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Debate over the National Anthem

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Debate over the National Anthem
Lonny Wood
February 23, 2014
Eva Harvey

Debate over the National Anthem
In early September of 2001, the United States of America found itself under attack yet again. Later on that tragic day, after the dust had cleared, Americans witnessed as three firefighters raised the American flag over what was once the World Trade Center. This one picture put the world on notice: the United States of America was still here. America’s pride had suffered a blow, but the attack rekindled America’s patriotism. Songs where sung from the floors of the New York Stock Exchange to the halls of congress. People were singing, God Bless America and America the Beautiful, and the American flag flew throughout the land. As the days passed, speculation of America national anthem came into question, renewing a debate as to whether the Star Spangled Banner should continue to be the national anthem.
Having a debate over the United States’ national anthem while preparing for war might have seemed trivial; however, this was not the first time in which the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem came into question. In the 1960’s during the Vietnam War, questions arose as to whether or not that United States should change the national anthem. It would seem that the question of the national anthem comes to mind during times of war, when American patriotism is at a high point. This leads to the question of which song should replace the current anthem. Many quality songs can easily replace the Star Spangled Banner. However, this article will only focus on the first verses of three songs: The Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and America the Beautiful.
First, it is important to understand how these songs came to be. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner in 1814 while standing aboard a British ship watching while the British bombarded Fort McHenry in the battle of Baltimore. In the dawn’s early light, he saw a huge American flag flying over the fort, inspiring Mr. Key to write a poem, titled The Defense of Fort McHenry. Mr. Key suggested combining the words with the tune Anacreon in Heaven creating the song The Star Spangled Banner. In the late 19th century, the song became the official song of the U. S. military. It was not until 1931 that Congress made the Star Spangled Banner America’s official national anthem. Then in 1859, as Katherine Bates traveled across the United States heading towards Colorado, enjoying the sites of the wonderful landscape laid out before her. While standing on top of Pike’s Peak, gazing out at the majesties mountains, Ms. Bates wrote the poem that became the song America the Beautiful. America the Beautiful was one of many songs considered before the Star Spangled Banner for the U.S. national anthem. Finally, it was 1918 when Irving Berlin wrote a song for a revue called Yip Yip Yaphank but; not liking the lyrics to use for the revue, he set it aside until 1938. As Adolf Hitler marched across Europe, Mr. Berlin revised the song as a peace song and that song became God Bless America. All three of these songs have been updated to the songs recognized by most Americans today, and all are considered patriotic songs. When the nation considers which of these three songs should be the national anthem, not only do they need to take into consideration how these songs came to be, but also what they represent.
Now taking a closer look at the lyrics of America the Beautiful and God bless America to see how they compare with the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner. Starting with America the Beautiful, this song is recognized as America’s unofficial national anthem. Traveling across the United States it is easy for anyone to see the beauty of this great country. Ms. Bates describes it as a land of spacious skies with majestic mountains and proclaiming God’s grace upon this country. In God Bless America, Mr. Berlin again describes a land of mountains and prairies, from the east coast to the west coast, and again proclaiming God’s Blessing. As you can see, these two songs talk of a beautiful country with Gods’ blessing. While most people would derive from Mr. Key’s poem a scene from a battlefield, with the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. However, while Mr. Key is describing the battle of Baltimore, the song is about the United States flag, with broad stripes and bright stars. When reviewing these three songs lyrics, what makes them so different is what the songs represent. America the Beautiful and God Bless America represents America’s pride, patriotism and a landscape. Nevertheless, America the country does not hold a monopoly on beautiful places, pride, or patriotism. What constitute America greatness, are the people that make up the United States of America. While the Star Spangled Banner represents a symbol; A symbol of the American spirit, a spirit that does not waver; that when all seems lost, in the dawn’s early light, that spirit will still be there.
So why do people want to change the national anthem? Some would say that the Star Spangled Banner is outdated, hard to sing which challenges the vocal limits and the lyrics are hard to remember; others would say it is a song about a war. On the other hand, America the Beautiful and God Bless America are easy to sing, with lyrics easy to remember, they are songs the nation can relate to and songs of peace. They do have some similarities too. All three give the feeling of patriotism, and pride in America and all three have stood the test of time. Most Americans can recognize the music to these three songs. In addition, the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America are strong in tradition. One could argue that, America the Beautiful and God Bless America would be acceptable replacements to the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem. However, a poll published in June of 2012 by Rasmussen, revealing that 82% of Americans were against replacing the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem.
Americans are proud people with strong traditions. One reason this country is so great is the fact that people can debate and settle their difference in a civil fashion. In times of trouble, Americans will rise above the issue of the day and sing songs about American values and patriotism, and while they may not be singing the Star Spangled Banner, they will wave the American flag. The United States of America is a populace, a spirit, and a way of life. Moreover, when the dust settles, the flag will still be there.
This essay concentrated on only three songs, although, there are many other songs suitable for replacing the national anthem. As in the past, this argument will continue into the future as whether the nation should change the national anthem, but for now, the Star Spangled Banner will remain the official anthem for the United States of America.

82% opposed replacing Star=Spangled Banner with new national anthem. (June 13, 2012). Retrieved from
America the Beautiful. (2014). Retrieved from
Lineberry, C. (March 1, 2007). The story behind the star spangled banner. Retrieved from
Smithsonian Institution (2004). Encyclopedia Smithsonian. Washington D.c.: Author.
God Bless America. (2014). Retrieved from…...

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