Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger!

Pete Seeger turns 90 today! I was lucky to be able to sail on the Clearwater in Long Island Sound when I was in 5th grade. I was already really interested in the environment and the health of the ocean, but that trip was one of my first experiences of how to put caring about something into action in a way that was concrete and effective.

We sang on the trip as well. Whenever I feel discouraged, I just remember the lyrics, "The river may be dirty now but it's getting cleaner every day" and I think about how dramatically much cleaner the Hudson is now than it was when P.S. and the other members of the group started out their campaign to get polluters to stop dumping waste into the river. I've also seen Pete at many of the rallies, festivals, and demonstrations that I've attended over the years, and he was no spring chicken then!

And, of course, I have very precious memories of listening to his albums with my dad, and it gives me great pleasure to sing the same songs with my friends' children.

Lastly, I once read that when asked about the fate of the human race, Pete said something along the lines of, "Honestly, I think we are doomed - but it would be wrong to go out without a fight." That is an accurate description of my belief as well.

One of his lyrics that has always haunted me is, "If it happens to me, then also, without fail/it can happen to you/sang the world's last whale." And, as an echo of that, I think of the poem by a Russian child that he put to music during the Cold War. It goes, "May there always be sunshine, may there always be flowers, may there always be mamma, may there always be me."

So far, we are all still here. May there always be music, may there always be whales, may there always be concerned individuals who take action, may there always be Pete.

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