Poet Amanda Gorman joined her special pals Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street recently for an important lesson about the power of using your own voice. In fact, Gorman chose the very word “voice” to close off the “Word of the Day” on the iconic children’s series, reminding Bert and Ernie and all of the little ones watching that they can harness true power with their voices.
The former National Youth Poet Laureate sat on a stoop on Sesame Street alongside lifelong best friends Bert and Ernie to talk to kids about how to use their voice. “The word of the day is ‘voice,’” Ernie explained, with Gorman adding, “We use our voice to express ourselves in all sorts of ways.” Like singing for instance, which both Gorman and Ernie demonstrated with aplomb. Poor Bert struggled as Bert is wont to do. He also struggled with his turn to use his voice for poetry. When Bert finally admitted he was feeling “a bit nervous,” Gorman reminded him that it was “okay to feel nervous” and even nudged Ernie by pointing out “we can even use our voices to help support others.”
They decided to sing and read poetry together because, as Gorman noted, “our voices are stronger together” before telling kids to make sure their voices are heard.
Gorman and other celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Gabrielle Union, Brett Goldstein, Anna Cathcart, Zazie Beetz, Ava DuVernay, and First Lady Jill Biden all took part in the “Word of the Day” series, sharing their own important words like “fairness,” “belonging,” and “proud.” Gorman actually kicked off the “Word of the Day” series with “upstander,” a word she shared with Grover and Sesame Street character Gabrielle. Gorman explained to Grover and Gabrielle that an upstander is someone who “uses their kind words or actions to help their friends or themselves when they're being treated unfairly and unkindly.”
This new series is part of the Coming Together initiative to promote racial equality and awareness that first kicked off in 2020. “We know that children are not colorblind; they absorb messages about their own and others’ identities from a very young age, from their own lives and the world around them,” Akimi Gibson, Sesame Workshop’s vice president and education publisher who was one of the leaders in the Coming Together initiative, explained in a press release. “With these new videos — and as with all of our Coming Together content — we want to support caregivers as they help their children navigate our complex world.”
Simply sharing important words like “voice” and “upstander” as Gorman is doing with the “Word of the Day” series can go a long way to perhaps creating a new generation of upstanding citizens. Who will actually use their voice to do good in this world.