prior to helping us pack up happiness.  Every single one of them got up on their feet and danced the Elmo slide.  It was amazing!  I haven’t seen a lot of crazy things.  We tend to contain crazy, like the tornado warning at Dover Air Force Base, where several parents got alerts on their phone, but didn’t want the show to end due to crazy weather.  Luckily, the venue was also the “Shelter In Place” location for the base, so the muppets didn’t miss a beat!

Is Elmo hard to work with off camera?

Most of the time I spend working with Elmo is actually off camera, and he is actually a joy to work with and be around.  He’s always on time and ready for his shows, no matter if they interfere with naptime or not.  Elmo is great about pacing himself too; so that he has all the energy he possibly can to dance, play with Katie and meet new military friends at every base.

I consider it an honor to do what I do and to be a part of the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families.  Now that I spread happiness from base to base, I don’t know if I could ever do anything else.  Making military families happy makes me happy beyond my wildest dreams and I can’t thank them enough for everything they do for us.

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June 23, 2014

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Sesame Street Wins Six Emmys!

By Dan Lewis


The Daytime Emmy awards were presented over the weekend and we are elated to share that Sesame Street took top honors in 6 categories:

* Outstanding Pre-school Series
* Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series
* Outstanding Directing in a Children’s Series
* Outstanding Achievement in Multiple Camera Editing
* Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – Live Action
* Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action

These new honors bring the show to a new total of an astounding 159 Emmy awards. We could not be more proud of our incredible team – from the cast, to the producers, directors, editors, musicians and everyone behind the scenes who make Sesame the gold standard that it continues to be, and which the academy continues to recognize as the outstanding preschool series for five years running.

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March 19, 2014

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Cleaner, Healthier, Happier

By Dan Lewis


2.5 Billion people currently do not have access to safe toilets. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program focuses on the development of tools and technologies that can lead to sustainable and marked improvements in sanitation in the developing world. Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has been selected to join the 2014 “Reinvent The Toilet Fair: India” to showcase critical health messages as part of its Cleaner, Healthier, Happier campaign designed to reach children and families across Bangladesh, India and Nigeria.

Along with the Workshop’s delegation at the fair, Sesame’s newest member of its Muppet family, Raya, a 6-year-old, fuzzy, aqua-green girl, was introduced to the world for the first time. Brian Arbogast, Director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sat down for a chat with our new friend, Raya.

Brian: Raya, it is so nice to meet you. Can you tell me why you are in India today?

Raya: Thank you. It’s nice to meet you too.  Everyone loves a fair, Mr. Brian! You say the word ‘fair’ and I’ll get there as fast as my sandals will carry me.

Brian: I noticed that you wear your sandals everywhere. Do you know why that’s important?

Raya: Of course I do, Mr. Brian! I know lots of things. I make sure to wear my sandals everywhere—especially to the latrine. Wearing my sandals helps protect me so I can stay clean and healthy.

Brian: That’s very smart, Raya.

Raya: Well, thank you. Do you want to know what else I know? I know that it is also really important to wash my hands with soap every time I use the latrine. Clean hands means healthy Raya. Healthy Raya means happy Raya. There’s nothing better than being clean, healthy and happy!

Brian: You know a lot about being healthy, Raya! It’s hard to believe you are only six years old.

Raya: Well, thank you,  Mr. Brian. You’re really nice! It’s hard to believe you aren’t furry or feathered.

Brian: Thanks, Raya. That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard in a while. And thank you so much for chatting with me today.

Raya: It’s my pleasure–very nice to talking with you too. I have to go now. Time to wash-up for dinner. See you soon. Bye!

For more information on our WASH Up! initiative, click here.

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February 19, 2014

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John Henson, 1965-2014

By Dan Lewis


With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of John Henson, son of the late Jim and Jane Henson and a puppeteer in his own right. He will be missed by his extended Sesame Workshop family.

To learn more about his life and legacy, please visit the Jim Henson Company’s Facebook page.

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May 01, 2013

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How to Read Comics: Part I

By Dan Lewis


Elmo can help with lots of things. Even reading comic books.

Stay tuned for more information about the Sesame Street comic book available as part of Free Comic Book Day on Saturday.

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February 15, 2013

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Cookie Monster or Grover: Who Spoofed it Better?

By Dan Lewis


In October of 2010, everyone’s favorite, lovable, adorable, furry pal Grover took to YouTube to explain the word “on.” His adventure began in a shower, took him to a boat, and ended up on a horse cow.

And last year, Cookie Monster, the vociferous cookievore himself, showed us that everything — even eating cookies! — is better when you share.

Cookie Monster or Grover.

Call Me Maybe or the Old Spice Guy.

Who did it better?

You decide:

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December 17, 2012

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Talking to Children about Recent Events: Our Resources for Parents and Caregivers

By Dan Lewis


The tragic events from Friday morning left the nation shocked, horrified, and speechless. But while often, adults can’t find the words to express the anguish we’re feeling, the children in our lives still have questions and fears.

“What’s happened?”

“Are we safe?”

“I’m scared.”

As parents and caregivers, we want to help our children through this, and make sense of the words and imagery they are seeing on TV an other media. Over the course of decades, Sesame Street has been asked these very questions, and we’ve put together a packet of materials in hopes of helping families cope with these issues. Those materials, available here (as a pdf), are free for you to download. You may also view our Emergency PSA’s available on YouTube. While we can’t make the concerns go away, we hope these materials help you address the recent tragedy, and other emergency situations, with the children in your lives.

 

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August 02, 2012

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A Look Into Sesame Workshop’s Digital Media Endeavors

By Dan Lewis


Where there’s a screen, there’s a child. And where there’s a child, there’s an opportunity for an educational experience. In our increasingly fragmented media landscape, this means a necessary foray into all things digital. So naturally, Sesame Workshop is actively engaging children there. Whether it is via web-based games and videos, podcasts, YouTube, or a seemingly endless cornucopia of other platforms, Elmo and his friends will be there.

Our newest feature story here on SesameWorkshop.org describes our efforts in this sector over the last decade both in the United States and abroad. Read it here.

 

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July 27, 2012

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Sesame Workshop Brings Educational Radio to Children in Afghanistan

By Dan Lewis


Baghch-e-Simsim — Sesame Garden in both Dari and Pashto — debuted on two television stations in Afghanistan in December of 2011. With only a small percentage of the five million Afghani children likely to attend Kodakistans (the country’s kindergarten system), Baghch-e-Simsim was designed to be the first step in finding ways to meet the growing need for early childhood education there. And with radio being the most accessible media for Afghan households, a series of radio episodes of Baghch-e-Simsim was the natural next step.

This week, Sesame Workshop and Equal Access International announced 78 such episodes, 39 of which are in Dari and the other half in Pashto. Each 20-minute radio episode features a letter and number of the day, caregiver tips, and of course, the Sesame magic seen around the world.

Speak Dari? You can listen to a clip here. Pashto? Click here.

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