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Harmony in simplicity: Isn't one verse of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' enough?

Absolutely. In practicality, to most Americans, the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the National Anthem.


The national anthem of a country is a symbol of that country’s spirit, history and values. In the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812, was officially declared the National Anthem on March 3, 1931. The successful defense of Fort McHenry and the sight of its flag still flying inspired Key to write the song, and the battle was a turning point in the war, boosting American morale and showing that the country could stand up to external threats.


The image of the “Star-Spangled Banner” flying over the fort is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought to protect our nation’s freedoms. Then, now, and hopefully for as long as we endure as a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”


Although the song has four verses, a fact most Americans do not even know because, for over 90 years, the only National Anthem most Americans sing is its first verse. This inspiring and powerful verse starts with a question: “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?” The answer to this question captures the essence of the hope and strength of the American spirit and has inspired patriotism for generations.


The iconic image of the “broad stripes and bright stars” waving “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” symbolizes American freedom, bravery and the pursuit of liberty. This anthem has been inspiring Americans for generations when sung at sports and special events, national ceremonies and moments of remembrance. Its powerful melody and inspiring words bring a sense of unity to most who hear it, fostering a deep sense of patriotism and national pride.


“But Seagull, if that’s the case, why are there those who want to change the National Anthem to something else alleging that it's racist and divisive?” “In today’s society, there are always those looking for something to be offended about, negative about, or cause division. In this case, those of such ilk have found some words in verse three, a verse most Americas did not know existed and which, in the 83 years of his life, the Ole Seagull has never heard sung, either privately or in public, as part of the National Anthem. Those words are: ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave. From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.’ which those looking to be offended take issue with.”


Key included those words because there were, in fact, enslaved African Americans fighting in the battle on the British side against the United States. The National Archives of the United Kingdom and the Library of Congress have detailed records on the formation and operations of the “Corps of Colonial Marines” mainly consisting of escaped slaves, who, for good reason on their part, played a significant role in the British military including participation in the Battle of Baltimore.


“But Seagull, regardless of their historical accuracy, those words, and perhaps others do in verses other than verse one, do not reflect who we are now.” “Absolutely and that being the case, let’s make the first verse the Star-Spangled Banner, which to most Americans is the Star-Spangled Banner, our National Anthem and leave the rest out.” “Isn’t that a long, arduous process?” “Not unless someone wants to make it more complicated than it has to be.”


Title 36 U.S. Code § 301 designates the National Anthem with the following words: “The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.” Is it that complicated to modify it so that it reads, “The first verse of the composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the National Anthem?” Hopefully, a National Anthem that will inspire and draw us closer together wherever we sing and play it. No matter one’s race, ethnicity, or background, if we cannot unite and set our differences aside, even for a moment of respect for our flag and country, what hope does that give us for America’s future?

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