Good day everyone! Welcome to “Overcoming Challenges.” I am Michelle Kaiser, author of children’s anti-bullying books about a real-life special needs calf named Special Ed, born on our ranch here in Cross Plains, Texas. This series of books is titled The Adventures of Special Ed and focuses on inclusion, kindness, and acceptance. In the books Special Ed faces many challenges because he is different. Today I want to focus on a challenge for most Americans – the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the possibility of changing our National Anthem.
I know that changing the National Anthem upsets many people. Change is difficult and sometimes emotions cloud logical thinking. Let me say up front that I think changing the National Anthem is WAY overdue. If you don’t agree you can choose to stop reading, but I hope you are open-minded enough to continue on.
Let’s take a look at “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When I was younger there was talk several times through the years of changing the anthem because it was so difficult to sing (the range is such that you must have a wide vocal range) and “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates was the front runner to replace it. “America the Beautiful” was itself being considered as a candidate to become the national anthem before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted in 1931 by Congress.
In recent times, some have considered our National Anthem to be racist. Why? Here’s what Francis Scott Key wrote in verse 3:
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”
James Robbins in his article “Is the National Anthem Racist?” debates this issue and gives arguments for both sides. He points out that some say the word “slave” refers to the British Second Corps of Colonial Marines. This was a unit composed of former American slaves who fought alongside British troops. In this argument, Key, himself a slave owner, “was terribly upset by the idea of freed blacks fighting against their former masters and was so gratified by their defeat that he inserted this line into his poem.”
On the other hand, Robbins notes that Key needed a word that rhymed with “grave” and the word “slave” might have been just an innocent convenience. As I pointed out in my previous commentary on Story Writing, sometimes people read ulterior motives into the most innocent things. Until recently no one even thought about the anthem as being racist. Martin Luther King and his followers ended their march from Selma to Montgomery (AL) by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That third verse is virtually unknown. Whichever you believe, I feel “The Star-Spangled Banner” is still not the best representation of our country.
Some folks want to change the National Anthem to “Lift Every Voice & Sing” by James Weldon Johnson. Although the words to this song are beautiful (and yes, I can sing the first verse by heart) it is ALSO difficult to sing because of the range and it reflects more the plight of the African American. Therefore, other nationalities might reject it since it does not reflect their heritage.
Why can’t we agree on a different song? I still think “America the Beautiful” is easy to sing, describes the beauty of our country, identifies the brotherhood we hope for in our nation, and honors the heroes that fought for our freedom so that we can voice our opinions on subjects such as this. And I can’t imagine that it offends anyone.
So that is my two cents. With my limited vocal range, I will never overcome the challenge of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And because I am in the minority, I will probably never see our country embrace “America the Beautiful” as our national anthem.
On a side note, no one sang “America the Beautiful” like Ray Charles! Click here to enjoy his performance at the World Series just weeks after the towers fell. And visit my website www.MichelleKaiserLLC.com to read more about the real Special Ed and get tips for keeping kids safe.
Next time, my commentary will focus on overcoming the challenge to learn technology. I have a great resource for all ages, so be sure to join me.
Michelle Kaiser and her husband, Jim, live on a cattle ranch in Cross Plains, Texas. She travels to area schools and libraries to share the story of her real-life special needs calf named Special Ed and the antibullying message his life conveys in her writing. Michelle hopes to teach children kindness, empathy, and inclusion in her book series, The Adventures of Special Ed.