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A Tribute To Our Flag And Our Country

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation's pillars high And its foundation strong?
What makes it mighty to defy The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold, its kingdoms grand Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid in sinking sand, Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust, Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep, Who dare while others fly----
They build a nation's pillars deep And lift them to the sky.

George Washington and "The Star Spangled Banner" are two of our nation's greatest symbols of courage. Washington led the Continental Army against the best trained and strongest forces in the world and then, as our first president, led the fledgling nation in its first bold steps as an independent member of the world community. It is the courage of George Washington and the countless others who have led our nation in times of war and in times of peace that the stirring lines of our national anthem--recognized throughout the world as a statement of American pride and courage--commemorates.


About the Author

Francis Scott Key was born into
a wealthy Maryland family on
August 1, 1779. After a great
deal of education, including St.
John's College, Key decided
to pursue a law degree. During
the British attack on Washington,
D.C., in 1814, one of Key's
friends was captured. Key
sailed out to the British ships
to secure his friend's release
and was detained at sea while
the fleet attacked nearby Fort
McHenry, Baltimore's only
defense. During the long night
of September 13, Key watched
silently as the "bombs bursting
in air" lit up the sky. When
dawn broke, he was amazed to
see the tattered American flag
still flying above the bombarded
fort and composed the words to
"The Star Spangled Banner" on
a letter he found in his pocket.
Francis Scott Key returned to
his Georgetown law practice
after the War of 1812 ended
and was appointed, in 1833,
the attorney for the District
of Columbia, a position he held
for the rest of his life. Key
died on January 11, 1843; he
was unaware that he had penned
the words that, eighty-eight
years after Key's death,
Congress would declare the
national anthem of the United
States of America.
-Tara E. Lynn-

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, thro' 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. O' 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
thro' 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 O long may
it wave O'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave.

And where is the band who so
vauntingly swore, 'Mid the
havoc of war and the
battle's confusion. A home
and a country they'd leave
us no more? Their blood has
wash'd out their foul
footstep's 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 free
men shall stand Between their
loved homes and the war's
desolation; Blest with vict'ry
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.

Katharine Lee Bates 1893

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America America God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern impassioned stress
A thorough-fare for freedom beat A-cross the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

Samuel Francis Smith 1832

My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim's pride, From every mountain side
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee, Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love: I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed Hills; My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song: Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God, to thee, Author of liberty,
To thee we sing: Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light; Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!


Let martial note in triumph float, And liberty extend its mighty hand,
A flag appears, 'Mid thund'rous cheers, The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true, its folds protect no tyrant crew,
The red and white and starry blue, Is freedom's shield and hope.

Let the eagle shriek from lofty peak, The never-ending watchword of our land.
Let summer breeze Waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand, Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right, Sing out for Union and its might,
Oh, patriotic Sons!

Other nations may deem their flags the best And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North And South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free, May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea, The Banner of the Right.

Let despots remember the day When our fathers with mighty endeavor,
Proclaim'd as they march'd to the fray,
That by their might, and by their right, It waves forever!

John Philip Sousa 1898

John Philip Sousa was born in 1854. His father
was a trombone player in the United States
Marine Band. As an adult Sousa followed his
father's footsteps into the marine Band, eventual-
ly becoming its leader. Forever connected in
American minds with confident, unabashed patri-
otism, Sousa made many contributions to
American life, but perhaps his most memorable is
the stirring "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
Sousa wrote the anthem on board a ship returning
to America from an extended visit to Europe. He
later said that as he stood on board thinking of
home, he was struck by a vision of the flag: "I
could see the stars and stripes flying from the
flagstaff of the White House just as plainly as if I
were back there again...and to my imagination,
it seemed to be the biggest, grandest flag in the
world."The words to the song, reprinted above,
are not as familiar to all Americans as the notes
of the march, but they share the same energy and
patriotic spirit evoked by the music.

Julia Ward Howe 1861

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Halelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory!, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave;
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His Footstool, and the Soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

Julia Ward Howe was a northern poet inspired by the tragedy of the Civil War to write one of America's most enduring and beloved hymns. The text for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"---sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body"--first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in February of 1862; almost immediately, it was adopted as the unofficial anthem of the Union Army. Howe's song, however, was not about the battles of men on earth, but of the battle fought by all Christians to see that God's work was done and His word obeyed. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" did not belong to the soldiers of the North but to all Americans who held the fervent hope that peace would return to their land and justice would be secured. Praised by President Lincoln, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has remained a cherished part of American culture for more than one hundred years.