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What I learned from ‘Sesame Street’ — and Bob, Luis and Gordon

Big Bird (L) and other Sesame Street puppet

Big Bird (L) and other Sesame Street puppet charactors pose next to temporarty street sign November 9, 2009 at West 64th Street and Broadway in New York on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the broadcast of the children's television show. The sign is located across the street from Sesame Workshop's corporate headquarters which will launch the 40th season of Sesame Street on PBS on November 10. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty/STAN HONDA

While most children loved Cookie Monster and Big Bird, it’s the adults of “Sesame Street” whom I remember.

Bob taught me about people in my neighborhood. Luis taught me my first Spanish words. Gordon taught me about life, friends and family.

Last week, it seemed that Bob, Luis, and Gordon would be leaving “Sesame Street,” which now airs on HBO in a half-hour format, but is still overseen by Sesame Workshop. At the time, the show said it was “evolving” its content and characters.

But after a huge outcry on social media and beyond, Sesame Workshop chief executive Jeff Dunn apologized Tuesday for “the misunderstandings,” and said he’d be talking with the three actors who play the beloved characters to determine how to best continue their roles on the show.
    
The adults in our lives

Perhaps Dunn came to realize what many of us already know: The human residents of “Sesame Street” still have lessons to teach.

The adults on Sesame Street cared for each other, for the Muppets and the children on the show, and for us. Their words and how they treated others matter.

If only that were true today. Instead, we have a political sphere in which rhetoric is shrill, anything can be said and language doesn’t matter.

We’re told it’s political game play, a misinterpretation, or sarcasm. And too many people accept the excuses and become numb to the barrage.

Meanwhile, our children are learning from the adults in their lives, including Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and you and me.

In April, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that more than half of the teachers surveyed saw an increase in uncivil discourse in their classrooms, while a third saw an increase in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim talk.

“Sesame Street” taught us so much beyond numbers and letters. Share. Care about your friends. People may look different or act different from you, and that’s OK. When life isn’t easy, there’s an adult or friend around to help. Always imagine and dream.

I hope those lessons will remain.

There's always a way

When Mr. Hooper died in the early 1980s, Big Bird couldn’t understand why the shopkeeper would never be coming back. Gordon provided a simple answer: “Big Bird, it has to be this way . . . just because.”

Gordon’s words ring true for death, or whether our favorite characters leave “Sesame Street.” But they’re not true for government or political campaigns.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s still time to learn from Bob, Luis and Gordon.

Randi F. Marshall is a member of the Newsday and amNY editorial boards. This is part of an occasional series of guest amExpress columns. This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. Subscribe a amny.com/amexpress.

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