After the first presidential debate, millions of Big Bird’s fans took to social media, wrote checks, and spoke out on behalf of saving their fine feathered friend. Heart-warming as that was, I’ve been wondering myself what Big Bird was thinking about the debates themselves. So, I asked him. Of course, when I reached out to Big Bird, he wouldn’t exactly tell me what he thought; but I’ve been watching him since 1990 when my first child, Emily, was born, and then when Jonathan came along. Even when I was on the road, I’d turn-on the hotel TV just to say hello. After all these encounters, my sense is this is what he’d say to the candidates:
- I know you like to use me to get laughs in debates and ads – but I’m no puppet.
- I care about kids – and I haven’t heard you talk about them.
- Yes, I know you talk about “education” programs and money, but how will the lives of the kids who watch me every day get better?
- Where I live, you have to say things plainly so everyone can get it. I also talk to a whole lot of parents and guardians and other adults who care about children. Look into the camera like I do every day, and speak directly to them: What do they need to do? Talk turkey to them.
- I know on the street where I live we talk a lot about being “nice” – and I do want you to respect one another. But respect also means leveling with people about what you’re really telling us.Please.
- Finally, numbers are really important. And so each day we teach them to kids who tune in. But, for the life of me, I (and others) can’t figure out all your numbers. Help us with the math.
Big Bird is no ruthless campaign advisor or pundit. Instead, he knows something about people, how we learn, what we value, who we are, and who we can become. I’m so glad so many people have spoken out on his behalf recently. But it’s what Big Bird might say about this presidential campaign that I’m most interested in.