Mastheadheroes

 

William Penn  

            William Penn was kind enough to grant me his first interview in more than 295 years! I caught up with him at Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he spent much of his time while he was living in America.

 

Jonathan Sprout: Mr. Penn, it has been said that the one treaty that European Americans made with the Native Americans that has not been broken is the treaty you made with the natives at Shackamaxon, on the banks of the Delaware River in 1692. Is this true, sir?

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"Powerful," the Story of Samantha Smith, Now a Video

Sprout Recordings is proud to announce the release of our first video from my latest CD, American Heroes #4.

The song "Powerful," written by Dave Kinnoin and me, is the story of Samantha Smith.

AH5 Concert-Samantha Smith color book cover image

Samantha (1972-1985) was a bright and expressive schoolgirl whose optimism warmed the hearts of millions around the world. At the age of 10, when the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be on the brink of nuclear war, she wrote a letter of peace to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. His warm response and her two-week journey to his country inspired countless Americans and Soviets to rethink their hostile views of each other. As a powerful symbol of hope and “America's youngest ambassador for peace,” she helped create an atmosphere of love, respect, and joy. Tragically, her life was cut short at the age of 13. Samantha was starring in a TV series called Lime Street that featured Robert Wagner. After shooting their sixth episode in England, she and her dad were on their way home when their plane crashed moments before its scheduled landing in Maine. She taught the world an important lesson: If people try hard enough, they can get along. 

If you live in eastern Pennsylvania, you may remember the annual Peace Fairs in Newtown, PA in the 1980s. Samantha was a VIP guest speaker at one of the fairs. Friends Barbara Simmons, then Director of the Bucks County Peace Center, and Kathy O’Connell, host of WXPN’s Kids Corner, each met Samantha. Barbara thought she was looking at a girl who had the makings of becoming perhaps the first female president of the United States. Kathy, too, was smitten by Samantha’s poise and charisma.

You can view our video HERE

Rodney Whittenberg produced the video, which involved about 25 actors and support staff. It took us four months and numerous shoots to create. Makeup expert Julianne Ulrich spent two hours transforming me into Soviet Premiere Yuri Andropov.

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American Hero Rachel Carson and the Origins of Earth Day

            The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 at a time when Americans needed an environmental wake up call. Cars with gas guzzling V8 engines crowded the highways. Unregulated factory smoke stacks spewed tons of poisonous gases into the air and waterways.

            One of my heroes played an indirect, but important, role in the creation of Earth Day.

 File:Rachel-Carson.jpgRachel Carson (1907-1964), “Voice for the Earth,” was an author and scientist whose courage, selfless spirit, and sense of wonder inspired the modern environmental movement. Her books about nature helped people realize our interconnectedness with the world of plants and animals. In 1951, her book The Sea Around Us was published. It remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 81 weeks and was translated into 32 languages. In 1962, Carson wrote Silent Spring, a book that spoke courageously about the irresponsible use of poisonous chemicals. Though powerful chemical companies labeled her an alarmist, her book awakened millions of people to the importance of caring for the planet. In 1980, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, was awarded in her memory.

 

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Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day

(by Jonathan Sprout)

 

            Read Across America Day was established in 1987 on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2.  Some have extended Read Across America Day into the month of March as National Reading Month. Although it was originally meant to be more about reading than about Dr. Seuss, it’s a perfect time to honor the life and accomplishments of the good Dr.

            Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), known as Dr. Seuss, is the most popular and influential name in children's literature. His 60 books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and have sold more than 222 million copies. Sixteen of them are among the top 100 best-selling children’s hardcover books of all time. His lifelong war on illiteracy earned him two Emmys®, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Eleven children's television specials, a Broadway musical and several feature-length movies have sprung from his books.

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     Continuing on the subject of Black History Month, here are additional African American heroes who appear on my four American Hero albums:

     Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883) suffered through slavery in state of New York until the age of 30. A spellbinding preacher with a beautiful, powerful singing voice, she was the first black woman to travel across America denouncing slavery. She was a simple, honest, and deeply religious activist who stood for freedom and women’s rights. Her poise, self-confidence, and fiery passion made her into an early national symbol for strong black women. One hot day in Akron, Ohio in 1851, Ms. Truth delivered a powerful speech still known as one of the greatest women’s liberation speeches ever given. Her exact words were not recorded, but one version of her speech includes “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let ‘em.”

      My song about Sojourner Truth is Aren’t I a Woman. (More American Heroes CD)

      Jackie Robinson (1919-72) broke the color barrier in 1947 when he became the first black major league baseball player. In spite of racial hostility and even death threats from players and fans, he played the game of baseball with quiet dignity and extraordinary talent. He was a daring base runner, an excellent fielder and held a career batting average of .311. He was an active spokesperson for civil rights, and in 1962 he became the first African-American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Jackie was born in 1919 on the verge of Black History Month—January 31st.

      He said, “There is not an American in this country who is free until every one of us are free,” which my song co-writer Dave Kinnoin and I worked into the final verse of our song:

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