If there were a job description for the first lady of the United States it would say somewhere up high that a modern one can’t go wrong by stopping by to giggle with the fuzzy denizens of “Sesame Street.”
In fact, every first lady since Barbara Bush, with the exception of Melania Trump, has done it.
Now it’s first lady Jill Biden’s turn. And this time, her cause is helping military families talk to their young children about race and how to treat everyone with kindness and fairness.
Building on her FLOTUS agenda of supporting military families, Dr. B has joined forces with turquoise Rosita, the bilingual Mexican-American Muppet and a longtime cast member of America’s beloved children’s educational TV show.
Like Biden’s, Rosita’s story is that she grew up in a military family.
Now, the two of them have made a video of their chat about Rosita’s life as a military child, how kids should be proud of who they are no matter their background, and how to be an “upstander” with kind words for everyone.
“I was just thinking of all the things that make me proud to be me – it’s a little project I’m doing with my military-kid friends,” Rosita confides to Biden in a clip of the video, shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
The video will be released Monday on YouTube to help promote a new collection of resources launched by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street,” to help military and veterans’ families tap into “the rich diversity” of the military community to talk about race with young children, Sesame says.
Rosita says she’s “so proud” her “papi” serves in the military and she’s proud to be Mexican American.
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“And there’s another thing I am very proud of, Dr. Biden, actually I just learned it, that I am an upstander. That means I use kind words and actions to stand up for myself and my friends,” Rosita says.
“Wow,” responds Biden. “You know what? I’m proud to be an upstander, too. It’s important to treat everyone we meet with kindness and fairness and respect. If we see someone being treated unfairly, we should stand up for them.”
Military people are some of the “kindest, bravest people I know,” Biden says, as the two end their exchange with trilled exclamations of “We love you!”
Sesame Workshop’s ongoing “Coming Together” initiative is all about “racial literacy,” the group says. The new resources cover topics such as helping kids build a positive sense of identity and being an upstander.
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“In a military kid’s world, it’s common to see people of all races and backgrounds living, working and playing together,” said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of social impact for Sesame Workshop, in a statement.
“Military parents and caregivers can help their children become good citizens of the world by using that unique opportunity to talk openly about racism and celebrate who they are, inside and out.”
Among the resources (in English and Spanish) available are music videos, interactive games, articles for adults and professional development materials for educators, social workers and other providers.
The new “Great Things” music video starring Elmo, Rosita, and Wes features an original song and highlights strategies that military families canuse to talk about “big feelings,” such as what can happen after a child experiences racism.
The “I Am Me” interactive game allows families to create self-portraits that celebrate different skin colors, hair textures and eye shapes.
“Sesame Street” has a long history of making history in highlighting social change in America. Last month, the show debuted an episode that featured the first married same-sex couple to be recurring characters.
Even earlier, a “letter of the day” segment noted that “F is for Family” included a boy with two mothers. A live-action “Elmo’s World” video in last year’s “Father’s Day” episode featured a boy with two fathers and a voiceover narration that said, “You might have a stepdad, or even two dads.”
Sesame Workshop makes no apologies for its longstanding focus on diversity, inclusion, equity and kindness, pointing to its “responsibility to speak out for racial justice” and to help families have conversations about race and identity with their young kids, said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production, at the March launch of “Coming Together.”
“The work to dismantle racism begins by helping children understand what racism is and how it hurts and impacts people,” Stallings said then, noting the era of heightened racial and social discord. “We’re proud to reaffirm our ‘Coming Together’ commitment to racial justice, which will be woven into new Sesame Workshop content for years to come.”
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