Farewell to Elmo, or The Lasting Power of Words

The past few weeks have seen controversy surround someone, as the result of using words without full consideration. A 24 year old male who engaged in a relationship with Sesame Street Workshop producer/director/puppeteer Kevin Clash came out last week, saying that Clash had engaged in an illicit and inappropriate relationship with him. The catch? Clash is best known for his work as the primary puppeteer, personality, and voice of Elmo. He is credited with steering the direction of Sesame Street away from Big Bird, who has long been a secondary face of the show (until Mitt Romney threatened to fire him, of course), and giving Elmo his current characteristics of childlike wonder and unconditional love.

Today, Clash and the Children’s Television Workshop released a statement announcing Clash’s resignation. Despite the fact that the Workshop’s own investigation found no illegal action on Clash’s part, AND the accuser recanted his statement three days after making it, Elmo will permanently have a new voice as the result of this circus. And as we speak, the accusation of a second accuser is making its way to courts.

I admit, as an outsider to the situation, I have no way of knowing if all the released information is true, nor do I claim to know all the facts of the situation. But what I do know is that there is a lesson in the stated course of events. And I can also admit, it is one that I should pay attention to.

I am a grudge holder. I know it, and I try not to, but if I’m hurt, I don’t forget it. That being said, I’m extremely careful about what I say. Why? Because the impact of those words lasts. This is proof of that. A statement likely made emotionally has taken down a 28 year career that brought joy to many. Those words can (and have) been taken back, but their effect remains. Let this unfortunate series of events serve as a warning: watch your words. They could have effects you would never intend or imagine, whether you would mean for it to happen or not. The effects could be the destruction of a friendship, or even as big as tarnishing the legacy of a beloved entertainer.

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