if there is a single human being who has most exemplified courage and decency in this country, it is pete seeger, the legendary father of the american folk music movement. his songs have become the songs of america, from "turn turn turn" and "if i had a hammer" to a good deal of "we shall overcome." on may 3 he will be honored at madison square garden on the occasion of his 90th birthday. this is a man who eschews the spotlight; but on that day, he will allow himself to be honored to raise a lot of money for the sloop clearwater, the symbol of the hudson's regeneration.
on the few occasions at which pete has accepted honors, it has been because he knew he was doing it for all of us who love him and not for himself. he came very close to turning down the kennedy center honors, but those closest to him insisted that he participate, if not for himself than for the rest of us.
i believe that pete will be here for many years to come, but we now have an opportunity to create a lasting legacy that will remind our kids and their kids about what he stands for. through our federal, state and voluntary dollars, an old railroad bridge linking greenway trails on both sides of the hudson river is being restored. this "walkway over the hudson" should be named for pete. the idea came to me in the form of an email; i had been thinking the same thing and the chorus of people in favor of the idea has grown to a deafening roar.
i live in dread that the phone will ring and there will be pete, insisting he doesn't want this honor and telling me to cut it out. i hope that i have the fortitude to tell my hero that while he is a human being like the rest of us who still goes into his woods and chops wood to heat his house, he is far more than that. he embodies an ideal that includes lessons in citizenship, human rights and dignity, preserving our environment and great and inspirational music. ask anyone-including reps. maurice hinchey and paul tonko, gov. david paterson, environmental commissioner pete grannis and the state's top environmental official, judith enk-what they think of pete, and you'll hear wonder in their voices.
if you agree with me, write to anyone who you know to make sure that this bridge, celebrating the quadricentennial of old man henry hudson's trip up the river, is named for one of the greatest of all americans, pete seeger. -- alan s. chartock is president and ceo of wamc/northeast public radio and an executive publisher at the legislative gazette.