Monday, September 10, 2007

September 10: Jean Vanier (b. 1928) and Jose Feliciano (b. 1945)

Two birthdays of living figures today:

Jean VanierCommunity is made of the gentle concern that people show each other every day. It is made up of the small gestures, of services and sacrifices that say 'I love you,' and 'I am happy to be with you.' is taking the small burdens from the other.

--Jean Vanier
(from Community and Growth, 1979)

Jean Vanier is a Catholic philosopher, born in Geneva on this date in 1928, raised in Quebec, and longtime resident in France. In 1964, Vanier founded the first L'Arche community, in which people with developmental disabilities and their assistants live together in homes, forming a community based on mutual commitment, learning, and support. He also co-founded Faith and Light (Foi et Lumiere), a worldwide movement of forming communities to encourage people with developmental disabilities (and their families) in their spiritual lives. Vanier retired from running the International Federation of L'Arche in the 1970s, but continues to visit its many communities around the world, and lecture on the movement's ideas and practices.

Jose FelicianoJose Feliciano is a singer and musician, born blind on this date in 1945 in Lares, Puerto Rico, one of eleven brothers. He was raised in New York City. Feliciano is best known for "Feliz Navidad" (the song that means much of monolingual America knows a few holiday greetings in Spanish every December). He also hit the pop charts in 1968 with his non-traditional version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Feliciano is married, with three kids, and lives in Connecticut nowadays.

YouTube has a live 1973 Feliciano performance of "Feliz Navidad," as well as an interview about his performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" with archival footage, and lots of other Jose Feliciano clips (most are not captioned). (My favorite is probably the 1970 duet with Johnny Cash. Or for some further culture-crossing, try this clip of him playing the music from "Zorba the Greek," complete with clapping and shouts of "Opa!")