Dr. King, Pete Seeger, & Barack Obama

Remembering their messages in times of great adversity.

There was perhaps no better choice for a performer at Barack Obama's inauguration celebration last Sunday night than Pete Seeger.  Not only does Seeger embody Obama's notion of breaking down political, economical, and cultural divides to fire up the masses, but both convey such powerful messages through seemingly simple means. 

From Obama, we've had catchphrases like Hope, Change, Yes We Can, and Change We Can Believe In throughout his campaign.  And from Seeger, we've had about seven decades of anthems like "We Shall Overcome," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," "If I Had a Hammer," and "This Land Is Your Land," a hearfelt rendition of which Seeger sang with Bruce Springsteen Sunday night in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  These are songs everyone knows, songs of protest used by progressives over the years to end racial discrimination, labor unrest, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, apartheid, and human rights violations.  Think Seeger deserves a Nobel Prize for Peace? 

Like Obama, Seeger's ideological core is deeply rooted in the anti-war movement and civil rights era of the twentieth century.  And so just as it was profoundly meaningful to have the first African-American President sworn in a day after Dr. King's holiday, it was also significant to watch Seeger up there the day before. 

ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.
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