Last year Santa was interviewed by fielding questions from a host of media celebrities. That tradition continues this year. Santa recently sat down with WBC World News Correspondent Natalie Horseman in London to answer the questions sent in by media professionals all over the world. This is a transcript of their conversation:
Q: Hello, Santa. Nice to see you again.
A: Thanks, Natalie. Good to see you too. Have you been a good girl this year?
Q: Don't YOU know?
A: Well, of course I know. I just wanted to see if your definition of good matches my own.
Q: Um, sure, I guess I've been good. Shouldn't I be on your lap when you ask these things?
A: Wouldn't that compromise your objectivity as a journalist?
Q: I suppose it might. Shall we follow the same format as last year?
A: Ok just watch the Geraldo questions and let's leave Barbra Streisand out of it this time, okay?
Q: Fair enough. Our first question was sent in from Dan Rather.
A: Ok, Dan deserves first shot this year, after the hard time I gave him last year.
Q: Dan asks "Where were you on September 11th?"
A: I was in New York, actually.
Q: Really? Why? Were you anywhere near the World Trade Center?
A: I was there to negotiate a new contract to supply the North Pole with mistletoe. We can't grow our own at the North Pole, as you know.
Q: Was that at the World Trade Center?
A: No, thankfully. We were all safe where we were. I can't tell you where, it is a protected source. I'm sure you can understand.
Q: Okay. Couldn't you do something? Didn't you see it coming?
A: No, I can't watch all things at all times. I wish I could. But I'm merely a soldier in the army of good. I know nothing of evil or how to stop them.
Q: Was Mrs. Claus worried about you?
A: No, within seconds of the first impact I was in contact with the North Pole. They knew I was okay.
Q: Tom Brokaw writes to ask: "Is there something you can do about anthrax?"
A: That's a fair question coming from him. And the answer is yes I'm doing what we all do. I have taken precautions with the mail, I listen to the authorities and I watch things much more carefully now.
Q: You receive a lot of mail. Have you received anthrax in your mail?
A: No comment.
Q: Those buggers sent anthrax to Santa! How evil!
A: Calm down, Natalie. Bad folks have been trying to send me bad stuff in the mail for generations now. It is nothing new and it is no big deal. You see, personally, I think we should not make a public thing of these attacks. All it does is scare people and accomplish the dirty deeds of those people who commit them. I refuse to be part of that. So let those buggers send me all the anthrax they want. I use it for fertilizer.
A: Yes, actually. Once processed correctly anthrax is a very useful substance. And I think it is rather handy to have around. Like anything else they dish out, I'll take their evil and turn it into something good. We're growing roses now.
Q: Wow. Most folks are angry, depressed and seeking revenge.
A: I suppose some have that right. I don't blame them. But I am a very public figure and my business is the advancement of goodwill. I've got to find ways to do that no matter what the circumstances.
Q: Times have changed since we spoke a year ago, haven't they Santa?
A: Well, yes and no. There's a bit more sadness in the world. A lot of tragedy in this past year. But these are not exactly uncharted waters. We've been here before and we can overcome it.
Q: How will you help those who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center?
A: How can I help those folks? You should see the letters. They break my heart. I wish I could restore the lives lost. But I am only a man. So I will do what any man is capable of I will give everything I can to see that people feel love and peace and happiness. Hopefully, lots of others will help me with that. That will turn this whole situation completely around.
Q: Santa, aren't you discouraged?
A: No, not at all. In fact, I am more positive than ever. The last several years have been difficult because many folks have been so blessed with comforts. Now that times are tougher, people are more receptive. And times are tough -- there's an evil war brewing, folks are out of work, money is in shorter supply, and the Cubs missed the playoffs again. Things like this make the people more humble. They're teachable. And they are listening again.
Q: Are you saying that bad times are good?
A: Well, I don't wish anything bad on anyone. That is for sure. But there are silver linings in those dark clouds. We just have to recognize them and exploit them. Good times will come and go. Our goodness as individuals should not.
Q: Are you finding it is more difficult for some folks to be happy this year?
A: In some cases. But happiness is not measured in things. And that is what we all have to learn. Happiness is measured in love. And that's the real worry this year. A lot of folks are feeling unloved threatened even.
Q: Are you talking about terrorism?
A: No. That has always been around in one form or another. But what I am talking about is the way we treat each other. The stresses of just everyday life sometimes stretch tolerance to the point where we fail to be nice. And there is a lot of stress out there.
Q: What are you telling the kids about the evil they are seeing?
A: I tell them not to grow up to be that way!
Q: Is it that simple?
A: I think it is.
Q: Where does it start? How do we avoid it? It seems like each generation has to deal with a tyrant.
A: A tyrant is an individual or group that would deny freedom to choose to do good. Avoiding that evil always starts with listening to your mother. There isn't a mother alive who hasn't told her kid to be good. If we'd just listen to that, we'd be okay.
Q: Dan Patrick of ESPN sent in this question "Is it fair to say that Santa likes baseball more than any other sport?"
A: Dan Patrick? Really? THE Dan Patrick? Wow.
Q: What's the big deal about Dan Patrick? Who's Dan Patrick? Isn't he just some American sports geek?
A: Dan Patrick is huge. He's bigger than Rome. He's bigger than Rush. He may be bigger than Rather.
Q: Rome? Rush? Rather?
A: Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting you're not an American journalist, Natalie. You're probably thinking of a city, a rock group and a synonym for "instead". Go ahead. What does little Danny ask?
Q: (laughs) Is it fair to say that Santa likes baseball more than any other sport?
A: No, Natalie. Tell Dan it is not fair to say that.
Q: You don't like baseball?
A: I didn't say that. I love baseball. Just not more than any other sport.
Q: What is your favorite sport?
Q: Oh, c'mon.
A: I can't get enough of it.
Q: You expect Little Danny to believe that?
A: No, I suppose not. But I do like it. But yes, baseball is a favorite. But I like all kinds of competitive sports.
Q: Do you compete?
A: Well yes. Because of my size, most folks underestimate me. I play tennis, first base, outside linebacker, power forward and a really mean style of golf. Happy Gilmore has got nothing on me.
Q: Yes, I can picture you on a golf course.
A: Really? Why?
Q: I don't know. A big guy, dressed in red it just doesn't seem too far fetched to me, that's all.
A: Ah, I can see your point. Does that same image seem a little out of place on a tennis court?
Q: I suppose so. Next question, from Connie Chung. She asks, "Do you remember Gary Condit?"
A: She's being snide, isn't she? Well, I have a question for her then: Does she remember Bill Clinton?
Q: You really don't like the Clintons, do you?
A: Oh, my personal views don't have anything to do with anything.
Q: Oh, but they do! Here's a Barbara Walters question: If you were stuck on a deserted island with Barbra Steisand, Celine Dion, Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda, what would you do?
A: Learn to swim.
Q: (laughs) Mrs. Claus never told me how funny you are!
A: You should never talk to Mrs. Claus about me.
Q: Why not?
A: Because she is liable to tell the truth, that's why!
Q: Yes, like when she explained about how you like watching Survivor each week while eating a bowl of rice and beans?
A: She told you that?
A: Well, this season I'm watching it alone.
Q: Last year's interview drew a lot of mail and viewer reaction. Why don't you do more interviews?
A: Well, I'm a busy guy. I have a big job to do. Besides, our mission is to spread the goodwill of the season. If we depend upon the media to do that for us, we'd compromise the mission.
Q: Are you saying the media misrepresents you?
A: Sometimes they do. But it's not just the media, Natalie. A lot of folks misrepresent me.
Q: Really? Like who?
A: Companies! My gosh, have you seen my picture everywhere? It has been going on for decades. They have me holding soft drinks. The show me wearing tattoos. They put my image behind the wheels of their cars. I'm in all their holiday advertisements. From beer to tobacco to toys to lingerie, my picture is everywhere. It is disgraceful. It is wrong. And it really ticks off Mrs. Claus too.
Q; But Santa is such a positive, happy image. What's wrong with that?
A: Because it implies that I endorse their products. It leads people to believe that it is okay to associate excess with the pure goodness of the season. In fact, it creates an even bigger job for those of us who are the caretakers of Christmas.
Q: I thought you said that most corporations are harmless?
A: It's true that I get a lot of support from some of them. Fed Ex, UPS and the shipping companies are especially helpful in the Santa effort. The Disney company, Kodak, Microsoft and others lend their technologies freely to the cause. But at the same time, many of those same organizations exploit the image of Santa to make a buck and that is wrong. I'm a friend to many companies but not to any of their marketing departments!
Q: Does it happen that much, Santa?
A: Yes, it happens on every level. Look at the Internet. There are hundreds of web sites out there that claim to be "Santa's Official Web Site". But how can they be? Most of them sell advertising. Many of them sell things under my name!
Q: They do?
A: Yes, it is absurd. There are web sites that charge MONEY to a kid for a letter that is supposedly from ME. How awful is that? I would NEVER do that.
Q: Why don't you sue them? Get them to stop?
A: To what end? So that Santa can be viewed as a bully? Most of those web sites are run by stay-at-home moms who struggle to make ends meet. Their hearts are in the right place, even if they've got their heads stuck in their wallets. It is a terrible dilemma.
Q: But it is an outrageous fraud. Don't you think you can do something about it?
A: Well, I'm open to suggestions. But I am hardly the first to experience such a thing. What about all those sports figures and celebrities whose mere signatures are merchandise for others? A kid goes to a basketball game and gets Michael Jordan's autograph. In the old days, that would be the end of it just a simple kid dream fulfilled. But now, that kid is growing up in a society where he is encouraged to take the autograph and auction to the highest bidder on the Internet. It has gotten so bad that when a sports figure refuses to be a part of it, they make him look like a Scrooge.
Q: Is there no recourse then?
A: The best response is to stay above it, I think. True believers understand that Santa is not about stuff. Christmas is not about winning the lottery. Christmas and Santa is all about love and giving. That's it. We focus on that, and hopefully the right will prevail.
Q: Is it harder these days to be Santa?
A: No. Just different. A mere hundred and twenty years ago the big issue was child labor. Remember that? Kids were missing school and forced to work 16, 17, 18 hours a day or more for six days a week in the most deplorable conditions. Oh, it was tough to be Santa then because those kids had such little hope.
Q: Are today's kids out of touch at heart because they have so much?
A: Not at all. In fact, it is just the opposite. Kids today have opportunity handed to them and most, due to the innocence of their age, make the most of it. Kids today are smart, well-spoken, and capable of so much good. Many kids especially those ages 7 to 12 feel resentment for not being treated more as adults. They write me letters very adult letters and it is not always about what they want or what they think is cool. They write with their concerns for the world. They write with ideas they would never discuss with adults or with parents because they know that Santa will take them seriously. Kids today don't want to be dismissed. They want to be treated like the intelligent creatures that they are.
Q: What kind of adult themes do you discuss with today's kids?
A: These days the topics are varied. They ask about death. Terrorism. Politics. Classroom sizes. Kid's rights. Divorce. All kinds of stuff.
Q: Wow. I had no idea.
A: See what I mean?
Q: So how do you respond to these things?
A: I talk to them about what they think and how they feel. With many kids I have shared long conversations by mail or email. Some write all year long. It is a most rewarding experience for me. They teach me a great deal.
Q: What kind of adults do you think these kids will become?
A: They have the potential within them to be great. So many great minds in young bodies these days! There is but one thing that will destroy their world. And that is the way they treat each other.
Q: Are kids hard on other kids?
A: Yes, they can be brutal. Rough. And that's where the adults of today can help.
Q: Santa do you think you're making a difference?
A: I can see how overwhelming it can feel that all you do is for nothing. Especially with so much evil and wrong in the world. But, picture this, think about a year passing without a Christmas. And what do you see?
Q: What do you mean?
A: Just take Christmas and Santa off the calendar. What does the world then become?
Q: A little more sad, I suppose.
A: A lot more sad. I say bless the day! Bless the season! It is a time with hearts turn to others. It is a time when people plan to be together. They share something fun. Do something memorable. And give each other things of significance. Take all that out of the world, and we'd all be pretty empty before long. It is not about me. But it is about people who try to do what I do. And they find, in the end, that Christmas is not really work. It is a blessing.
Q: Santa you've put me in the mood for Christmas!
A: Thank you. That's just what my job is.
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