'Kindness is a superpower': What Sesame Street Muppets told USA TODAY about community, diversity
Ji-Young and Abby Cadabby meet the Editorial Board: 'No matter who you are, or where you come from or what you look like, we can all belong here and be friends.'
"Sesame Street" Muppets are eager to share what they've learned from their new community projects, including The Welcome Garden, and how neighbors can help each other deal with scary things, like COVID-19. USA TODAY chatted with two of these neighbors: the show's first Asian Muppet, Ji-Young, a Korean American who loves her electric guitar and skateboard, and Abby Cadabby, a fairy in training with wings and a magic wand.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street," on Wednesday released new bilingual videos and resources as part of an ongoing initiative to help families talk to young children about identity and inclusivity. Fresh from their new community garden, Ji-Young, 7, and Abby Cadabby, 4, spoke with USA TODAY's Editorial Board members Kristen DelGuzzi, Thuan Le Elston, Jaden Amos and Carli Pierson – and Pierson's daughters Emiliana, 6, and Ines, 4. Their conversation has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
Kristen: Ji-Young and Abby, you look like you've been friends for awhile. Can you tell us how you met?
Ji-Young: I'm kinda new on Sesame Street. We just kind of met being part of this community together, and I was like wow cool, wings! Wanna be friends?
Abby: What was really cool is Ji-Young skated in on her skateboard. She's a fierce skateboard rider. You know I wish one day I can fly, and then I can pull you on your skateboard.
Ji-Young: Oh my gosh!
Abby: Like, we just kind of connected right away because we were so excited to meet each other. And we like meeting new people.
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Thuan: Ji-Young, how are you liking Sesame Street so far?
Ji-Young: Ah, Sesame Street is the best place to live. There's so many different kinds of, like, we are seeing people and monsters and animals and, all things. We all live here together, and we all get along no matter what you look like.
Abby: I guess we just got a heart connection. That's what I like to call it, a heart connection – you know when you feel something inside and the kind of feeling that makes you want to hug people?
Thuan: That's nice, Abby. Carli's daughters, do you have any questions for Ji-Young and Abby?
Emiliana, 6: Abby, do you have a pet?
Abby, 4: I have lots of pets in the Welcome Garden, because I take care of a lot of little animals. I guess you could say butterflies and bees are my pets. They're so important, right? And then Elmo just got a new puppy, named Tango, and he shares his pet with all of us.
Ines, 4: I wanna see Elmo.
Abby: I don't think he's here. I'm sorry. We will tell him you said hello, though.
Ji-Young, 7: You have a special message you want us to give to Elmo?
Emiliana: I want to tell him that we can visit him anytime, whenever he wants.
Abby: You're always welcome here!
Thuan: Abby and Ji-Young, we hear you have a new project. A new garden? Tell us about this garden.
Ji-Young: It's really cool. Every body from the community, we all painted different rocks and put them in our rock garden.
Abby: It's super cool because, you know, it has all kinds of fruits and vegetables that we share and we work on together.
Ji-Young: The rock garden is like a new addition to our beautiful community garden. I painted a music note on mine 'cause I love rock music. What's cool is that all the rocks were different shapes and sizes and colors, but put them all together and it looks really beautiful.
Abby: It's all things that we love and we do and celebrated each other.
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Jaden: Hi guys. Ji-Young, I'm also Korean. I had to let you know that I'm Korean, too.
Ji-Young: What?! Annyeonghaseyo (Korean for hello)!
Jaden: So things have been so different because of COVID. What are you guys doing to stay safe and take care of your community on Sesame Street?
Abby: Well, right now, we're pretty safe here because we've all been tested and everything's fine.
Ji-Young: And you know what, no matter what I always listen to the grown-ups in my life, like my mom and dad and my grandma who lives with us. I listen to them, and they help us figure out how to do our part to stay healthy and safe. And keep everybody in our community safe, too.
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Abby: And that's where the community garden was really good, too, because we were able to put baskets together and take them to people who had to stay inside for a while.
Ji-Young: It was a fun way to stay outside, and have fun outside.
Jaden: I'm so happy to hear that. There are, though, a lot of big, really scary things happening in the world. What do you guys do when you have these really big feelings?
Abby: When I have big feelings, I talk to my mommy and daddy about it, and my step-daddy. Sometimes I talk to my friends.
Ji-Young: I think, when you have big feelings, it's important to remember that it's OK to have those feelings. But you know you can talk to a friend or a safe grown-up, and that can help you feel a lot better.
Kristen: Girls, for 4 and 7, you sound so grown-up and so smart. We work at a newspaper. You know what a newspaper is, right?
Abby: Yeah, it's about storytelling and shining a light on things, so people know what's going on.
Ji-Young: It's a big world and lots of stuff is happening, so it's great to stay in the know.
Kristen: Thuan and Jaden, I think that Ji-Young and Abby could work with us.
Jaden: I think so too.
Abby: We could be like the Garden Gab!
Ji-Young: Yes, yes, yes, yes, the Garden Gab!
Thuan: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Ji-Young: Everybody knows I want to be a rock star. But you know today, I also want to be a veterinarian. And today also want to be a pro skateboarder. And I don't want to go into space, but I want to be that guy who presses the button.
Abby: I think his name is Roger. OK, Roger Roger ...
Ji-Young: Yeah, I want to be the NASA Roger.
Abby: You know what I like about Ji-Young? She writes songs, and I like to do rhymes 'cause I love words and poetry.
Ji-Young: Wait, what do you want to be when you grow up, Abby?
Abby: I think that I would like to have an animal rescue. I know I'm a wish fairy, and I'm supposed to help people with their wishes, and I have a magic wand and everything, but my mommy told me the most powerful magic comes from your heart.
Kristen: Before we let you go, is there any last message or anything that you would like to share with people?
Ji-Young: I just want to say how much I love living on Sesame Street and how much I love that no matter who you are, or where you come from or what you look like, we can all belong here and be friends.
Abby: And kindness is a superpower, and that we're all in this world together. We're all part of nature, so we're all connected. And we're connected with our hearts. So follow your heart and be kind.