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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tipper Visits School With Fuzzy Friends in Tow

It was one of those moments that school kids remember forever. It wasn't quite the visit of the President, and not all of the first- and second-graders at Moscow school No. 1634 had heard of Tipper Gore, but they all knew Busiya and Kubik, the fuzzy, lovable muppet stars of children's television show, "Ulitsa Sezam," or "Sesame Street."


When the 49-year-old wife of U.S. Vice President Al Gore appeared Monday onstage next to the famed orange and pink television characters, the audience of giggling 6- and 7-year-olds knew that this was a woman with influence.


"We have an important guest with us today," said Kubik, throwing his mouth wide open and rolling his eyes.


"Her name is Mrs. Gore and she is the wife of the American vice president.


She's been to Russia four times."


"I loved to go to school," said Gore to a mesmerized audience. "I loved to read."


"Wow. I want to be a vice president," screamed Busiya, going into a fit of giggles.


"You've got a lot to learn first," replied Mrs. Gore, who announced that she, too, wanted to learn something before her time at school No. 1634 was up.


"Can we teach Mrs. Gore something?," asked Kubik.


The children roared their approval.


Out from under the table, came a sign with Cyrillic letters on it, and the hundred or so first- and second-graders sitting on chairs in the audience went to work, shouting out in unison the names of several Cyrillic letters for their guest.


Gore, who is accompanying her husband to the ninth meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, visited school No. 1634 for almost two hours Monday morning to meet with students, parents, teachers, and a small group of Russian and foreign journalists.


Gore, wearing a bright purple, two piece suit, arrived at the school shortly after 10 a.m. in a motorcade of six white jeeps led by a police car. Whether she knew it or not, she was visiting one of Moscow's most innovative public schools, one that combines an emphasis on ecology with an international academic curriculum.


Her first event, watching an English lesson, took place inside a red brick bungalow crowded with large indoor plants and bird cages. After greeting her in the traditional Russian manner -- with an oversized bouquet of daisies and roses -- 10 excited first-graders in an English lesson demonstrated their command of the language.


"Hello Mrs. Gore," they announced in unison. "How are you today?"


"My impression was tremendous and so was the children's," said teacher Oksana Zavrazhnova, 32, who led the children in alphabet games and songs before they were bused down the road to the middle school assembly room to meet the Muppets.


Zavrazhnova wasn't the only one impressed. Following the assembly with Kubik and Busiya, Gore met with three parents and three teachers for a discussion that focused on how parent involvement in schools helps children.


"I want to tell you about the National Parent-Teacher Association," said Mrs. Gore, who is President Bill Clinton's adviser on mental health policy and promotes children's as well as adult mental health issues.


Gore didn't have to explain much further. The three parents said that they already meet monthly with the school administration to discuss problems, although, they said, it tends to be on a case-by-case basis.


"We discussed our common problems," said parent Yelena Pershina, 37. "I was impressed by the fact that in the United States, there is a government organization for teachers and parents," she said.


Even without the government, Pershina seemed to do fine. After the meeting she marched straight to her daughter's fourth-grade classroom to describe to the teacher and children, detail by detail, what happened in the previous hour and a half.


"The teacher canceled the lesson so I could talk about Mrs. Gore," she said.


"The students all wanted to know what happened."


Apart from her visit to the school, Mrs. Gore spent most of her two days in Moscow sightseeing around town with Valentina Chernomyrdin, the wife of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, before leaving with the vice president for a one-day visit to Samara on Wednesday morning. She added that since she first came to Russia she noticed, "more colors" in Moscow. But she also commented on Russia's rising poverty, which she said would most likely be a topic of discussion in future Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission meetings.


"[Poverty's] going to be an issue that's definitely going to be under discussion in the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission meetings -- as well as at home," she said. "That's something that's definitely going to be brought up with serious ideas exchanged on how to deal with it during a time of transition."


But the highlight of the morning was Mrs. Gore's 20 minute dialogue with the Muppets.


"There were about 10 first grade children who had to attend a tennis lesson and couldn't go to the assembly," said Zavrazhnova. "When they heard Busiya and Kubik were at the school, there were a lot of tears."