Americans are in grave danger of losing an integral historical component that has coincided with America since her inception: “The Star Spangled Banner.” In a previous column, I explained that the national anthem is under attack and in jeopardy of being replaced by other songs that do not support or uphold the battle Francis Scott Key witnessed. Patriotic ballads and feel-good tunes have been recommended as possible replacements. Even pop singer Miley Cyrus put forth a petition on the White House website to replace the anthem with her song “Party in the U.S.A.”
A commemorative legislative resolution for “A Year of Thanksgiving for the National Anthem Bicentennial” is up for vote when Congress reconvenes Sept. 8. The following Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, marks the 200-year anniversary of our national anthem, which will be celebrated in the nation’s capital and with events happening in Baltimore and other cities. America’s future is directly tied to the preservation of her anthem, and Congress will determine whether or not to preserve and commemorate it for an entire year.
This resolution is extremely important because this is the last opportunity to ensure that “The Star Spangled Banner” remains as America’s anthem. Why, exactly, is that so important? Isn’t the anthem just a song that commences patriotic and sporting events? Isn’t it simply a symbol of a bygone era bereft of meaning and symbolism for Americans today? Hardly. Since that momentous night in Fort McHenry, the anthem has symbolically coincided with America’s inception, freedom and preservation. Generations of Americans have revered the song during times of war as well as times of peace as a source of national pride. The anthem is, as Gen. Jerry Boykin calls it, “our patriotic anchor to national defense.”
One reason why the anthem must be preserved is this: American children are losing their national heritage. Most haven’t a clue about the history of America, the founders and the battles we endured to live in this great land. Most cannot read our founding documents because they cannot read longhand – if they can even read past a third-grade level. Learning to write and read in cursive longhand is no longer a skill taught or used in the school system, which handicaps them from ever being able to read our Founding Father’s original documents. Therefore, they lose incentive to understand the beauty, passion and historical essence of documents that grant them freedom and liberty and remain ignorant of the land that was fought for with them in mind.
This is a travesty.
Think of it; what if the anthem is replaced by another song, be it patriotic lyrics or Cyrus’ party tune (God forbid)? How, then, would America be defined? What other song could rouse Americans to patriotic duty or arms? None that I can think of.
To that end, a national celebration is under way to commemorate the anthem and educate children (and adults) about history that is necessary to America’s longevity.
Dr. Shelli Manuel, historian, biblical scholar and musician, has aggressively traveled the country fighting for the preservation of the anthem with her campaign, “Sing it America.” Manuel’s campaign has garnered support from both Democratic and Republican senators, governors and local leaders who understand the significance of fighting for the preservation of the anthem for Americans today and, particularly, for future generations.
Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland – the Star Spangled Banner State, as he refers to it – has encouraged governors nationwide to create a sing-along event or permit citizens to assemble at the 50 state capitols to sing in sync with the nonpartisan 30-minute event in Washington, D.C. – which will feature a 200-voice choir – and Fort McHenry celebrations. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., are cosponsors, and other leaders, such as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, House Chaplain Pat Conroy, Senate Chaplain Barry Black and the Lantos Foundation, have expressed strong interest in the campaign.
Manuel states, “Despite a tremendous effort of the local Baltimore groups of StarSpangled200, Fort McHenry, Flag House and others, a majority of Americans remain ignorant of the bicentennial of the national anthem or the War of 1812. It would be remiss to allow this chance, and this chance only, for such a significant historical event to come and go without a nationwide commemoration. ‘Sing it America’ was created to join with these phenomenal organizations to bolster nationwide awareness.”
For the past few administrations, both Republican and Democratic leaders have disregarded protocol and respect for the anthem, sliding down the slippery slope of one-world sentiment and paving a path to replace it. During election time, President George W. Bush allowed the anthem to be sung in Spanish. And Michelle Obama said, “We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.”
What would one do for a vote?
If we stand a chance – any real chance – of preserving our anthem, we have to act now. You can call you governor’s office to ask if they are cooperating with the resolution of Congress or the Proclamation of a Year of Thanksgiving for the National Anthem Bicentennial. You can gather a small group to sing the anthem on your capitol steps or other significant location on Sept. 14. You can pray. You can make a donation. You can ask your pastor or rabbi to have the congregation sing the first and the last verse, which calls us “heaven’s rescued land,” on that special Sunday. Guide your child to the website to utilize the study tools about the War of 1812 and the anthem, where they can enter a contest for a prize for the best historical essay or the neatest longhand copy of the original lyrics. The new David B. Manuel Literary Award will be given out at the Washington, D.C., ceremony.
You can do all of these things or just one of these things. But do something. We are hanging in the balance on this critical issue, this opportunity to preserve our anthem and fight the battles that are sure to ensue.
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