Maybe Republicans Aren’t So Bad, After All

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • October 23, 2006

by Karen Feld

That’s the consensus from sixty’s folk music icons and outspoken Democrat political and antiwar activists, Peter, Paul & Mary.

After chemotherapy didn’t cure Mary Travers, who’s been battling a rare form of leukemia, she was matched last year with an anonymous bone marrow donor through the National Marrow Donor Program. The program requires that donors and recipients remain anonymous for one year. Her worst nightmare came true when she learned – after meeting her donor recently – Mary DeWitt Hessen, that yes, indeed, she is a Republican. Perhaps it was the intravenous infusion of Republican marrow that contributed to the activist entertainer’s survival?

Fortunately, Travers, 69, who has always fought – whether for human rights or more recently for her own survival – is now in remission. “It has added vigor to my bones, but hasn’t changed my politics,” Travers said.

“She’s a Republican but she’s lovely,” said trio member Peter Yarrow after meeting Mary’s donor. Yarrow performed on Friday evening with his daughter Bethany and maverick cellist Rufus Cappadocia at Wolf Trap Barns in Vienna, Virginia. “Now I know why you’ve gotten so nice,” Peter said he told Mary. “Mary’s going to teach us humility because she’s a Republican,” Yarrow joked.

I first heard Bethany Yarrow perform with her father, now 73, almost a year ago at the memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral for 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. Yarrow, who wrote “Puff the Magic Dragon,” has always nurtured young performers and songwriters; but performing with his daughter, who is McCarthy’s grandniece and expecting her first child in February, has changed the senior Yarrow. “I’ve never been so raw and open as a performer,” the expectant grandpa acknowledged. “Being taught this by my child . . . I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

When Peter isn’t performing with his daughter or staging reunion concerts with the PP&M trio, he continues working toward his legacy of social justice with a message of optimism and hope. His current project, Operation Respect, a non-profit which he founded in 2000, works to transform schools around the world through music. Its mission is to foster compassion and provide safe and respectful environments for kids and teach them how to creatively resolve conflicts. The program revolves around the message in the song, “Don’t Laugh at Me,” recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary. Plans are underway to take the program to Israel.

“Carry on My Sweet Survivor.” Yarrow’s lyrics express his hope for generations of youth throughout the world. Just as Mary Travers has mellowed when it comes to Republicans – albeit not their political beliefs – but the basic human compassion and respect of one human being for another, the trio and the next generation carry on the political message of peace from the unpopular war in Vietnam to the unpopular war in Iraq, and beyond. Maybe, they will be the ones to figure out a strategy for a peaceful world.

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