AAP 2011: Preaching Compassion

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Keynote speaker Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the famous children's TV show Sesame Street, spoke this morning about the importance of compassion.

Sunny Day Sweepin' the clouds away On my way to where the air is sweet Can you tell me how to get, How to get to Sesame Street….

Keynote speaker Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the famous children’s TV show, Sesame Street, spoke this morning about the importance of compassion. Having played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for the past 42 years—something he hopes to continue until he reaches the 50-year mark—Spinney told the audience that his goal was to demonstrate compassion. In fact, that was his main goal in playing Big Bird. Spinney explained that, upon reading an article about Sesame Street, it said something about compassionate Big Bird; he was compassionate before putting the effort into being compassionate.

One of the most gratifying aspects of his 42-year career on Sesame Street, Spinney said, is the personal relationship children feel they have with Big Bird. Kids often write to invite Big Bird over for play dates and sleepovers. His character has helped children navigate their daily challenges, whether it's learning to count to 12 or dealing with bullies — the subject of a Big Bird story line in the upcoming fall season.”

Spinney then brought up the widespread problem of bullying. “Bullying has become a widespread problem,” he said. This completely goes against Spinney’s desire to instill compassion and have others understand the importance. He then mentioned that Sesame Street just filmed an episode on bullying that will be aired on Monday, October 17. The episode focuses on how Big Bird was being bullied, but did not even know it. Spinney said that the episode is one of the most rewarding in a long time.

When push comes to shove, “What a blessing it is to have a job that brings a smile to a face,” said Spinney. “It’s nice to be more than just a teacher on Sesame Street."

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