“When I sing Amazing Grace,” Seeger writes, “I usually remind audiences that the words were written by a man who had for ten years been captain of a slave ship, but in his thirties he quit and … started the antislavery movement in England. He turned his life around and gave us hope that we can turn our country around.”
Seeger’s life is a lesson in citizenship.
In His Own Words is a collection of essays and letters Seeger stored in his barn for years, sobering words that show us what social responsibility looks like. He tells about the time his family was attacked during the Peekskill Riots in 1949 ~ he took home the stones that smashed the car window and cemented them into his fireplace. And at the time he found himself cited for contempt of Congress during the McCarthy era, Seeger penned a time capsule letter on the spot to his grandchildren. “Communism,” he wrote, “has urged me on, to continually learn, to continually better myself in every way, to always give more for the common good of the working people of America and the world.”
That’s Pete Seeger’s legacy, his gift to me and you.
Excerpts from In His Own Words ~
“If the world survives these dangerous times, the folk process will go on, and music and poetry can help us teach love and common sense to foolish people who think that money and power are the important things in life.”
“The best thing you can do is make up your mind that you will be living in an unpleasant world for much of your lives. This is not pessimism; it’s maturity—the beginning of wisdom.”
“I’m just one more grain of sand in this world, but I’d rather throw my weight, however small, on the side of what I think is right than selfishly look after my own fortunes and have to live with a bad conscience.”
Thank you, Pete Seeger, for singing out in a world where the din of injustice is deafening. Your words are sweeter than wine.