Pete Seeger and Majora Carter: “Don’t say it can’t be done”

You can also watch this video on its page at This Brave Nation.

A wonderful conversation between two environmental activists. I love that Pete gets the whole film crew singing along at the end. Good ol’ Pete. The only wince-worthy moment for me was when Pete repeated the tired and ubiquitous quote from Margaret Mead about a small number of thoughtful, committed people making a difference.

Here’s an interesting fact about that quote, though: my dad is actually the one who originally discovered it and put it into circulation. Back in the late 80s, my parents were very active in our local Audubon chapter, heading up an International Issues Committee to bring attention to the destruction of the rainforests in the global South. I am not sure how much credit we can take for bringing that issue into the mainstream consciousness, but National Audubon leaders took a great interest in the committee and sought to replicate it in other chapters. We collected second-hand binoculars to send to environmentalists in Central America, Peru and the Philippines, among various and sundry other good deeds, and we prepared educational materials to share with schools and civic groups around here: slideshows, exhibits, pamphlets and the like.

It was in one of those pamphlets that Dad first deployed the now-famous quote. He had been reading a great deal of classic anthropological works at the time, including the works of Margaret Mead. The trouble is that he quite uncharacteristically (for a reference librarian) failed to include a proper citation for the quote — and no amount of searching since has ever turned it up. Which Mead book is it from? He says he says no idea. And really, we only have his word for it that he didn’t just make the quote up himself. In any event, someone at National Audubon liked it well enough to put it in their own propaganda, and it took off from there, spreading like a contagion through environmentalist and activist circles. Small groups of citizens, thoughtful and committed or otherwise, have been using it to bolster their self-esteem ever since.