America, America!

One nation, under God, indivisible…


When Katherine Lee Bates wrote this poem, she had just visited Pike’s Peak, in Colorado Springs. I can see it from my home every day.

We, of course, have become accustomed to singing her poem as lyrics of a national song. Bates never met Samuel Ward, a choirmaster, who set her poem to the melody we all now know.

And if you read the words of the poem, slowly, reverently, the way such a poem is meant to be read, it comes across as more of a plea, a prayer almost…

How could we not see the magnificence all around us?

How could we ignore all of those who sacrificed so much to give us what we now take for granted?

How could we fight more with ourselves than for the cause of justice for all, than for the idea America represents, the hope of the world?

How could we fail to understand that God’s Hand is upon us all, that we will always need God to help us mend our flaws, and that His help and that struggle will never end?

So, on this Veteran’s Day, read it again, slowly, especially the verse reminding us to honor what so many heroes proved:
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.


O beautiful…for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
GOD shed His grace on thee!
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self
their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May GOD thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
GOD shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!