Thursday June 4, 2015, my co-worker was listening to the first game of the NBA Championship. When I heard the announcement that the National Anthem was about to be sung, I walked closer to the radio. As the first notes were played, I placed my hand over my heart. My co-worker saw me and he, too, placed his hand over his heart. We stood silently, hands on our hearts, listening to the National Anthem of our country. That is not the first time I have stopped what I was doing and placed my hand over my heart when the National Anthem was sung. I do not need to be at a sporting event or any other event, for that matter, where the National Anthem is played, to honor the playing of National Anthem. It is enough for me just to hear the music being played on the television or the radio.
Francis Scott Key wrote the poem which became the Star Spangled Banner and our National Anthem. He had witnessed the British attack on Fort McHenry and saw the American Flag still flying as the sun rose.
The first stanza is used as the National Anthem:
O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
In 1986, Claire Cloninger, to celebrate the Re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty, wrote another verse:
And still we can see, as the years have gone by,
there’s a dream in our land like a flame that keeps burning.
And the lantern of hope from the harbor still shines.
Those who seek freedom’s dream, to its light are still turning.
Now we look to the skies and we lift up our eyes,
for we know with the dawn we will see our flag rise.
And this is our star spangled banner unfurled
as a sign to the free and a hope to the world.
Both stanzas speak of a country unafraid. A country which looks forward with hope not back with fear. A country which offers hope to the world not closed doors and borders. A country which has accomplished so much and still has so much to accomplish. A country that can withstand difficulty and hardship without giving up and being defeated. A country that was nearly torn apart by a Civil War and remains united in a belief “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Today we remain very much a country divided. There are those who wish to deny equality to all people and place restrictions on the very principle of the right to life by suggesting that only those who can afford the basic necessities of life ought to have the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, health care. They are the ones who shout the loudest and fight the hardest to protect the unborn only to shun the born.
But our National Anthem is louder than those voices. Our National Anthem represents a country and a people who say: we have been tested and tried. We have faced those who sought to destroy our government and our liberty. We have stood together and withstood the attacks each and every time and we will again! Our National Anthem says that we have heard this talk before in the years before the Civil War and the question has already been answered! We have already say a loud and clear “Yes!” to continuing our democracy and our pursuit of equality.
I will place my hand on my heart whenever and wherever I hear our National Anthem because for me, it is so much more than just the words of a poem set to music. To me, our National Anthem is what we can be! A country and a people that never surrender!
Moderately liberal, liberally moderate, American flag waving Democrat! Bachelor of Arts in History with concentration in Early American History and Abraham Lincoln
Graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts Degree online in American History at Southern New Hampshire University