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Pete Seeger's music and the inspiration and hope he gave to so many will be the highlights, correctly so, of what many people remember about him. But, I'd like to make sure that we remember the singular aspect about Pete Seeger that really makes him unique: the activist.

It can all be summed up in this piece about his quiet, persistent protest against the Iraq War. He did not need an entourage, nor a press conference, or media release to announce his presence. He just came:

 

But for the last four years, most Saturdays he has been keeping his vigil in Wappingers Falls, usually not recognized by the hundreds of drivers who whiz by. It is a long road from 1969, when to protest the Vietnam War he sang John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” at the foot of the Washington Monument.

“After two minutes, thousands were singing,” he recalled. “After three minutes, four minutes, a hundred thousand were singing. At the end of eight minutes, all five hundred thousand were singing.”

These days, fewer than a dozen protesters usually participate, while nearly as many who support the war in Iraq hold a counterdemonstration across Route 9. Mr. Seeger, a political activist who has traveled the world, rarely ventures farther than the few miles from here to his home in Beacon, N.Y.

And:
At one point, Mr. Seeger looked across the highway to the knot of counterdemonstrators. “They always have more flags,” Mr. Seeger said. “But our signs are more fun.” He said he crossed the street once about a year ago and talked to a veteran.

“I shook his hand and said, ‘I’m glad we live in a country where we can disagree with each other without shooting at each other.’ He had to shake my hand. He didn’t know what to say. I even picked up a little litter over there.”

And:
Asked whether he thought that protesting by the side of the road would help end the war, he said: “I don’t think that big things are as effective as people think they are. The last time there was an antiwar demonstration in New York City I said, ‘Why not have a hundred little ones?’ ”

He said that working for peace was like adding sand to a basket on one side of a large scale, trying to tip it one way despite enormous weight on the opposite side.

“Some of us try to add more sand by teaspoons,” he explained. “It’s leaking out as fast as it goes in and they’re all laughing at us. But we’re still getting people with teaspoons. I get letters from people saying, ‘I’m still on the teaspoon brigade.’ ”[emphasis added]

Little gestures mattered.

Persistence.

Belief.

3:38 AM PT: If people want, maybe use this place to post links or anecdotes about Seeger the activist (other diarists have posted lovely thoughts about his music)

Originally posted to Tasini on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 02:46 AM PST.

Also republished by Rebel Songwriters and Protest Music.

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