Lessons from Sesame Street for graduates

Sarah Steimer

This past Nov. 10, the world celebrated my 22nd birthday and the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. Granted, Big Bird and the gang got a bit more attention than I did, but I think it’s still fair to say we’ve both come a long way.

Although I can’t remember every episode perfectly, I’m sure the show played at least some role in my childhood learning process, be it numbers from the Count, sharing from Bert and Ernie or overcoming my (long-gone) shy personality like Snuffleupagus.

But just because the show isn’t directed at our current age group doesn’t mean we can no longer learn from the likes of Gordon, Maria and the Jim Hensen Muppets.

As both Sesame Street and ourselves have grown, we notice and, I hope, accept those who are different from us. When we were both younger, we were aware of those visibly different from us — be it disability or race — and these folks got plenty of time on the show. It seemed normal, and our innocence allowed us to accept it with simplicity. As we grew, we learned of less-visible differences in those around us, just as the characters on Sesame Street have been introduced to their new friend, Kami, who is HIV positive. We were also introduced (in real life and on the show) to children with divorced parents and other invisible differences. We have come to realize and accept those people with differences while growing older — at least we should have.

Sesame Street cleaned up its town and started planting gardens in later years. The street is in an urban area and early episodes showed the area a bit grungier, which is pretty realistic in many cities. But as the nation has tried to embrace cleaner, greener living, so has Sesame Street.

And even Cookie Monster has changed his ways. In an ever-so controversial move, the Muppet has cut back on cookies and started eating vegetables. Just as we’ve gotten older, we’ve learned (maybe after the “freshman 15”) that it’s time to take care of our bodies.

With graduation staring many of us in the face, there’s a lot of talk about maturity. But maybe one of the best lessons we can continue to take away from Sesame Street is to keep a good grip on childhood. Just like the show, it’s important for us to grow and change with the times and with age. But even more important is to never forget what truly makes us happy — maybe something to remember when you try to decide if you’re ready to begin years and years in a cubicle.

So with that said, try to listen to music that just makes you feel good as often as you can. Wear clothes that don’t match but just seem right that day. Use face paint whenever you can find an excuse to. Play with sidewalk chalk with your friends. Buy a rubber duckie.

And whatever you do, don’t panic about your future because there are plenty of sunny days, chasin’ the clouds away.

Sarah Steimer is a senior magazine journalism major and guest columnist for

the Daily Kent Stater.