Tag Archives: Woody Guthrie

Dancing with Speeches #46 March on Washington

In late August 1963, Martin Luther King led the march on Washington for jobs and freedom and delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. His words rang in the ears of a generation: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”  This is a dream that is yet to be fulfilled and now we find ourselves on the brink of another march bringing another generation to a nation’s capital.  Here is a speech that might be heard in January 2017 to introduce a very special contributor.

Thank you for coming today to Washington.  We are living the dream – the dream of Martin Luther King; the dream of women and men, boys and girls throughout history who have stood together shoulder to shoulder, the dream of Maya Angelou to rise up, the dream of women like Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton to lead our nation, the dreams of all the little girls who have been hugged by their grandmothers and told they can do anything.  These are our dreams and we will not let them go  away for anyone and we will keep working on making them come true.

Thank you to the wonderful Indigo Girls for leading us in song – what a great choice – This Land is Your Land.  Yes it is this is our land and there is no more turning back.  Thank you Mavis Staples for rousing us with We shall overcome and to the amazing southern belles – Beyonce, Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton – for singing Higher and Higher – because you know how it is …. when they go low … we go high.  There is no movement without music and it is a joy to see so many young musicians and singers taking up the mantle and leading the way for their sisters and brothers.

What are your dreams? I am dreaming for justice, for freedom, for emancipation from fear. I am dreaming for equity.  There is nothing else we can dream for – without equity there is no growth in our economy, no social stability and at worst no hope. We are trading in hope and we are in credit!  We are trading in justice and we are in credit!  We are trading in courage and we are in credit!

We are bound together.  We prosper together.  We grow together – and we liberate each other.  We turn to each other in our moments of grief, in our moments of disappointment and we turn to each other in our moments of success – and success we will have – we will overcome and that day is coming, not just some day, but today and tomorrow and the next day.

With grace, grit and gratitude we will rise.

With courage and humility and tenacity we will rise.

And now join with me to welcome our next next speaker – Michelle Obama.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

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.

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Are Stadiums the new Cathedrals?

This week I made a pilgrimage to Melbourne to see one of my all time favourite American musicians- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I wasn’t alone in my pilgrimage … thousands of fans around the world have made similar pilgrimages. I wonder if stadiums (or is it stadia?) are the new Cathedrals in our fiercely secular country? There was certainly the call and response, the altar call, the faithful and the high priest. There was ritual and liturgy. We all knew what to expect and what part we had to play – supporting the star to crowd surf, reverently remembering the fallen, acclaiming the alchemy, respecting the hallowed ground and finding our own spirit nourished by the sound, the energy and the message. The standing up, sitting down, dancing, waving, hand clapping, air punching, sign holding, gentle swaying; all liturgical movements of their own like fingers in a glove, in place and in time.

Songlines that bind generations and cultures together sharing the same vision for a world where the worker is at the heart of society. No job too small or too big and certainly this was a band that has earnt its reputation as the ‘hardest working band in rock and roll”. They are like the union choirs and bands of old, blending their voices, instruments and message into one harmonious and triumphant wall of sound (yes there were a few moments that Phil Spector would have been very happy). Watching them work together was a master class in team work and collaboration. There was room for everyone. I kept noticing the guitar technicians, the lighting crew, the backstage staff, all worker bees buzzing around to be in the exact right place and the exact right time and never failing or faulting. When the final applause came the conductor, team captain, high priest and guru all rolled into one, patted everyone on the back before he left the stage, a job well done that they all did together. Yes a masterclass in leadership as well was thrown in.

Hildegard, my hunch is that your Abbey and the cathedrals you frequented were like this stadium too – full of pilgrims, talent and glorious sounds. Your music still brings me to my feet, fills my soul with joy and a message that sustains me. I can imagine you and Bruce sitting down together with your communities maybe on an E Street somewhere and discovering what your communities both have in common.

Arm the Homeless

Seeing Tom’s guitar shouting out messages that Woody Guthrie would have been proud, has plenty in common with your sisters leaving their homes and supporting your land reforms. The legacy of Clarence and his saxophone lives on and the homage paid by the faithful would be understood and shared as gift given and still being received by the next generation. You might have a conversation about recent elections – Obama and Francis – and discuss your own parts in those historical events. I know as an Aussie a long way from the US, how grateful I am to Bruce for helping out on Obama’s campaign and have given thanks more than once!

I love the continuous tradition that music enables of speaking truth to power, providing a vehicle for the masses to sing their songs of hope and fear, celebration and commemoration, grief and joy. I love the threads that come together when I can hear a celtic reel in an working class anthem or a drone echoing in a chorus or an organ chord progression that is ancient and commanding as ever.

Maybe the stadium is the new cathedral or maybe it isn’t – but I know that across the aeons we are all connected and kairos happens. That special and unique moment that connects me, in real time, to both Bruce and Hildegard; E Street and Bingen.

Check out the Notes from the Road #2 Melbourne

Rod Laver Arena, March 26, 2013