Friday, April 15, 2011

Pete Seeger's "A Thousand Little Initiatives" on US Route 6

These are tough economic times for our country, but it's not the first time and it won't be the last.  About 8 years ago, I had the good fortune to interview Pete Seeger, born in 1920 and with intimate knowledge about the Great Depression, for a boating magazine.  The topic was the part he played in the cleanup of the Hudson River.  I told him I just needed thirty minutes.  He invited me to his home - set on a wooded hillside overlooking that mighty Hudson - and at 8am, we sat at his kitchen table where I listened and wrote and listened and wrote until I looked up and it was 2pm. He spoke about getting the Sloop Clearwater built and about all the people who came down to the "stinking sewer that was the Hudson," recognizing the need to clean the river up when the ship docked in each town.   Six hours had gone by in an instant.  Pete apologized for not offering me lunch.   Shortly after the interview began, Seeger stated that he had little hope for the human race; that he didn't think there'd BE a human race in 100 years.  But by the end of the six hours, something made him change his mind.  He considered all the causes he is (still) asked to support, the "thousands of little initiatives" out there in America, and believed that with all these initiatives and all this energy and hope - why, there might be a chance for us yet.

As I research my way through Route 6 cities and towns, I understand what Seeger was telling me.  Small towns are in decline, businesses and corporations move out leaving unemployment in their wake.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fires wreak havoc.  And yet, there's this strength out there, people helping neighbors, recreating downtowns, preserving what's important.  A thousand little initiatives on Route 6.

And, just so you know, I'll be traversing and then crossing the Hudson River - so breathtaking it inspired a whole school of art.  Stay on Route 6 and you'll see it, too. 

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