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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2008 Donald E. Lindman
635 words


By: Don Lindman

After September 11, 2001, Americans became engulfed in a wave of patriotism.  Among the changes that occurred was a new appreciation for our national anthem.

In 1814 the United States was involved in a war with England that threatened to bring an early end to the noble experiment in freedom and democracy that had begun in 1776.

The young nation’s destiny hinged on the result of a naval attack on Fort McHenry, near Baltimore.  British forces already had burned the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Library of Congress.

Francis Scott Key, a nationally respected attorney and poet, and Dr. John Skinner had successfully negotiated the release of an American prisoner of war, Dr. William Beane, and the three men sat in a small boat in the harbor behind the British ships.  A condition of the release was that they not go ashore until the battle was over.

Key tried to sleep but kept waking up, wondering how the battle was going.  As the British “bombs” burst in the air Key could occasionally make out the American flag still waving from the fort.  When dawn came the British gave up their 25-hour bombardment, and the weary but elated poet saw the “broad stripes and bright stars” still flying over Fort McHenry.

“Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?” he asked.

The result was the four stanzas of what at first was entitled “Defence [sic] of Fort McHenry,” but quickly became known as “The Star Spangled Banner.”  The Army and Navy chose it as their official songs, but it wasn’t until 1931 that Congress officially proclaimed Key’s composition the national anthem.

The deeply religious Key concluded his poem with the lines “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,” and “And this be our motto: In God is our trust.”   His words parallel those of the Psalmist: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

“The Star Spangled Banner” is one of the most difficult of all the world’s national anthems to sing, so periodically a movement resurfaces to declare another, simpler song, our national anthem: a song like “America the Beautiful” or “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” 

But “The Star Spangled Banner” is a very emotion-loaded poem when taken seriously.  Picture that battle at Fort McHenry, with the independence of the U.S. hanging in the balance. 

Imagine those explosions in the air, lighting up the surroundings, and think of Key peering through the dark sky, trying to find that flag still waving in the midst of the bombardment.  “Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Key wondered.

Then at the first hint of morning, Key saw a small object outlined against the sky.  “What is that which the breeze, it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?” he asked.  “Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,” he said as his emotions began to overflow, and then came the joyous exclamation: “‘Tis the star-spangled banner!  O long may it wave….”

If those words don’t move you, listen to contemporary Christian singer Sandi Patti’s rendition at the celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.  As ABC-TV closed its coverage, Patti’s version was played.  An awed Peter Jennings asked someone in the studio (but over an open mike), “Who was that singer?”

Key’s concluding words are as apropos today as they were when he first wrote them:


“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!”


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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