Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Elmo from Sesame Street testified before an Appropriations Subcommittee on behalf of music education.
On this date, Elmo, the joyous and lovable red Muppet from Sesame Street, testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee in support of federal funding for music education and research. It was the first time a Muppet appeared in an official capacity before Congress. Elmo testified alongside the head of a music trade group which had partnered with Sesame Street to create programs and provide music resources to America’s schoolchildren. Wearing a suit and referring to himself in the third person, Elmo, who later appeared in the written hearing transcript as “Elmo Monster” and “Mr. Monster,” sang and danced his way through questions from members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. With his puppeteer crouched under the witness table, Elmo explained in his opening statement—such that it was—why funding music programs was so important, and the beneficial connection between exposure to music and school performance. When the subcommittee chairman, Ralph Regula
of Ohio, asked the shaggy witness why he had come “all the way here from Sesame Street to talk to our Committee today,” Elmo replied that “music is a big part of Elmo’s life,” and broke into song about how he remembered which foods to buy at the grocery store. As people in the committee room laughed, Elmo reassured them that “Elmo’s not making a mockery of this place, no. It’s very important.” When Randall (Duke) Cunningham
of California joked that Elmo was being a hostile witness, the Muppet replied “No, Elmo’s not hostile, he’s just a monster.” As the hearing closed, Elmo implored the subcommittee to approve the funding. “Elmo knows that there is music in Elmo’s friends all over the country. But some of them just don’t know it yet. They don’t know how to find their music. So that’s why Elmo needs Congress to help. Please, Congress, help Elmo’s friends find the music inside them.” Congress, in fact, had previously enlisted Sesame Street’s assistance with other issues. Three years earlier, Kermit the Frog had teamed up with members of the Louisiana congressional delegation in a series of interviews to bring attention to threats to the state’s coastal wetlands.