I've posted here that Dylan was an inspiration to many people in his work and quoted Vaclav Havel who has said that when he was one of the leaders of the Czech resistance that Dylan's work and it's engagement in issues were a constant source of inspiration during the terrible days when the members of the Czech resistance were underground and feared arrest. Dylan's political influence is international and is not just limited to the impact his work had in the 60s.
As for when he last went on a protest march - when you have the kind of power, money, media attention and respect that Dylan commands, he has lots of ways to exercise influence besides showing up in public to protest anything. Among the people we know that Dylan (according to statements by the man himself) has been personal friends with are former Vice-President Al Gore and the late Democratic Senator from Minnesota Paul Wellstone. Having that kind of access is a faster and more effective path to influence than going on a protest march. People underestimate how "inside the system" Bob Dylan has been for years and nothing about being friends with or socializing with or accepting an award from members of our government "cheapens" anything about Dylan. Notice Dylan never showed up to play for or associated with Reagan or the Bushes. He did perform for Bill Clinton and for Barack Obama. It's not like he's some lackey who doesn't exercise any choices or discrimination in regard to who he wants to meet, talk to and be photographed with.
I believe there's a misperception here about who Bob Dylan is and myths about his early work being "marketing" - as if he spent years creating and performing music he didn't really care about except as a careerist (as Dylan himself once said "as if that's my foolish mission") - and that Dylan now lives as some radical hippie purist who hates and is cheapened by any contact with the "establishment." Lots of successful artists become part of, or aligned with, parts of the "establishment" without being "cheapened" or accused of selling out because they are friends with or socialize with various successful people in lots of different fields. Nothing about being friends with Gore or Wellstone "cheapens" Bob Dylan. Very successful people tend to know very successful people in other fields besides their own and to believe that Dylan doesn't have powerful friends, or at least "acquaintances", in the clergy, the financial industry (some of whom he obviously trusts with his money.....), law, academia and other fields other than arts and entertainment is to be naive about the way the world works and also to assume that Dylan hasn't spent all of these decades with tremendous success and access being at least a little bit curious about meeting and spending time with some of the more successful and influential people in the world.
The guy's been one of the most successful and famous people in the world for nearly 50 years. To assume that his only social acquaintances are musicians and maybe some actors and couldn't possibly include people in other fields is incredibly naive and seriously underestimates Dylan's brilliance and the fact that throughout his life he's shown an interest in lots of different things outside of his interest in music. About half of his success can be attributed to his huge curiosity about the world. Assume he's been out there living large in various aspects of it and with all kinds of people that we know nothing about for decades. I'd be very disappointed in him if he'd had all those opportunities and didn't take advantage of them.
You're not "cheapened" by knowing anybody. You're only "cheapened" if you let yourself be influenced by them to be inauthentic to yourself. I really don't think anything about spending time with Barack Obama poses any kind of existential threat to Dylan's sense of himself. The same applies to Obama, the most powerful person in the world, who isn't some star-struck teenager when it comes to being around people like Bob Dylan. If they get along and they actually like each other, that's great. We're talking about two relatively shy and introverted people here. If they don't much like each other, you still will never see either of these men ever show anything but respect and admiration for the other. Both of them are serious students of history and each appreciates the important part the other person has played in the big narrative of this country they both love so much.
If you haven't figured out yet that Bob Dylan loves this country, and is serious about and proud of the part he has played in it's history, you really haven't been paying attention.
Excellent. Very well said Mr. Lator.
I particularly like your closing line -
"If you haven't figured out yet that Bob Dylan loves this country, and is serious about and proud of the part he has played in it's history, you really haven't been paying attention."
Also, and much more importantly, your pointing out how he inspired historic people like Vaclav Havel forever lays to rest claims by blind lightweights like Johanna Parker that Bob Dylan didn't really believe in the things he wrote - it was just a fad etc., and was of little consequence.