Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh Say Can You See . . .

March 3 will be the 79th anniversary of the congressional resolution, signed by President Herbert Hoover, which made Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem. However, there has been a long-standing debate about whether the Star-Spangled Banner is the right choice for the country’s anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner was written in 1814 and was originally titled Defence of Fort McHenry. Key wrote the work after he witnessed the bombardment of the Maryland fort by the British during the War of 1812. Though composed as a poem, the piece soon began to be sung to the tune of the popular British drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven.”

For years, many people have lobbied to have the song America the Beautiful replace the Star- Spangled Banner as the country’s national anthem. America the Beautiful was written by Katharine Lee Bates, and the music was composed by church organist Samuel A. Ward. America the Beautiful also began as a poem, entitled Pikes Peak (the plaque atop Pikes Peak commemorating the composition of the poem is pictured above).

Proponents of the switch say that America the Beautiful is easier to sing and more melodic than the Star-Spangled Banner and that the Star-Spangled Banner is too militaristic.

Have your students read the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful and discuss the differences. Also have them listen to the songs. Have your students deliberate as to which song they think should be our country’s national anthem. Would they keep the Star-Spangled Banner or would they change it to America the Beautiful?

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