Today Pete Seeger is ninety years old, and I thank the rev for reminding me. Pete is the guy who faced down the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1955 by taking the First, not the Fifth -- that is, he didn't refuse to name names because he declined to incriminate himself; he refused to grovel or to incriminate others because he considered HUAC an offence in the sight of the First Amendment of the American Bill of Rights, that classic articulation of the first and noblest principle enshrined in the bills and declarations and charters of every genuine democracy:
I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.
I know I've played this historic performance (famously censored for about four months) before, but it's my favourite from the years of Pete's triumph over those who had tried for over a decade to silence his music and his forthright defence of genuine democracy.
Thank you, Pete, and thank you for the breakfast concert, rev.