The other night my daughter and I were lying in bed cuddling when, for some reason, the Star Spangled Banner came up as a topic of discussion. I asked my daughter if she knew the lyrics to it. When she nodded her head no, I proceeded to sing it. Not very well, mind you, but I wanted her to know how important that song is, so I did my best.
She joined in when she could and we finished the song together. While my rendition wasn't pretty, I still got a little choked up as I thought about what it means to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I don't know about you, but I take this great country we live in and all the freedoms we enjoy every day for granted. I don't often think about the thousands upon thousands whose blood has been spilled in my defense, in our country's defense.
There are many troubling and disturbing events taking place in our nation right now. While I could go into the politics of who did what and why and how, I'm afraid I'd be missing the point.
The truth is our country has faced many troubled times in its storied history. For two-hundred forty years this nation has seen its share of ups and downs. And while America is often called a great nation, it seems like we, as petulant children, have forgotten how truly great it is - what it means to be both free and brave.
Maybe we need to go back to the basics, to the days when America was an infant nation - still fighting for complete independence.
In 1814, Francis Scott Key penned the words of our national anthem as a poem. At the time he wrote the Star Spangled Banner, Key was in Baltimore negotiating the release of a Dr. William Beanes who was a British Prisoner of War. Key was able to negotiate Beanes' release, but the Brits refused to surrender their prisoners of war because they were in the midst of an attack against nearby Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry was attacked with powerful weaponry and merciless barraging. Due to lack of sophisticated ammunition and weapons, the Americans were unable to fight back. All they could do was "hold the fort" and hope for the miraculous. Throughout the night, Key anxiously watched to see whether his beloved Stars and Stripes had been replaced by the Union Jack. It was during these tense and trying hours that Key penned what would become the nation's anthem.
Finally, their twenty-four hours of bombardment ended in an unsuccessful attempt by England's finest. They were unable to capture Fort McHenry. The Brits withdrew and Key was surely overjoyed when, by the dawn's early light, the flag he loved so much was still gallantly streaming.
Do we love our country as much as our founding fathers did? Do we appreciate all that is beautiful about being an American? Those who planted the seeds that became our democracy fought because they weren't free. They fought because they wanted something better for the country they called home. In their struggles, they earned the right to pass on to us this gift of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
America is not perfect, but it is still pretty great. Francis Scott Key thought so. Our founding fathers did, too. And the many men and women over the years who have defended our country to their very last breath believed in this country, too. May we not dishonor their memory by giving up when there are so many important things to fight for.
We as Americans have inherited a legacy of what it means to be both brave and free. I pray to God we pass this legacy untarnished to those who will someday inherit this great country we call home.
The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key
Oh 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 thy rocket's red glare,
Thy bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through thee 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.