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Infectious Optimism From Sesame Street

When Sesame Street premiered on public television on November 10, 1969, no one could have predicted that the show would become an American institution.

As a children's series based around educational goals and an ever-evolving curriculum, there were no guarantees of success. But during the development stage, producers Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett (of the Children’s Television Workshop) had a masterful idea: They approached Jim Henson and asked if he wanted to design a cast of Muppets for the show and contribute as writer and director.

Henson’s Muppets had already appeared on various TV shows, but Sesame Street made stars of Kermit and co. In turn, the Muppets made Sesame Street an international hit. Characters like Elmo, Big Bird, the Count, and Cookie Monster made education fun, while their often crazy humor made Sesame Street — and later The Muppet Show — enjoyable for kids and adults alike.

Apart from helping millions of kids with numbers and letters, the Muppets also made people laugh. Their infectious positivity presented a wonderful view of the world. Even Oscar the Grouch, a trash can-dwelling monster, was impossible not to love.

Jim Henson’s outlook on life made much of this possible. The master of puppets had a singular ability for creating lovable characters who could bring joy to people of all ages. As Henson said, “I've always tried to present a positive view of the world in my work. It's so much easier to be negative and cynical and predict doom for the world than it is to try and figure out how to make things better. We have an obligation to do the latter.”

On TV, in film and books and more, the Muppets certainly make things better — and they often shared pearls of wisdom like these that inspired viewers both young and old, despite coming from the mouths of frogs, birds, and crazed cookie monsters.

Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending. We've done just what we set out to do. Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers and you.
Kermit the Frog

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Kermit has always offered up some of the most inspirational lines in Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. At the end of the The Muppet Movie (1979), Kermit and his friends close out the movie with a rendition of “Rainbow Connection,” singing the now-famous piece of advice: “Life's like a movie, write your own ending.”

Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.
Big Bird

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Among Big Bird’s many talents — roller skating, dancing, singing, unicycle riding — are the occasional words of wisdom. And when an 8-foot-2 yellow bird tells you how to cope with a bad day, it’s hard not to listen.

Who care if me eat carrot or collard greens? Me also like broccoli and lettuce and lima beans. Me still Cookie Monster. That not a sham.
Cookie Monster

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Cookie Monster might not be everyone’s first choice for life advice, but when he sings “Me Am What Me Am” he offers up a poignant piece of wisdom: Don’t be afraid to be who you are.

Friend something better than chocolate ice cream … Maybe friend somebody you give up last cookie for.
Cookie Monster

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Cookie Monster knows what a true friend is: someone you’d do anything for, even if it means giving away your last cookie.

Everyone makes mistakes, so why can’t you?
Big Bird

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Big Bird is no stranger to mistakes and misunderstandings, but he knows that mistakes are part of life and nothing to worry about. His song “Everyone Makes Mistakes” is for kids, but he points out that it’s not just children that slip up, but “big people, small people, matter of fact, all people.”

Where there is life, there is hope.
Grover

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Grover, the cute and furry blue monster, seems to be paraphrasing a quote that dates back to Ancient Rome: “While there's life, there's hope.”

I’m glad to be the way I am. I’m happy to be me!
Big Bird

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Big Bird celebrates his big feet and long beak as he struts his stuff through Sesame Street, singing a song about being happy with who you are.

Elmo thinks it’s important to be kind because if you’re kind to somebody, then they’ll be kind to somebody, and it goes on and on and on.
Elmo

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Elmo, a furry red monster who refers to himself in the third person, understands the power of paying it forward when it comes to kindness.

If you keep practicing, you can do anything.
Elmo

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Elmo also understands the power of perseverance.

Here's some simple advice: Always be yourself. Never take yourself too seriously. And beware of advice from experts, pigs and members of Parliament.
Kermit the Frog

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This Kermit quote comes from Jim Henson’s book Wisdom from It's Not Easy Being Green And Other Things to Consider. Not sure Miss Piggy would approve…


Just because you haven't found your talent yet, doesn't mean you don't have one.
Kermit the Frog

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More wisdom from Kermit.

It’s good to be alive.
Cookie Monster

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Cookie Monster’s indomitable spirit is on full show when he tries to explain what life is. And after watching his explanation, it’s hard not to agree that it is, indeed, good to be alive.

Featured image credit:  STAN HONDA/ Contributor/ Getty Images

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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