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November 14, 2012

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Veterans Group IAVA Honors Sesame Founder Joan Ganz Cooney

By Graydon Gordian


Sesame Workshop Founder Joan Ganz Cooney and her husband Peter Peterson

On Tuesday night the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) hosted their sixth annual Heroes Gala, and Sesame Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney and her husband, Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Peter G. Peterson, were honored at the event. Mrs. Ganz Cooney received the IAVA’s 2012 Civilian Service Award in recognition of all the work Sesame Workshop does to help military families, but in particular Sesame’s Talk, Listen, Connect outreach initiative, which focuses on providing military parents with the tools they need to discuss complex issues like deployment, relocation, injury and the loss of a parent with their children.

“Many parents don’t have the right words to help explain to their child what happens when they must go away, how to reassure their children when they return from service injured, or worst of all, when a parent dies,” Mrs. Ganz Cooney said while accepting the award. “But with the right language, support, and the help of the Muppets, we are able to help.  Since its launch, our Talk, Listen, Connect initiative has grown to reach virtually every U.S. military family with young children.”

Mrs. Ganz Cooney went on to thank the IAVA, saying, “It makes it all the more meaningful to receive this honor from an organization that is working every day to advocate for and support our veterans and their families.”

To learn more about the Talk, Listen, Connect initiative, click here. To get a firsthand look at the resources and tools we provide for military families, visit Military Families Near and Far.

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June 27, 2012

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‘A Woman in the Boardroom’: A 1978 Interview with Joan Ganz Cooney

By Joan Ganz Cooney



Ed. Note: This interview with Sesame Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney originally appeared in the 1978 January-February edition of the Harvard Business Review. It has been re-published with the permission of the Harvard Business Review and edited for length. Special thanks goes to Ms. Cooney for taking the time to reflect upon her interview and write an updated introduction, which you can find below.

I find it hard to believe, upon re-reading this interview from Harvard Business Review, that it was published only 34 years ago… As the kids would say, “It’s so last century!” I was among the first women to be asked to join a Fortune 300 corporate board. Today, it is not unusual for major corporations to have two or three women as board members. I was embarrassed to read how afraid I was to offend the sensibilities of the businessmen of that era. I’m happy to say that today men and women interact as equals; Women CEO’s, while still rare in the Fortune 500, exist in much greater numbers than they did in the 70′s and women are almost always in high executive positions. Xerox’s two most recent CEO’s have been women; the current one is African American. So yes, things have changed for the better. We still have a long way to go but there is no question that astonishing progress has been made by women in business.

Harvard Business Review: We’d like to look at several conventional views concerning the question of women at top management and board levels.  The first concerns qualifications. Many people believe that women can’t make the same tough decisions that men can, that they aren’t qualified in the same way that men are. What is your response to that view?

Cooney: Well, I don’t think there’s anything to it in one way, but in other ways there’s a great deal to it. Little girls and young women are trained on both conscious and unconscious bases, by the family and by society, to “get along”—to be diligent and dutiful, to take instructions from older people, first from their parents and then from men. Some men are comfortable in that role, merely following instructions, but virtually all women are comfortable in it.

To make decisions women have to debrief themselves, which causes an enormous amount of anxiety and stress, to understand that they can take action—can, for instance, perform the necessary surgery if it must be performed. Such surgery includes eliminating a department, eliminating, here at Children’s Television Workshop, a show, eliminating personnel; sometimes for budgetary reasons, sometimes for competency reasons.

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A Message from Elmo and the Girls Prep Bronx’s ‘Joan Ganz Cooney’ Class

By Graydon Gordian


Over 40 years after she co-founded Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney remains as dedicated to educating children in underserved communities as ever. That’s why Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, which names each class after a successful woman its students should emulate, named its kindergarten class after Mrs. Cooney.

The students are so appreciative of Mrs. Cooney’s support that they asked Elmo to stop by the school, located in the South Bronx, so they could record a special message thanking her.

Joan Ganz Cooney became the kindergarten class’ “namesake” in 2009. Many of the students at Girls Prep come from poor backgrounds. 100 percent of the students are African-American, Latina or of multi-racial decent. Children in communities like the South Bronx are the kind of students Mrs. Cooney was hoping to reach when Sesame Street first aired in 1969. And although they move onto the class of a different inspiring woman after they graduate kindergarten, the foundations for a lifetime of education are established while the girls are in the “JGC” class, as it is known. Every girl in the JGC class has signed the Commitment to College Completion and has a college savings account established by the school.

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The Book on Books: the History of Sesame Street and Random House

By Graydon Gordian


Sesame Workshop Co-Founder Joan Ganz Cooney signs a contract with Random House in 1984.

In January 1970, less than two months after Sesame Street first aired, Joan Ganz Cooney, the co-founder of Sesame Workshop, received a letter.

“Our editorial staff in particular and many other of our associates have been watching the outstanding progress of your Sesame Street show with real respect and admiration,” read its opening line.

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