The Poughkeepsie Page
Dutchess Peace Coalition to pay tribute to activist Pete Seeger
Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Updated: Wednesday, October 1, 2008
As he makes his way through his late 80s, renowned folk singer and peace activist Pete Seeger is anything but idle: He has a new album set to be released this month, he was on tour this summer throughout the United States and in Canada and, as a Dutchess County resident, he protests the Iraq War every Saturday at the intersection of Route 9 and 9D.
On Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Muddy Cup in downtown Poughkeepsie, the Dutchess Peace Coalition will pay tribute to the singer by screening the documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, a film that shows that Seeger is still full of spirit, vigor and hope.
The Dutchess Peace Coalition is a group of Dutchess County residents whose aim is to promote peace, justice and an end to the war in Iraq. Group member Carolann Koehler explained that the group was founded just before the war broke out in 2003.
“It was just a few people getting together to try to stop the war,” said Koehler. “Now, we continue to work on our mission to end the Iraq War. We plan different peace activities, we have demonstrations, protest, vigils and rallies.” With what the group calls the “Give Peace a Film Series,” the coalition screens a film at the Muddy Cup once every month. Each screening is followed by an open discussion.
Group member Pat Lamanna explained why the Coalition chose the Seeger documentary. “It is a very inspiring film because it tells the story of a very inspiring human being. We want to inspire people to activism and to show them how much of a difference just one person can make,” she said.
“We also want to honor Seeger for a number of reasons,” Lamanna explained. “He is a local person who vigils with us quite frequently. He’s one of the Dutchess County activists and essentially an honorary member of Dutchess Peace.”
The film, directed by Jim Brown, premiered in October 2007 and features interviews and testimonials from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie and other notable artists.
Seeger, who lives 30 miles south of Poughkeepsie in Beacon, N.Y., won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, was honored at the Kennedy Center by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and received the Living Legends award from the Library of Congress in 2000.
“He has traveled around the world as an ambassador for the causes of peace and justice,” Lamanna explained. “His songs have been sung all over the world. He spreads the message of peace.”
Though undeniably successful, Seeger remains a man of humble values and noble ideals. In his review of the documentary, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote, “Famous as he is, Seeger seems to exist outside of, and in opposition to, the commercial machinery of celebrity. His sensibility is cosmopolitan but also agrarian, devoted to land, family and community—to traditional American values, you might say.”
Because of the character and integrity of the great man who is the subject of this documentary—and also because of the quality of the film itself—Vassar students would enjoy and appreciate the screening and the discussion to follow, explained Muddy Cup owner Jim Svetz.
“If this film were being shown on campus, you would be surrounded by other Vassar students,” he said. “I think it is good to go and meet the Peace Coalition and have an open discussion with older people, younger people, people that may have met Seeger and been there when he was fighting in the Vietnam War or been there when he was an activist.”
Svetz added, “At the Muddy Cup, we are a coffee house, and I feel that that is a place that you can go and get an opinion about everything and be exposed to all different views of the community. Vassar students should expose themselves to all venues and all points of view in general—that is part of what being a college student is all about.”
Koehler agreed, saying, “The discussion after the films is often the highlight of the evening.”
This is not the first event of its kind at the Muddy Cup. The coffee house often hosts events in response to the interest and demand of the public.
“All the events that we do, including the Seeger events, are all driven by the demand of the community,” Svetz explained. “People come in and they say we would like to do this. And then we do it.”
Both Svetz and Koehler hope that Seeger himself will be able to attend the Oct. 3 screening. “There is a chance he will be there. We hope so,” Koehler said.
Koehler is eager to see students’ reactions to the film. “I hope Vassar students will be interested in what is going on in their community. We are always trying to build bridges and work together with young people. It would be great if students came.”