In 1960, Lena Spencer opened her coffeehouse in Saratoga Springs. The world grew tall around her place, and by 1961, Bob Dylan played here on the same stage, then Don McLean visited before his “American Pie” boom. In fact, a generation of folk musicians and writers incubated with Lena Spencer, as the legend of her generosity to Dylan and McLean spread fast.
This is the way history is made, by kindness and focus.
Not long after this boom beginning, Spalding Gray came to this stage to practice his massively funny storytelling scrapes with fate. It was fun, and it opened my style some.
What remained for this small Polish immigrant voice of mine was a sense that you could be a troubadour, even in these dark days of Putin and Trump. You could be a human dog in a sense, running along and picking up smells and scraps of food that cause your further growth.
Thanks to Caffè Lena, this was always a possibility for me. You are the country’s most continuous and generous folk venue, a live stage, a place where you can pursue the freedom in your phrasing and the music in your ears. Thanks.
Now, my friends, I ask you: Who wrote this paragraph that sums up why I am here?
What makes America exceptional isn’t our wealth or size or skyscrapers or military power. It’s the fact that America’s the only nation in human history that’s made up of people of every race, religion, and culture from every corner of the globe. And that we’ve had faith in our democracy, our common creed, to blend this hodgepodge of humanity into one people. Nothing symbolizes this truth more than our music.
Who wrote this, on page 75, of their exceptional picture book of dreams, myths, and music? Well, the book is Renegades: Born in the USA, from Crown Publishers, and the authors are Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen.
These two men, plus Ben Franklin, plus the strong women in my family and life, plus George Orwell and Bob Dylan, confirm this claim on diversity and inclusion. Prejudice can never defeat this ideal of ours — although it will try daily.
Thank you again, Caffè Lena, for keeping the music, the troubadours, alive with a stage and now an expanding global venue that includes live streaming with the greats like Mia Funk of One Planet Podcast.
An Homage to Mia Funk
Mia Funk is a creative director, artist, and found of the Creative Process and One Planet Podcast. She has joined us this evening to record the Caffè Lena performance. Her show The Creative Process is ranked in the top 1% of podcasts worldwide and collaborates with students from over 75 major universities.
This made me think of a recent experience I had in England, with Mayor Kahn of London. It was at the very green headquarters of Michael Bloomberg in London, when I heard a protestor trying to get into our private session with the mayor and other “sustainable business” leaders. Being from New York, I saw the protestor coming, not but not before Bloomberg’s security detail began escorting him out.
The mayor, a well-trained and articulate lawyer, started his clever talk to us, scanning the small crowed of “legitimate” invited guests — then looking directly at me! — with this quip: “I want to make sure before I begin that Will Smith in not in this audience!”
We all laughed.
Elected officials and creatives have these skills that Mia Funk highlights in all her work, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m delighted to announce both Mia and I are creating a 10-episode limited podcast series called Business & Society featuring insightful speakers and thought leaders like James and Deborah Fallows and Bill Novelli — which we will co-host throughout 2022.
This way, by feeding our curiosity, we can all become like Ben Franklin all over again!
To talk, to entertain, to inform, and to delight a small immediate audience, while keeping the world at large near at the same time, brings me near fear and joy at the same time.
Thanks, Mia, for making this all possible to this book-writer.
It might be useful to mention briefly exactly HOW we become like Franklin. I have inserted a suggestion in this line.
Thank you Caffe Lena for keeping the music, the troubadours, alive with a stage.
And thank you now Sarah Craig and others like Reese Fulmer for expanding into this global venue that includes live streaming with the greats like Mia Funk of ONE PLANET PODCAST. Amen.