Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This historic day, and my complete lack of ability to write about it.

Obviously, this day will go down in history in a big way. Obviously, all I can say about it are stupid, trite things. So I'm not gonna try to wax poetic; instead I'll plagiarize Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party. Of course, it's not really plagiarism if I'm giving him credit, right? Anyway, here's an email message I received this morning, and I thought it was pretty cool. I really like the last line: "Let's hear it for audacity - and hope."

* * *

Dear WFP Supporter,

Woody Guthrie never expected "This Land Is Your Land" to be played at an Inaugural celebration when he penned it in 1940. But he probably never expected a President Obama either.

Below is a link to the Bruce Springsteen-Pete Seeger (plus Pete's grandson Tao) rendition of Guthrie's most famous song, performed at Sunday's "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial. If you've already seen it, well, my hunch is you won't mind seeing it again:

Watch the performance

One can only imagine the pleasure these singers, especially Pete, must have felt. Guthrie's great anthem was written in the shadow of the Great Depression, after a decade of worker and farmer organizing from coast to coast.

Today's struggle is different, but yesterday's song still resonates. And how great to have it sung in celebration of both the King Holiday and the Obama Inauguration, with Mr. Lincoln (and the Obama family) looking on.

It's worth noting that they sang the entire song, including the more provocative verses usually left out. Sing it to yourself if you don't already know it:

"In the squares of the city - By the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office - I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin
If this land's still made for you and me."

Chorus [this land is my land…]

"There was a big high wall there - that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted - it said private property;
But on the other side - it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me."

Chorus [this land is my land…]

"Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking - that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me."


There's plenty of work ahead as we support and pressure and cajole and e-mail our new President and Congress, but this moment of the peaceful transition of power, of a much needed shift from darkness to light, is one to savor.

Let's hear it for audacity. And hope.

Dan Cantor
WFP Executive Director

PS - Pete Seeger was nice enough to record a message for the WFP's 10th Anniversary bash last fall. You can watch it here at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD6mUc2FTkI

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