Convention of Statesmen

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O Say Can You See

In church, yesterday, we sang The Star Spangled Banner. Born of parents who love this country fiercely, demanding honesty and integrity from their politicians, they taught us to love America with equal fervor.

My father, as many of you know, was born in Amsterdam. Near the end of his life he traveled across the West speaking at schools and churches about what it was like to live with a complete loss of freedom under the martial law of Hitler's armies when he was a child. He often spoke of the greatness of America along with the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen of this great nation. He also talked of the horrors and atrocities he suffered as a child and how he longed to emigrate to America.

His life here was not easy, but the song which always choked him up, as he sang the words of his heart, was the Star Spangled Banner.

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Francis Scott Key

Every time I sing these words, even after decades of singing this song, a feeling rushes through my body which is indescribable. As these words are are sung, words I've read from the journals of ancestors float through my mind. The sacrifices they've made scroll by, one after the other. And every time I am so grateful I was born in this great nation.

So I pulled up Wikipedia and searched for The Star Spangled Banner:
On September 3, 1814, Francis Scott Key and John S. Skinner, an American prisoner-exchange agent, set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro, and a friend of Key’s who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner, while they discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes, but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.

Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise, and later back on the HMS Minden. After the bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and effect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby Fort Covington, the city's last line of defense.

During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort’s smaller "storm flag" continued to fly, but once the shell and rocket [2] barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. By then, the storm flag had been lowered, and the larger flag had been raised.

Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on 16 September, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He finished the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and he entitled it "Defence of Fort McHenry."

Key gave the poem to his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson. Nicholson saw that the words fit the popular melody "To Anacreon in Heaven", an old British drinking song from the mid-1760s, composed in London by John Stafford Smith. Nicholson took the poem to a printer in Baltimore, who anonymously printed broadside copies of it — the song’s first known printing — on September 17; of these, two known copies survive.

On September 20, both the Baltimore Patriot and The American printed the song, with the note "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven". The song quickly became popular, with seventeen newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire printing it. Soon after, Thomas Carr of the Carr Music Store in Baltimore published the words and music together under the title "The Star-Spangled Banner", although it was originally called "Defence of Fort McHenry." The song’s popularity increased, and its first public performance took place in October, when Baltimore actor Ferdinand Durang sang it at Captain McCauley’s tavern.

The song gained popularity throughout the nineteenth century and bands played it during public events, such as July 4 celebrations. On July 27, 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy signed General Order #374, making "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star-Spangled Banner" be played at military and other appropriate occasions. Although the playing of the song two years later during the seventh-inning stretch of the 1918 World Series is often noted as the first instance that the anthem was played at a baseball game, evidence shows that the "Star-Spangled Banner" was performed as early as 1897 at opening day ceremonies in Philadelphia and then more regularly at the Polo Grounds in New York City beginning in 1898. However, the tradition of performing the national anthem before every baseball game began in World War II.[3]Today, the anthem is performed before the beginning of all NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL games (with at least one American team playing), as well as in a pre-race ceremonies portion of every NASCAR race.

On November 3, 1929, Robert Ripley drew a panel in his syndicated cartoon, Ripley's Believe it or Not!, saying "Believe It or Not, America has no national anthem." [4] In 1931, John Philip Sousa published his opinion in favor, stating that "it is the spirit of the music that inspires" as much as it is Key’s "soul-stirring" words. By a law signed on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was adopted as the national anthem of the United States.
This may not be as interesting to you as it is to me. But I love this song and every sentiment, every ounce of pride and strength in each stanza speaks to me with great power. While Francis Scott Key watched, held captive, from the enemy ship, he painfully witnessed the bombardment of his beloved city. I cannot imagine what that was like, but can only minutely understand the pain and strangling fear which encompassed his chest.

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner!

And then in the last verse when these words are sung:

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'

This is the cause of our great military. They rely on us at home to care for and keep the Constitution safe, America safe . . . insuring that she is not destroyed from within. In the meantime, they fight this battle for us that we won't be destroyed from without.

We are coming up on our nation's celebrated birthday. This year, for some reason, I feel it more strongly than at any other time. Perhaps I've heard too many times, "The longest any democracy has survived is 220 years." It is my hope the fact that we are a Republic may forestall that downfall, all the world waits all to breathlessly for that moment. Perhaps these words have been spoken too often, "The world hates America and if you would change the world would be so much better off." Perhaps my heart has bled a little more that this cause for justice and freedom has eroded so greatly. That the lives and sacrifices of American soldiers given and taken in the cause of freedom for so many nations have been for forsaken for . . . I don't even know what for. My parents raised me to remember, never to forget. But too many have forgotten now.

For this week, and on this day, July 4th, I will once again remember the sacrifices of my ancestors that I might be born and raised in the greatest nation on earth. A nation where freedom of religion provided for the full restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A nation where our Constitution bears the words that "all men are created equal." For in my sight, they are. A nation where we are free to choose how we may support ourselves, to study whatever we wish to study, to become whatever we wish to become . . . at some level, in some way.

Thank you, America. Thank you for standing as a "shining city on a hill" declaring to the world that mankind, regardless of your nation, were intended by God to be born free of subjugation and domination. Thank you being that symbol of freedom.

More information can be found at the Encyclopedia Smithsonian.
O Say Can You See O Say Can You See Reviewed by Candace Salima on Monday, June 30, 2008 Rating: 5