NPR President and CEO Gary Knell – the human one that is — was honored by GenerationOn last night in New York City with the Champion in Service and Education Award. GenerationOn, the youth division of Points of Light Institute, is a non-profit organization focused on inspiring and motivating youth through service. They recognized Knell for dedicating his 30-year career in using "the power of media to empower and educate people of every age."
There seemed to be a bit of confusion in the packed ballroom when longtime NPR journalist Jacki Lyden presented the honor to Knell. Before he reached the stage, a Muppet closely resembling the NPR CEO arrived at the podium first and began thanking his mentors:
"First and foremost," the muppet declared, "I would not be here tonight without the help of the people in my neighborhood, so a special shout out to Elmo, Big Bird, even Oscar, who have taught me the importance of a strong community. Way back in the day when we built Sesame... "
The crowd roared in laughter.
Lyden intervened and was quick to inform the rogue Muppet the award was actually meant for Knell, who, albeit shocked, was able to promptly regain his standing and accept the honor.
Knell affirmed he had traded in "Big Bird for Nina Totenberg" and went on to remark that he has been driven by the "identical motivation behind Sesame Street, and NPR, and Generation On, which is to teach to inspire to empower young people...whether they are preschoolers on Sesame Street or teenagers at GenerationOn or adults at NPR. To teach the notion that one person or a few kindred spirits can be a force for good using a storytelling narrative"
Also honored at the GenerationOn gala was Lauren Bush Lauren for her work with FEED, an organization she founded five years ago, which has fed more than 60 million hungry children worldwide.
The two headlining honorees, Knell and Bush Lauren, took it to Twitter to exchange congratulatory messages preceding the gala yesterday: