BOSTON - Sesame Street has always been about social values as much as it has been about learning the alphabet. Big Bird, portrayed by puppeteer Caroll Spinney, teaches many life lessons through this humble but larger-than-life character.
In a keynote presentation to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Boston, Spinney will discuss the qualities his character promotes in children: compassion, self-confidence, persistence, imagination, tolerance, curiosity, openness, respect and humor. His presentation will begin at approximately 11:10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
One of the most gratifying aspects of his 42-year career on Sesame Street, Spinney said, is the personal relationship children feel they have with Big Bird. Kids often write to invite Big Bird over for playdates and sleepovers. His character has helped children navigate their daily challenges, whether it's learning to count to 12 or dealing with bullies - the subject of a Big Bird story line in the upcoming fall season.
"The stories on Sesame Street are so well-written, and what I've done with the bird somehow has made children really identify with him on so many levels," Spinney said. "He teaches children to care about others, to try to better himself, to be helpful, but also to be part of the community."
In his talk, Spinney will also discuss the creation of Sesame Street and the evolution of Big Bird over the years, and will be bringing a surprise guest (hint: it's not Big Bird).
Spinney has portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since Sesame Street's premiere episode on Nov. 10, 1969. Prior to that, he performed as nine characters on Bozo's Big Top in Boston for 10 years, had a career in art and animation, and served in the Air Force.
He has traveled the world as Big Bird and won two Grammys and six Emmys, including a lifetime achievement award. For his body of work, Spinney has received both a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and the Library of Congress's Living Legend award in 2000. As Oscar the Grouch, Spinney has written "How to Be A Grouch," a Whitman Tell-A-Tale picture book. With J. Milligan, he wrote the 2003 book "The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers." He lives in New England with his wife, Debra. They have three children and four grandchildren.
Reporters who wish to cover the presentation should first check in at the press room (151A) at the Boston Convention Center. To arrange an interview with Caroll Spinney, contact the AAP Department of Communications.The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit http://www.