The Encyclopedia Britannica defines National Anthem as “a hymn or song expressing patriotic sentiment and either governmentally authorized as an official national hymn or holding that position in popular feeling.”
In The United States of America, our National Anthem is The Star Spangled Banner. It has been so since it was made official by congressional resolution on May 3, 1931. The lyrics are taken from a poem titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry”, written by amateur poet Francis Scott Key in 1814 after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by The British Navy in The War of 1812. There are actually four stanzas to the song, but only the first is commonly sung or played today.
The song has a rich history, being inspired by the perseverance of the American spirit in battle, and the American flag itself. What it isn’t is easy to sing, with an octave range that is challenging to even the best of singers. Many Americans consider it to be militaristic, and for many years, people have lobbied for it to be replaced by what they believe to be a better representation of our nation, America The Beautiful.
This is no new movement. Although not the National Anthem, America The Beautiful is just as widely recognized by Americans, and has been called the most beloved of all American patriotic songs. Quoting Lynn Sherr, ABC News correspondent and author of the book America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story Behind Our Nation’s Favorite Song says this, “I think it’s simple, I think it’s emotional, and I think it talks about a country, a land and its people — not just about a flag, not just about a battle. It doesn’t talk about conquest. It talks about the possibilities of this nation.”
America The Beautiful was written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates – a thirty-three year old English professor from Wellesley College – as she traveled by train across our great nation. Her inspiration was her awe for what she witnessed, very much like Francis Scott Key almost a century before.
Perhaps the preference comes down to whether you’re a “spacious skies” or a “bombs bursting in air” kind of person.
Which do you prefer?