03/12/2014 12:10 pm ET Updated May 12, 2014

"Free To Be" Makes Time...On Time!

This week, invited me to reflect on the creation of "Free to Be...You and Me," which premiered as a TV special 40 years ago Tuesday. I was delighted to accept the offer to talk about "Free to Be" and the impact it's had on subsequent generations. Thanks for lending me the platform, -- and Happy Birthday, "Free to Be!" --MT

* * *

The year was 1974, and my friend, producer Carole Hart, and I were deep into creating a TV special based on our children's LP that celebrated gender and racial equality. Filled with songs and stories and poems, the project encouraged kids to realize that their dreams were not only boundless, but achievable. Our title for the project: Free to Be...You and Me.

For one scene in the special, we'd decided to interview children about how they envisioned their lives one day. This segment, we felt, would underscore that people had to be taught to be sexist; and that little children had not yet been socialized with gender stereotypes.

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" we asked one precious, curly-headed preschooler, the tape rolling as we waited for her answer.

"I want to be a singer or an ice skater," she chirped.

Okay, we thought, so far so good. But we needed more.

"Would you like to be anything else?" we led the little witness. "Like a doctor, maybe?"

That's when the giggles erupted.

"Oh, no!" the little girl said emphatically. "Mans is doctor."

Oh, my God. She was only four, and we were already too late.

So we dug in, kept writing, and the Free to Be...You and Me special would go on to win the Emmy and the Peabody, adding to its track record as a gold record album and a New York Times bestselling book. It is the TV special that is celebrating its 40th birthday this week.

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Free To Be You And Me