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Saving Big Bird

In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney mentioned that he would have to eliminate PBS funding even though he loved Big Bird, because it didn’t make sense to “pay for stuff by borrowing from China.”People started tweeting, chirping, and otherwise chiming in almost instantaneously – sure, there were plenty of comments about the basic math mistake (PBS funding is .012% of the national budget, so it hardly counts as responsible for our deficit), misplaced priorities (how come adding a $5 trillion tax cut and boosting an already inflated defense budget don’t also concern Romney?), and right-wing bias against public media, but the biggest outcry came on behalf of the beloved character himself. Now even without public funding, Sesame Street would go on, thanks to generous viewers, sponsorship, and highly successful merchandising (“Tickle Me Elmo,” anyone?). But it was a fascinating illustration of the huge impact of public television for children, now that a couple of generations have grown up with Sesame Street and the other popular shows.

I’m going to date myself here by admitting that Sesame Street didn’t go on the air until I was already in elementary school, but I still remember it vividly (and loved to watch the other shows from my day, including the original Electric Company). My husband was 3, so he was the absolute perfect target audience. (Yes, I’m a cradle-robbing cougar, and I love it!) And I was re-introduced to PBS kids’ programming when I had my own kids – they particularly loved the music videos, like “Put Down The Ducky (If You Want To Play The Saxophone).” I loved the puns that were clearly designed to keep us bleary parents entertained, like Ethel Mermaid singing “I Get a Kick Out Of U.”

Romney clearly touched a nerve – so in tribute to PBS programming in general, Big Bird in particular, and the Sesame Street tradition of fun music, here’s a musical plea for our favorite large yellow non-flying bird”¦

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