Political pundit Ann Coulter has never been shy about her love for the Grateful Dead, but Billboard recently made her take that love to the next level by publishing what is essentially an open love letter to the grateful group. She explains that she probably saw 67 shows, though her count was imprecise, and mostly between 1991 and 1995.“Other than a few shows in high school and college, I mostly followed them as a practicing lawyer from around 1991 to August 1995 when I had a bunch of Deadhead friends and we all had plenty of disposable income, so I saw a lot of shows in those four or five years.”She explains that there was a faction of Deadheads within her community growing up, which is how she became familiar with the group. “Contrary to some people’s image of the Dead, they were huge in my very affluent WASP hometown of New Canaan, Conn. There was a faction in favor of making “Truckin’” our prom song, but the sense of the senate went for some schmaltzy rainbow song instead. I bet no one from my high school class can remember what it was. We would have remembered “Truckin.’””“But still – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Deadhead dancing,” she writes in the article, putting her love for the Dead on full blast. She continues to talk about Deadheads, saying, “I like Deadheads because they’re very friendly, open-minded, individualistic people — not fake-open-minded and not a “mob of individualists.” Sometimes they’d ask why we’d decline the joints friendly Deadheads would pass around, but they were so charming about it. They weren’t offended or snippy, just genuinely interested. Deadheads are intellectually curious individuals.”Then she goes back to the band and starts naming some of her many favorite tunes:I can never pick a “favorite” song, just as I can’t pick a favorite Scalia dissent, but among the ones I love are: “Tennessee Jed,” “Althea,” “Stagger Lee”, “Eyes of the World,” “Loose Lucy,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “Deal,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Unbroken Chain,” “Cassidy”, “Pride of Cucamonga,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Ripple,” “Casey Jones,” “I Will Take You Home,” “Passenger,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” “Good Lovin’” and of course, the famous Mickey Hart rap version of “Fire on the Mountain.”It breaks my heart that the band never played “Pride of Cucamonga” in concert. That would have been as big a story as Brexit and probably would have rocked the stock market just as much. She recalls one final Grateful Dead concert experience at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, saying, “The Dead’s best venues were the outdoor concerts. I’ve been to a few, including one outside of Kansas City on the Fourth of July, but my fave was Shoreline Amphitheatre — a beautiful outdoor arena built on a landfill. The weather was great, you could buy California chardonnay by the glass and I had a bunch of Cornell deadheads out there. By day, we’d go around San Francisco or go sailing, and, by night, we’d go to see a psychedelic rock group.”And there you have it, an inside look at Ann Coulter’s love for the Grateful Dead. Read the full letter here.
Art changes lives. The success of Venezuelan conductor Jose Antonio Abreu and his children’s musical group El Sistema in demonstrating this principle has earned him this year’s Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Founded 37 years ago, El Sistema’s nationwide network of orchestras and education centers within Venezuela provides children with the self-esteem and character needed to break out of the cycle of poverty, according to a press release from the Kellogg Institute. Although he emerged from University with an economics degree, Abreu stated in the release his artistic interests and national concerns inspired him to develop the organization, an alternative means for rescuing his community. In the release, Abreau cited music’s unique capacity for uniting unstable, struggling communities. “Music is an agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. It has the ability to unite an entire community,” Abreu stated in the press prelease. Steve Reifenberg, Executive Director of the Kellogg Institute, said Abreu’s unique approach to social stabilization was a significant reason for recognizing his contributions in Venezuela. “It’s really a movement that’s making its way across the globe. I teach international development, so these types of stories, where someone approaches development from a different angle rather than economic or educational development, stand out as truly transformative,” Reifenberg said. “I think it’s such an absolutely inspiring and compelling project.” The Kellogg Institute said El Sistema has benefited individual participants in the program and the greater Venezuelan society, a fact demonstrated by the ongoing support of eight successive governments. Currently, 300,000 children across the country currently participate in Abreu’s arts education programs, and his model has spread to 25 other nations. While the Kellogg Institute’s annual award has typically recognized distinguished individuals serving Latin America through political, economic, educational or religious actions, Reifenberg said Abreu’s unique approach deserves recognition. “We hope that even more people will learn about Maestro Abreu and his project by giving him the award,” Reifenberg said. Every year, the Institute solicits hundreds of people for nominations, ultimately narrowing the group to 40 or 50 individuals, Reifenberg said. “I think if you look at the past recipients, it’s a really remarkable group of people,” Reifenberg said. The award consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a matching amount donated to a charitable organization recommended by the winner. It is funded by a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation. Rodrigo Calderon, Kellogg Advisory Board member and president of the Coca-Cola Foundation Mexico stated in the press release that the award is a great honor. “The Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America is recognized as the most prestigious prize in its category,” Calderon stated. “The University of Notre Dame is to be commended for leading this effort which is both a distinction for these outstanding individuals and an inspiration for the younger generation. Reifenberg said Maestro Abreu will officially receive the award this upcoming spring at a ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, during which one of the El Sistema youth orchestras will perform.