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Local Activist Defends Big Bird

During the first presidential debate Oct. 3, when Mitt Romney professed to “love Big Bird” yet said he would “stop the subsidy to PBS,” he triggered an immediate internet outcry, one that prompted former Eugenean and political activist Sam Chapman to start a fundraising campaign for the Sesame Street character. Chapman’s campaign swiftly made national headlines with mentions in papers such as USA Today.

Chapman, a UO graduate and social media consultant based in Portland, is no stranger to political activism. In 2011, he organized the online version of Occupy Eugene on Facebook, which led to the formation of Eugene’s Occupy camps and subsequent attention boost to Eugene’s homeless issues. Chapman says his contribution to the movement yielded some surprising results. He started the Facebook page in response to the start of the Occupy Portland movement. Within 24 hours, the page had over 300 members, and it soon led to the Oct. 15 march that kicked off OE. 

Chapman has moved on to other political causes and is now working to support Measure 80, which would legalize and regulate marijuana in Oregon. As cofounder of Oregonians for Law Reform, Chapman recently worked to eliminate seven billboards in the Portland area that made inaccurate comparisons between marijuana and meth, depicting a young woman looking haggard with sores. Chapman says the misleading billboards, put in place by Protect Our Society, will be taken down as a result of failure to disclose their source of funding.

“I’ve always felt that my stronger skill-sets involve speaking for the soft-spoken,” Chapman says.  “If I feel strongly about something, you can bet I’m going to do something about it.”

This philosophy prevailed when Big Bird came under fire. Chapman grew up watching Sesame Street and even saw Big Bird live in New York when he was 4 years old. Somehow, he says, he knew he had to help out his beloved PBS. Since Big Bird is male, he is at least safe from Romney’s “binders full of women.” 

The campaign “Keep Your Mitts off of Big Bird!” is at Indiegogo.com, a website that allows its users to post campaigns and raise money. As of Oct. 16, the Big Bird campaign has raised $447 and will continue accepting contributions until Nov. 2, after which all collected donations will go directly to PBS.