A Letter to the Students at Lincoln Elementary School In Madison, Wisconsin



We are thrilled that you watched our film and so happy that you took the time to write letters to us and to Arlo and Nora Guthrie.

A couple of weeks ago, Ken and I attended an event honoring Pete Seeger at Symphony Space, here in New York City. Pete was scheduled to receive the first Woody Guthrie prize, but as you may know, he passed away in January. He was 94 years old.

You may remember seeing Pete Seeger in our film. He talks about his friendship with Woody Guthrie, how Woody came to write the song “1913 Massacre,” and how much he learned from Woody about America. Pete spent a lot of time in schools, teaching kids your age and even younger to sing and make music together.

Ever since Pete died, Ken and I have been talking about the time we got to spend with him and wondering what we’re supposed to do now that he’s gone. We hadn’t come up with any real good answers before the envelope full of your letters arrived in the mail.

Some of you (like Ethan and Sam) wrote to us. Most of the letters are addressed to Nora and Arlo Guthrie.

Cora writes to Nora and Arlo to say that “your dad’s songs really mean a lot to people” and Kelly writes to say “thank you for telling about history through your dad’s song. It is a great song.” Landen wants Arlo to know that Woody “is an awesome song writer.” Thanya’s favorite song is ‘This Land Is Your Land.” Rozalin thinks it’s “really cool” Arlo was in the film, and so do we.

Some of you talked about the story our film tells in your letters to Nora and Arlo. A whole bunch of you thought the tearing down of Italian Hall was a big mistake. Evan was surprised to learn that children worked in the mines, and after he saw the film he thought lots about how much has changed since 1913. Paris feels “kind of mad” that people got killed in the Italian Hall. Abishek was struck by Winkie Pyrrha’s story about losing his candy bag after someone yelled ‘Fire!.’ Lucy writes to thank both Nora and Arlo “for honoring that tragedy.”

And so on! There are so many wonderful letters here that we can’t possibly sum them all up. You guys are all awesome and we cherish each and every one of these letters.

Your letters also reminded us that the songs Woody Guthrie wrote and the stories they tell will live on, if we just keep singing. That’s a lesson Pete Seeger would want us all to remember.

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