Originally created 08/25/02

Mayor defends moral agenda



AIKEN - Mayor Fred Cavanaugh is taking exception to a characterization of the city's character program in an upcoming book by ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings.

The book, which is scheduled for release Sept. 3 to coincide with ABC's program In Search of America, described Aiken's Character First initiative as "Sesame Street played out among adults."

Mr. Cavanaugh said that, after sitting through more than four hours of interviews with ABC producers, they chose a bad metaphor for the program, which began in 1999 and highlights a different character trait each month.

"Sesame Street is for the kids," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "To me, it lowers (the character program) to a level of just fun and games."

In Search of America will chronicle six towns, including Aiken; Gary, Ind.; Boulder, Colo.; and Salt Lake City. Excerpts from the book and information about the program can be found at www.abcnews.com.

The book's chapter on Aiken focuses on the battle of Christian faith vs. science in the story of Glenn Wilson, a science teacher who fights to have creationism taught in public schools. It also highlights Town Creek Baptist Church and the community's relationship to Savannah River Site.

The mayor said he doesn't have any other problems with the book, except for a few statements he said he didn't make. He added that while he hasn't seen the program, he eagerly awaits its airing.

Since seeing the book, Mr. Cavanaugh said, he has had people come to him and say they were "appalled" at the grouping of the popular public television show and the character program.

But the mayor also said he isn't putting down the 25-year-old show.

"I just think we are at another level," he said. "We're trying to be a bit more serious about the impact of these things."

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: An ABC News program on Aiken will air after Labor Day.