Only Elmo acted like he didn't recognize it. He cocked his head sideways like he was trying to figure it out. Then he shook his head in bewilderment and gave the kids pleading looks of confusion. And it made the kids crazy. How the music teacher held their attention, only the gods of music know — until they started singing.
Elmo milked it a little longer, but when the kids hit the first chorus and sang the words, "It's Elmo's world," the red Muppet waited a syncopated beat and then sang out as if in answer, "Elmo's world," and the kids were in heaven.
There was something so sweet, special and even transcendent about Elmo and those kids singing together on a sunny morning in a schoolroom that you couldn't help but be hopeful. That's something else "Sesame Street" has done for 40 years: instill a sense of shared optimism, accomplishment and community in kids from all social classes.
Robert Shuman, president and CEO of Maryland Public Television, which is one of 20 public TV stations in a pilot program bringing literacy resources to kids, took a turn at the podium and shared some kidding with Elmo.
But he was all seriousness in an interview earlier at the school when he was asked about the role "Sesame Street" continues to play, not just in the lives of American children but globally with kids around the world.
"How much entertainment stuff do we send out around the world?" Shuman said. "And I have always been frustrated, disappointed, whatever you want to call it, that most of the film and video we send out is what it is. But this — this is the Peace Corps. This something that we as Americans can be proud of."