(I met Pete Seeger a few times, and had the chance to see him almost every year for the last 30 years at his beloved Clearwater Festival on the Hudson River. One of my art professors at SUNY Purchase, Antonio Frasconi, created the woodcut of the Sloop Clearwater that was used each year on the festival program. In 2010, I was asked to be on a committee for a Virtual Rally for Middle East Peace, and the performers included Pete Seeger, Mandy Patinkin, Ian Anderson, Tuck & Patti, David Broza and more. It was a life-changing experience and I am forever grateful.)
Who are our teachers? Our teachers can be all around us, in the classroom and beyond. They can be our children or our parents. They can be our brothers and sisters. They can be friends and strangers. They provide inspiration when you need it and impact when you least expect it. If the measure of a man can be determined by the lives he touched and the lessons he taught both seen and unseen, Pete Seeger would surely reach the moon.
Despite his long life of 94 years, when I learned of Pete Seeger’s passing, I was overcome with emotion, as were so many. Feelings on both ends of a spectrum spanning sadness for a life ending, and celebration, respect, and honor for what Pete has contributed to this world and this earth, in song and in the lessons and legacy left behind for future generations to build on, from human rights to the river’s edge. There was a hope too; that he may have had peace in his final moments, and possibly that he was ready to leave this earth and let the many he taught and influenced carry on his work for the causes he so heartedly believed in to his core.
Timing is interesting from day to day. Not long before Pete died, I had been having a bit of a struggle with feeling a sense of purpose. I’ve spent a great deal of my life giving back in many ways, from volunteering for disaster relief to participating in charity marathons, to performing at benefits, to fundraising, to animal rescue to serving on committees and Boards from women’s rights to peace in the middle east, and a handful of other items that few people know about. My life’s mission is to make a difference in this world, and I have done a lot to make that happen so far as have countless others. So why was I feeling this way? Perhaps it was the busyness of the world, perhaps it was feeling unappreciated for the efforts even though I know it’s not about that, perhaps it was from spending too much time on the mission and not enough time on my own work, perhaps it was feeling like no matter what me and thousands of others were doing, there is still war, there is still pollution, there is still poverty, there is still racism, there are still shootings, and so much more. It was a down time where I’d felt like I was giving giving giving but that it wasn’t making enough of a difference, or that it seemed to fall on deaf ears in this fast moving world.
Then Pete died and I was instantly catapulted into remembering the WHY. Because it’s what you do. It’s who you are. When you are a person of purpose, you can’t help yourself. I may not be able to fix the world, but I can continue to strive to make the differences that one person can make, and when Pete died, it was like a reminder and a wake up call to never give up on the purpose of what you believe in, and everything you are doing to make this world a better place.
As a friend said, “Pete was one of the few that changed the lives of many”. It’s about doing the right thing, with song, with heart, and with soul. Thank you Pete. For all of the differences you made. Your work will live on, your stories will be shared, and your songs will sing on.