Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Star Spangled Banner

This Sunday we will once again be treated to the extravaganza known as the Super Bowl. Sponsors will pay millions of dollars to hawk their products, fans will spend thousands of dollars to sit in the stadium and TV networks around the world will pay fantastic sums of money to broadcast the game. Each aspect of the event will be choreographed and highly rehearsed, under the direction of professionals whose goals will be to make this performance the most remembered of all time. Likewise, the two teams will review their strengths and potential weaknesses, examining them in the light of their opponents' strengths and weaknesses to hone a winning strategy for this winner-take-all game.

One part of the game I always look forward to is the singing of the national anthem. "The Star-Spangled Banner" characterizes in so many ways all that makes America great.

Francis Scott Key was caught among the British war ships preparing to bombard the city of Baltimore, as part of the British campaign to defeat the Americans in the War of 1812. Key was detained and unable to warn the defenders of the city, who were rallying at Fort McHenry. The Battle of Baltimore would be a turning point for the victors, with the British basking in their burning of Washington, D.C., and the Americans resolute to never let a British torch burn another American city.

In anticipation of the British attack on Baltimore, the commander of Fort McHenry commissioned an American flag. This garrison flag was 30 feet by 42 ¾ feet large. The commander wanted "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance." When the British Navy began its bombardment of the fort on September 13, it could most definitely see the flag.

Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment all through the day and night. His view of the fort was obscured by the haze caused by the cannons as well as the rain falling through the evening. So it was with great anticipation that Key looked out to the fort come sunrise. He strained to see what ensign would be flying from the fort's mast: English or American.

Key captured his feelings of pride, relief and joy, as he penned the words that would be adopted in 1931 as our country's national anthem. As I listen this Sunday, I will reflect back on the thousands of men and women who have fought and died for our star-spangled banner. I will rejoice that our flag is still flying high over a free and proud country. And I will experience a moment of sadness, as I remember the solemn ceremony of the flag folded atop my father's casket.

Men, in the midst of the ceremony of this Sunday's Super Bowl, there are some teachable moments. The singing of the national anthem is one such moment. Take a moment, bask in the glory of this majestic piece of music and take time to help your children appreciate the greatness of our country -- one nation, under God -- a place unlike any on earth.

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