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Megan Scott

Editor, Knox Magazine

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Seeger Sings for Sandburg

Pete Seeger performs at the Carl Sandburg centenary celebration.

Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who passed away in January 2014, performed at Knox 36 years ago as part of the Carl Sandburg centenary celebration. David Amor -- retired journalism professor and former communication director -- described the concert as being "perhaps the most moving experience during all my years at Knox."

 Jeffrey Anderson '80 shared his memories of the celebration:

"Like no other event at Knox, the concert grounded me in a realization of history and place. It was my second year and my parents drove over from Kewanee to join me at the concert. Carl Sandburg was part of our family's history and Swedish-American roots in Galesburg and the surrounding area. He was a first-cousin and the favorite boyhood chum of my great-uncle Charlie Krans, who had an old-time farm over by Henderson. Sandburg's poetry immortalizes Charlie and his farm. In 1967, my mother and Aunt Emma, Charlie's wife, represented the family at the memorial service for Carl Sandburg at his birthplace.

"Pete Seeger had also long been part of my family culture, especially through the folk music of my sister Carolyn Anderson, also a Knox alum. His energy was a guiding light to many in the 1960s generation, though in 1978 it was clear that most students had no idea who he was or what he represented. The celebration rekindled the flame for some, I observed, and made me realize that the history and music I had until that point taken for granted was of great significance.

"At the celebration, I was in awe of Pete's humble yet strong voice and was so proud of the way he evoked Carl Sandburg's words and spirit. The songs and comments whirred like the prairie wind with the values of equality, true democracy, pragmatism, and hard work. They were the values that the founders of Knox brought to that place and that have shaped the history of my alma mater and my homeland for over a century and a half now.

"At the time, I dreamt and believed that we would overcome so many injustices someday, but I also believed that that day would come long before the time of this writing. I had no doubt in 1978 that war, prejudice, and greed would all be absurd memories for humankind by the year 2000. Indeed, we have made progress but there is a long way to go. Only later in life did I learn to read and re-read the deeper meanings in Sandburg's words. Time and hope are open-ended. As the lines of "The People, Yes" ask all of us to ask:

Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?"

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Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2018