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Train Up a Child: Teaching children to respect 'Old Glory'

         My husband and I were surprised on many occasions to note that many children do not know how to say the Pledge of Allegiance correctly. I have noted children who do not know which hand to use. Many young men do not know to remove their caps when the Pledge is said. I dare say that many probably do not know what the words “pledge” and “allegiance” truly mean. Also, many children do not know what our national anthem is. There are many adults, as well as children, who think “America, the Beautiful” is the national anthem. Children need to be taught these things. It might help develop their respect for our flag if they knew the story of how our national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner,” was written.

         Our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key. He was born in 1779 in western Maryland, just a few years after our Declaration of Independence was signed. His family was very wealthy and owned an estate called “Terra Rubra.” When he was ten years old, his parents sent him to a grammar school in Annapolis, Maryland, and he graduated at age 17. He then studied to be a lawyer. He was a deeply religious man and was active in the Episcopal Church. He was asked to help negotiate the release of a prisoner from the British during the war of 1812. He was actually on a ship headed back for Maryland with the released prisoner when the British attacked Ft. McHenry. The ship was stopped until the end of the attack on the fort and from the ship, the attack was observed. It was from this ship that Francis Scott Key looked to see if our American flag was still standing after the British withdrew the attack. He was happy to see the flag was still there and he took pen and paper and wrote the poem that became the words to the national anthem.

         The British had bombarded Ft. McHenry for 25 hours and finally decided they could not capture it and withdrew. The poem written by Francis Scott Key was originally named “The Defense of Ft. McHenry.” It was handed out as a handbill and the public fell in love with it. It was renamed “The Star Spangled Banner” and became a song. It wasn’t until 1931 that it became the national anthem.

         After the war, Francis Scott Key continued to live a very religious life. Because of his religion, he had been against the war of 1812, but he did serve in the war in the Georgetown artillery in 1813 because he loved his country so much. On January 11, 1843, while visiting his daughter in Baltimore, he died of pleurisy. There are monuments to him at Ft. McHenry, the Presidio in San Francisco, in Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland.

         If children can be helped to understand the love that Francis Scott Key had for our country and our flag, they will better love and respect them both. There are many good books in public libraries that can be checked out to give more information about our flag and country. It is worth the time and effort to use these with children.


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