Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Sesame Street

Earlier this semester, for a class assignment, I had to read a speech that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote and gave. The speech was about being a woman, and more importantly, being a woman of color, and what that meant for her career and her goals. And since I read that speech, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with the woman. So when I found out that she went on Sesame Street to talk to little girls, I was ecstatic.

When I was a kid, my dad’s job meant that I was traveling abroad all around the world, but some how — I was lucky enough to still get Sesame Street.

Now I haven’t watched it in a while, clearly. I don’t have any younger siblings or cousins or neighbors that would require me to watch it. I know that the cookie monster eats vegetables now and there are new characters and I’m sure everything I remember about one of my favorite childhood shows is gone. But even so, they’re still making me giddy with their new lessons. And good ones too!

When Justice Sotomayor went on Sesame Street, it wasn’t just to talk about being a judge. The word of the day that she got to help teach was “CAREER”. And she was given the unfortunate task of being the bearer of bad news: sorry little girls, but being a princess is not a viable career plan.

It’s okay though, because she softened the blow with some more information: Little Abby  Cadabby (who, by the way, was totally not a part of my childhood Sesame Street) still had other options. She could be a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, or a scientist. And maybe it’s just me, or maybe I just didn’t have the right teachers when I was really young…but nobody told me that!

And I think whether it’s on a two-minute segment on Sesame Street or a conversation handled in the classroom or at home, telling little girls that they have these options is pretty freaking cool. Because, let’s be honest, kids are perceptive. If you’ve got parents and teachers crouching down in front of little boys and asking them about being firemen and police officers and soldiers and doctors and so on…but you only ask the little girl about her princess costume? They notice that. And after a while, they don’t question it. Because after a while certain jobs and career dreams become “boy jobs” and other ones become “girl jobs” and it’ll wind up taking an unfortunately long time to teach these kids that they have options.

I’m not one of those people who advocate that all children should be told that they can be “anything”. I know that even at 6 my math skills were below par and there was no way I was going to grow up to be a mathematician. But still: the importance of not limiting our (that’s a collective, worldwide “our”) children, of letting them dream, and of teaching them can never be ignored. These things matter.

So sorry you weren’t around during my Sesame Street days, Justice Sotomayor, but hey. Thanks for everything you said, anyway.

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