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Jonathan Sprout

Jonathan Sprout

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

Lesson #7: Never give up on your dreams.

 

            Thomas Edison is reported to have said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

            In 1877, the year he invented the phonograph, Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

Lesson #6: Education increases the likelihood of freedom, justice, and peace.

 

            Want to really help solve the world’s problems? Teach.

            The more educated we are, the more curious and empowered we become, the more likely we are to want to travel and experience other cultures. The more we travel, the less likely we are to fear people of foreign cultures and countries. Educated people are more likely to embrace and enjoy each other’s differences. Educated people are less fearful of and more optimistic about finding solutions to the world’s problems.

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

Lesson #5: Whatever it is you do, do it the best you can.

 

           It is better to do one thing right than 10 things half-baked. Always give it your best shot, no matter how big or small the task.

 

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

 

Lesson #4: To create social justice, agitate with love.

            People won’t just change their behavior because it makes sense. They usually have to be motivated, excited, inspired, and sometimes even shook up to want to become activists.

 

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

 Lesson #3: Optimism works.

 

            Helen Keller was left blind and deaf by a severe illness when she was nearly two years old. With the help of her teacher and mentor, Anne Sullivan, she used her exceptional mind and strong will to learn how to communicate.

            In 1904, Keller graduated with honors from Radcliffe College. She authored a number of books about her experiences while lecturing and fundraising on behalf of handicapped people. She proved to the world that disability does not mean inability.

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

 Lesson #2: Live your truth guided by your moral compass.

 

            With quick access to the opinions of countless others via the internet and social media, it’s as easy as ever to feel one’s own inner voice drowned out by the screams of others. It is therefore more important than ever for each of us to clearly identify and live our own truths, to be guided by our own moral compass.

 

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Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me

By Jonathan Sprout

             Since 1994, I’ve immersed myself in the lives of 40 of America’s greatest heroes. I’ve travelled the United States interviewing historians and visiting hero sites. I’ve read hundreds of books by and about my heroes and listened to countless teachers, parents, students, and administrators tell me about their favorite heroes.

            A few months ago, I was honored with an opportunity to speak about my work. The act of writing my speech over a three month period enabled me to recognize seven important lessons my heroes have taught me.

            I’ll share them with you over the course of the next several weeks, one lesson at a time. Please respond with your insights!

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            This week, I buried two of my favorite heroes in a quiet country cemetery deep in the heart of central Pennsylvania.

            My parents, John and Carol Sprout, died within six weeks of each other. They’d been married a week shy of 67 years. They were devoted to each other, their family, their church, their schools, and numerous charitable organizations. They were remarkably honest, fair, smart, grounded, and generous people. Dozens of their friends and former students attest to that. Mom was an elementary school teacher and an artist. Dad was a high school math teacher and a mentor to hundreds of students. Their modest, civic-minded, unassuming lives were quiet examples of the power of steadfast love. They were models of good Character.

 

            For 22 years I’ve visited thousands of schools singing my songs about men and women of good Character who made the right choices and became heroes. My intent has been to inspire children and their grown-ups by showing how possible it is to become a real hero. I tell my audiences to imagine living the best versions of their lives, never letting go of lofty dreams. I’ve made it one of my missions to point out the differences between most heroes and celebrities. Unfortunately, many Americans are obsessed with celebrities and gossip “news” programs where the rich, the beautiful, the crass, and the noisy are rewarded with attention.

            Although some of my heroes were passionate politicians, I’ve steered clear of present day politics in my school concerts, in part because of what Mom and Dad would say: “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.” But, Mom and Dad also exemplified how important it is to have good Character and to stand up for our beliefs.

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My music and heroes were recently featured on Good Stuff Kids Podcast. Host Michael Mason and I had a lively 30 plus minute conversation about my research, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Seuss, and others.

Here's the link to the show: http://goodstuffpod.com/episode-64-jonathan-sprout/ 

Enjoy!

Jonathan

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How two heroes helped a nation protect our environment

by Jonathan Sprout and Regina Kelland

 

          Earth Day turns 48 on April 22. As old as Mother Earth is, we have been officially celebrating her for less than five decades. Two of the environmental heroes we have to thank for this increased awareness are John Muir and Rachel Carson. In standing up for Mother Nature, they helped to transform public perception, encourage new laws and generally let Americans, and the world, know we need to pay more attention and take better care of our home.

 

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Here's an article that appeared in The Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer, both Bucks County, PA, USA newspapers:

Making a Living: Bucks musician combines history, music in children's 'edu-tainment'
By Amanda Cregan, correspondent | Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 3:30 am
 
Grammy-nominated musician and children's educator Jonathan Sprout holds his guitar at his home Friday, April 1, 2016, in Upper Southampton. He brings his "edu-tainment" to elementary schools in the region using his American Heroes series of CDs, concerts and study guides. 

 

Bucks County musician Jonathan Sprout combines music and storytelling to put kids in tune with America’s historical heroes.

 

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April 2016: Amelia, Eleanor, and their April Night Flight

             A year after Amelia Earhart became an international celebrity as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, she and her husband, George Putnam, experienced an unforgettable evening in Washington, DC. They’d been invited to a formal dinner party at the White House with Eleanor Roosevelt and her brother, Hall, while President/husband Franklin was away. It was April 20, 1933.
            Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Amelia was “First Lady of the Air.” Eleanor was “First Lady” of America. Each was determined, outspoken, passionate, and strong-minded. They were becoming two of the most famous and adventurous women in the world. And they were friends, having met in 1932 when Eleanor helped introduce the pilot before one of her speeches. Amelia agreed to help teach Eleanor how to fly. Eleanor earned a student’s pilot license. Although Eleanor wouldn’t become a pilot (she and Franklin couldn’t afford a plane and Franklin considered her piloting too risky), she flew more passenger miles than any other woman in the 1920s and 1930s.
            That clear and starry night, after dinner and before desert, Amelia and Eleanor spontaneously stole away for a special flight together over Washington, DC. Regulations required that two Eastern Air pilots fly the twin-engine plane, but both Amelia and Eleanor took turns at the controls above the lights of the city below.
            After they landed and were driven by the Secret Service back to the White House, it’s believed Eleanor may then have piloted Amelia out on the town in her beloved and much-used automobile.
            When the two finally returned to the White House, dessert was served. It may well have been Eleanor’s favorite, fitting for their recent uplifting adventure—angel food cake.
 
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), shy and insecure as a child, emerged as a public figure when her husband Franklin was elected president of the United States in 1932. She brought her great compassion and concern to the world’s neediest people. As United States representative to the United Nations, she helped create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became a champion of equal rights for minorities. The most active and influential — and sometimes controversial — of all United States presidents’ wives, she became so respected and admired, she was often called “First Lady of the World.”
            The night Amelia and Eleanor flew over Washington, Eleanor has been First Lady for only a month and a half. She was just beginning to leave her mark on the world. A quarter of a century later, Eleanor was a major figure. In 1959, after a Gallup Poll indicated she was “most admired woman in the world” for the 11th consecutive year, Frank Sinatra asked her, “if you had one minute to leave one word with the world, what would that word be?”
            “That one word would be ‘hope,’” replied Eleanor Roosevelt. “It’s the most neglected word in our language.”
 
You can watch this conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0-IaIWwHCk
 
Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), American Aviator, is famous for her flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and her attempt to fly around the world. She often used her fame to speak out against war and for women's rights. One of the most intriguing mysteries of the twentieth century is: What happened to Amelia Earhart? In June 1937, she left Miami, Florida, on an around-the-world flight attempt. On July 2, her plane vanished over the South Pacific. The world waited with fascination as search teams from the United States and Japan converged on the scene. But neither she, nor her navigator Fred Noonan, or the plane was ever found.
 
            I’m indebted to author Pam Munoz Ryan (author) and Brian Selznick (illustrator) for their book Amelia and Eleanor go for a Ride published by Scholastic in 1999.

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 March 2016: Juliette Gordon Low and the Little Stars 

            It’s March—Women’s History Month, and Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) comes to mind. She founded Girl Scouts of the USA. Daisy, as she was known to her friends, was an artistic, courageous, and energetic world traveler who thrived on instilling in “her girls” a sense of responsible citizenship. Her charming eccentricities made her the center of attention at every party. Unstoppable in her enthusiasm for scouting and generous to a fault, she was loved and admired by countless people the world over for the ways she helped people help themselves.

             But there was a time before the Girl Scouts when Daisy thought herself a failure, ashamed of the way her life was unraveling.

 

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February 2016: Martin Luther King, Jr. & Mahatma Gandhi -- A Journey to India

             The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of America’s greatest African American leaders, and February is Black History Month. But there two additional significant reasons for honoring King this month. On February 25, 1948, he was ordained as a Baptist minister at the young age of 19.
            And then there was his life-changing spiritual journey to India…
           
            While studying to become a minister, King attended a Sunday sermon in Philadelphia by Dr. Mordecai Johnson. “Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India,” wrote King, “and, to my great interest, he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.”
            On February 3, 1959, the 30-year old and his wife Coretta embarked on a month-long mission to India to walk in the footsteps of his hero, Mahatma Gandhi. The American Friends Service Committee helped arrange the tour.
            In India, King travelled to institutions associated with the life and work of Gandhi, saw some of the leading centers of academic learning, and met with Gandhi’s spiritual successor, Acharya Vinoba Bhave. He also met with India’s Prime Minister, Nehru.
            King returned to the United States more determined than ever to preach nonviolence, believing it is “one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”
            It was the writings of Gandhi that inspired King to believe it is possible to resist evil without resorting to violence. King learned how he could be most effective by nonviolently working to end racial discrimination and war. He wrote, “My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent (my italics) resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but he resisted with love instead of hate.”
            After arriving home, in his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he noted that Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi had each been assassinated attempting “to heal the wounds of a divided nation.” He concluded, “God grant that we shall choose the high way. Even if it will mean assassination, even if it will mean crucifixion, for by going this way we will discover that death will be only the beginning of our influence.”
            Could Martin Luther King, Jr. have known that day that his own life’s work would someday be compared to both men?

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January 2016: Elizabeth Blackwell 

             Today, more than one-third of the doctors in the United States and nearly one-half of recent medical school graduates are women. Yet 167 years ago, there were no women doctors in the United States. 

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 December 2015: George Washington

          December is a key month to celebrate our first president, George Washington. He died on December 14, 1799. Though he missed out on the 19th century by only a few weeks, he did something 16 years earlier that made his name practically immortal. On December 23, 1783, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the American forces and went home. Then again, in 1797, he walked away from power, heading home after completing his second term as the first United States president. Both acts stunned aristocratic Europe. It had been 2,500 years since the leader of a powerful nation had willingly resigned. Consequently, Great Britain’s King George III is believed to have said Washington was “the greatest character of the age.”
            And then, on December 26, 1776, there was that little surprise General Washington had for the enemy Hessian troops stationed in the village of Trenton, New Jersey…
 
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November 2015: Abraham Lincoln

 

            Funny how we honor our great 16th president Abraham Lincoln in the month of February for something he had very little to do with – being born. My favorite Lincoln month is actually November. Here’s why:

 

The Gettysburg Address

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PRESIDENT'S DAY IN PHILADELPHIA WITH WXPN'S KATHY O'CONNELL

Monday, February 16th, is President's Day. Listen to WXPN.org (88.5 FM in PA, DE and NJ) where I'll be a guest on Kids Corner at 7:00 p.m. EST. You'll hear rare live acoustic versions of "What He Wrote" (Thomas Jefferson) and "Man in the Arena" (Theodore Roosevelt).

http://www.kidscorner.org/

Host Kathy O'Connell and I will discuss some of our great presidents. We may get to "Eleanor" (Eleanor Roosevelt) and "Powerful" (Samantha Smith), two females who SHOULD have been President!

Join Kathy and me this President's Day as we laugh, reminisce, and celebrate. Who was the president wrote 36,000 letters? Which president's good sportsmanship inspired the first teddy bear? Who was the "man of many firsts?" Which president is the subject of more books than anyone else the past 2,000 years? Who was the president known as America's first wine connoisseur? Which of my heroes did Kathy O'Connell meet and interview live on her radio show?

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I've researched and written songs for children about American heroes for 21 years. Sometimes, my work has been compared to the American Girl series of books. Whereas I write about real heroes, the American Girls are fictitious, yet we seem to have similar goals of bringing out the best in children while promoting good citizenship. One of the company’s most successful authors, Valerie Tripp, has authored an amazing 31 American Girl books featuring Felicity, Josephina, Samantha, Kit, and Molly. She graciously agreed to an interview with me.

My interview of Valerie first appeared as a guest blog post at In Bed With Books, a blog site that reviews books (http://inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com/)

Interview with Valerie Tripp 

Valerie Tripp

 

 
You can click on any of the book covers to go to their Amazon page.

Jonathan Sprout: You write about fictional heroes. What qualities do you look for
when creating your fictional characters?

Valerie Tripp: I don't have to look far for heroic qualities because my characters are inspired by my readers, and my readers are heroic to me because they face their daily challenges with humor, empathy, curiosity, generosity, and kindness. All of my books have the same message: Yes, disappointments and troubles will come your way, but you’ll be okay. You are the hero of your own life story.

“I don't have to look far for heroic qualities because my characters are inspired by my readers, and my readers are heroic to me.” - Valerie Tripp


Jonathan Sprout
Jonathan: Your books essentially take us back in time and bring history to the present. You must do a lot of research. What is your process?

Valerie: I love to do research. It is not a process; it is a way of life. When you become interested in a time period, it is as if the universe is full of the information you need – you just have to start to pay attention! Research for me is travel, reading, talking to people who are experts and people who lived when my character did, looking at movies, and listening to music. It is also observing and being delighted and inspired by girls of today. Research can also be looking back at my own experiences as a child. Research is active: it can be taking cooking lessons, going for a horseback ride, swimming in the Rio Grande river, and trying to knit a sock (unsuccessfully, by the way!)

Jonathan: When you are creating a character, do you think about the parents, caregivers or teachers of these girls and boys and how your
characters will inspire dialogue between them? Can you elaborate?

Second Chances
Josephina
Valerie: I always hope that my stories will spark conversations among generations. Molly, who is my WW2 character, has led girls to ask their families about their great-grandparents’ experiences during the war. More than one Army uniform has been lifted out of a trunk in the attic! And the emotional content of a story can spark conversations as well. Josefina’s aunt comes to live with her family, and many girls tell me they have spoken to their parents and step-parents inspired by Josefina’s dilemma: can she be loyal to her Mama and still love her new step-mother? One of the loveliest purposes literature can serve is to connect us by being a vehicle for conversation.

Jonathan: Your books encourage boys and girls to understand that they too can be “heroes” in their everyday lives (i.e. you don’t have to be famous to be a hero). What are your thoughts on this?

Lost and Found
Samantha
Valerie: I deliberately chose to write about history from a familiar and familial point of view, so that my readers might see what a regular kid’s life was like. I’m hoping that my readers will say, “Hey! That could be me. I would have been heroic just as Kit is, facing the Depression. Or I would have stood up for my friend just as Samantha does at the turn of the last century.” I am hoping my readers will see that THEY are what American History is. They are shaping our world. The decisions they make will determine what life is like for us all in the future. They are already heroes.

Jonathan: Are there differences between what girls find heroic and what boys find heroic? How has an awareness of this this helped you to
craft your stories?

Valerie: No, I don’t think there are differences between what boys and girls find heroic. Heroism is facing your own specific challenges, and no matter what those challenges are, we all have to find the inner courage to do so.

Jonathan: Tell us about your latest writing venture - writing for boys.

“I felt as though books were short-changing boys. The boys I know are funny and nurturing, passionate, goofy, adventurous, brave, and have rich inner lives.” - Valerie Tripp


Valerie: I felt as though books were short-changing boys. The boys I know are funny and nurturing, passionate, goofy, adventurous, brave, and have rich inner lives but the boys I saw in books had to solve problems with magic or bathroom jokes. The Boys Camp books show boys facing landslides, fires, near-drowning, friendship troubles, skunks, bears, snakes, shyness, and dives off cliffs! They’re jokesters and bird-watchers, tennis stars and singers – and they are ALL heroes!
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Fern Michonski is a fellow children's recording artist who recently interviewed me for her website.

Jonathan, your American Heroes Series is educational, fun and inspiring! The lyrics on these CD’s teach children about our many heroes, both past and present.

Obviously teachers have a wealth of information they can glean from your heroes songs that will reinforce lessons they are teaching the children about our heroes. And, it is a fact that when a concept that is being taught to children is put to music, it has a deeper impact and will be remembered more easily. I think it would be awesome to combine your heroes’ music with the spirit of giving and the Holidays!

  1. You obviously did a lot of research before writing all of your heroes’ songs. What inspired you to write a series about heroes?

Jonathan: There were a number of variables that came into play that enticed me to pivot my career and gradually transform from a “regular” children’s singer-songwriter recording artist into an educational heroes proponent. Twenty years ago I reached a point in my life where I wanted to leave more of a mark in this world and be of more service to humanity. In 1994, I read about a nation-wide survey in which children were asked who their heroes were. Their top-10 list included cartoon characters and obnoxious athletes. You’ve heard: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Entertaining and making children laugh was good, but not good enough for my purpose-driven life. Stephen Covey and his inspiring book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was motivating me to study successful people. I always loved reading biographies. All of these things clicked into place for me when I came up with the idea to research, write, perform and record children’s music about heroes.

2. Right now we are in the midst of the Holiday Season. For many children, the holidays becomes a time where their focus is on gifts and what they would like to receive. Could you think of a way to help children come up with ideas as to how THEY could be a hero during the Holidays?

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