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Pete Seeger – “Forever Young” (2012):
The Story Behind “Forever Young” by Pete Seeger (2012):
The Bard Of Protest, Pete Seeger CBC Radio Podcast (2020):
When we think of Pete Seeger now, many of us might have an image of a kindly, principled, grandfatherly man singing songs of peace, love, justice, harmony and freedom. The songs he’s most associated with — like Where Have All The Flowers Gone? If I Had a Hammer, Turn, Turn, Turn and We Shall Overcome — hardly sound threatening or seditious.
And yet, in the post-Second World War era, the political establishment despised him and denounced Seeger as a radical. He was blacklisted as a communist.
While Woody Guthrie wrote the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar, Seeger inscribed on his banjo the words, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender”. And Seeger’s songs became the anthems of protest and progressive change for a generation fed up with war, economic inequality and racial injustice.
These resources are courtesy of Amnesty International USA -https://www.amnestyusa.org/
- Pete Seeger – The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems – Spoken Word Set to a World of Music (2013)
- Pete Seeger: Storm King, Vol. 2 (2016)
Download This Free, Printable Pete Seeger Colouring Page!
7 thoughts on “Pete Seeger”
Pete Seeger’s cover of Bob Dylan’s song, “Forever Young”, is a tribute to young people and the potential that they have in terms of their ability to create positive change in the world. Throughout the song, Seeger reinforces his belief that everyone has the power to effect change.
I find that Seeger’s mission is very similar to that of Greta Thunberg, a powerful young environmental-activist from Sweden. She has inspired young people from all over the world to stand up to government leaders and demand justice for the Earth given its current fragile state. Though she is young, Thunberg doesn’t allow her age in any way impact her abilities. Similarly, Seeger, though 91 at the time that this song was performed, continues to remain a beacon of inspiration for others.
I believe that Thunberg and Seeger share the common message of the importance of young people becoming involved in issues that they are passionate about. When youth are given power, they have the ability to do amazing things, and their work helps to reinforce this message.
In addition, I believe that Seeger is an inspiration to people from all walks of life, because he promotes challenging one’s ideals for the pursuit of reaching new limits. Simply abiding by social norms will never cause reason for change, and therefore he helps millennials to gain a new perspective on the importance of exercising one’s right to freedom of speech.
Valuscha, I liked how you connected Greta Thunburg with Pete Seeger’s message. There are many young people who went through my mind as I read your response, some of those people include Malala Yousafzai, the advocate for equal access to education. However, another thing that went through my mind as I read your response were those youth gatherings and conferences such as World Youth Day or the local conferences such as Steubenville Toronto which I have been blessed to have attended previously. Other motivation events and speakers I have heard from to encourage young people was Peter Tolias, founder of “I Can We Can”. Young people need to hear words of motivation. Specifically with the Vietnamese culture (I don’t know very much how things are with other cultures), young people are not regarded highly until you actually become adults or “move up the hierarchy”. However, I say those days of “hierarchy” of “difference of ages” is gone. Young people are as capable of being advocates as adults and that their abilities should not be underestimated.
If we want to have strong, morally stable society in years to come, young people need to have the chance to speak up and that is what Pope Francis has advocated in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, what many world leaders and celebrities have advocated for and what this project, The Awakening Project has been committed to doing.
Awesome response! Like Vincent, I love the way you were able to connect Pete’s message of being young at heart to contemporary youth activists that we see today. I definitely agree that we need to encourage, foster, and tap into the immense potential that our youth have and instill in them from a young age that they are ambassadors of peace and humanity. I attended a Catholic high school and a very prominent saying in our school was that “We are God’s Hands” and this was meant to encourage us as students to do good works because the future lies with us and we are the ones with whom God speaks through. Becoming a part of the solution in issues we are passionate about is something that I think we actively and consciously need to encourage more in our youth so that they know they have a valid and relevant voice and this is a crucial step in enacting significant change for the world. Well done!
“May you stay forever young.” Pete Seeger – an 91-year-old man gives words of wisdom to a group of young children. At first glance when I opened the webpage leading to the videos of the song and the story behind the song, I did not really know what to expect. However, upon listening to the song and understanding the story behind it, some thoughts came through my mind.
What does it really mean when Pete Seeger says to the children, “May you stay forever young?” For me, three specific Bible verses came up in my mind and I wish to share them here in the context of this song.
 “And I will go in to the altar of God: to God who giveth joy to my youth.” (Ps 43:4 Douay-Rheims)
 “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:15 NRSV-CE)
 “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12 NRSV-CE)
Seeger through this song, wishes the children God’s blessings upon them to do what is right, speak up for the truth, “May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you.” But how does God and truth fit into the this passageway of “youth”, of being “forever young”? We need to look at the two Bible verses one from Psalm 43:4 and one from Mark 10:15 from the story of Jesus and the Children. If you truly want to followers of Jesus, we need to be “young” not in a literal sense, but spiritually. Young children have that joy inside of them when they see something new and they really have the urge to pursue their dreams. Our faith in Jesus Christ must be so. Each time we encounter Jesus Christ, in Word and Sacrament, in the people we meet, we must be youthful in the sense that like children, like young people encounter a great cause, they are curious, they are happy. We must do the same when we put Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, the “Way, Truth and Life.” (cf. Jn 14:6)
Yet, things do not stop there. We cannot keep the joy of encountering the Truth to ourselves, but rather, have that reflected “example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” That is what Seeger strives to speak through this song. “May you stay forever young,” is a call for people of all ages to have a young heart to act upon the truth, to stand up for the injustices that arise in the world today. Like youth, we must be energetic and passionate and speak plainly innocently about the truth, and sometimes, the truths that must be said are things that we do not want to hear. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the horrors and terrors of injustices in the world.
“May you stay forever young,” is a call for all to stand up and face the truth of injustices that the world is confronted with today and not to turn a blind eye to them.
The videos on Pete Seeger and the documentation of his journey was a very interesting for me on a personal level as I want to be a constitutional lawyer in the future. I’ve had my heart set on being a constitutional lawyer since middle school. I have the same passions as Pete, I want to help others and I want to advocate for their rights through the legal avenue. I think Pete was an inspiration to many, but as someone who shares the same dreams as him I would think the people themselves were Pete’s inspiration. The fact that Pete continued his work even through his old age and was seen advocating through the streets for human rights when he was 92 years old, is something I absolutely want to mirror – that is how I envision my life to be and that is what I want to be doing at 92 years old. I think Pete is sending a very important message to the youth to inspire, encourage, and mobilize them to pursue their passions and be of service to humanity, because what we need are helpers of humanity. I absolutely adored the idea of giving the children in his band a copy of the universal declaration of human rights as prescribed by the UN to make them human rights ambassadors from the very beginning and this is something I wish had known about when I was growing up at a younger age as well.
I love that you wrote ‘I would think the people themselves were Pete’s inspiration.’ That is so insightful! Would Pete Seeger want us to focus on him as an inspiration, or on the people who bravely continue on in the face of injustice every day?
I think this is also something that is inspiring about young people. Often youth activism emerges out of a perception of injustice, totally regardless of what they are ‘taught’ by ‘the system’. As I get older and become more integrated into the ‘system’ of adult life, it’s exciting but also kind of scary to think that young people may choose to take this system down. Thinking about youth activist movements makes me less eager to try and teach young people about justice, and more eager to listen to what young people themselves think about issues of justice. Maybe part of Pete’s secret to longevity in activism is learning to constantly listen to the emerging perspectives of young people. What do you think? Is activism something we inculcate in young people, or something that naturally emerges regardless of what older generations do (or don’t do)?
I must be honest; I had never heard of Pete Seeger before engaging with these materials. What an inspiring life!
My first question is, ‘how was this man able to stay politically engaged and also kind and gentle for so many years?’ I wonder if he ever went through periods of his life when he felt jaded or cynical. If not, how!
It interested me when he points out the semantic emptiness of the word ‘conservative’. I think the same is true of the word ‘liberal’ today. These words basically refer to affiliation with a political party nowadays. The actual meaning of the words – wanting to protect what is old, and desiring freedom – are both things that I would subscribe to. Do we need new political vocabulary?
Another interesting point was his defence of community song. This seems to connect to the work of John McKnight that we discussed a few weeks ago. It also connects with the pieces on Bono and Eugene Patterson. In some ways the Psalms were, and continue to be, a kind of ancient community songbook.
A final thing that stood out to be from the recorded interview was Pete’s observation that ‘You don’t see big marches in Washington anymore’. This was recorded in the mid-90’s. The sense that young people are not engaged enough in politics was felt strongly in the West throughout the 00’s I think. However, it certainly doesn’t seem true anymore. The last decade has seen huge marches in Washington (and around the world) on several occasions. Often it is young people who are at the forefront of these marches.