Happy Independence Day! Today we celebrate our united determination to be a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. The Fourth of July is not the day we attained our independence from the British crown but rather the day we declared it. We celebrate the day that 56 men must have taken an awfully deep breath, picked up a feather pen, and then took a stand for something really important…the big, grand ideal of personal freedom. In that instant, they not only signed their death warrant if their experiment went wrong but they risk everything and changed the course of history. It was a point of no return. Imagine the courage, commitment, and passion that pulsed through those signatures that day.
Taking a stand for the things in which you firmly believe takes courage but publicly declaring them especially in the face of opposition requires a whole new level of bravery. Strong displays of belief and intention have, do and will continue to change decisions, outcomes, cultures, and the future. I feel so blessed to live in a country where 247 years ago someone took a stand for my right to take a stand. I’m so fortunate that my voice and beliefs cannot be stamped out or silenced, no matter how much you might disagree with them. Millions around the globe do not enjoy that luxury. I hope I never take my freedom for granted because I cannot fathom living without it.
There are many favorite patriotic songs that celebrate this country I love. So many in fact that I’ve created a playlist we always enjoy while watching the three or four fireworks displays we can see from the cabin porch over Lake Tahoe. It was difficult to pick a favorite but, in the end, I chose a tried and true standard that has a great back story… God Bless America.
I hope between hot dogs, cold beer, watermelon slices, sweet lemonade, cannonballs in the pool, and licking the homemade ice cream paddles… you’ll remind your children and yourself why we celebrate this day, why it’s important, why this particular song is so meaningful and, as the fireworks explode overhead, you’ll sing it at the top of your lungs and declare your loyalty with the same level of pride and courage our forefathers brought to the party 247 years ago today.
Happy Declaration Day!
God Bless America – Kate Smith
The time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans feared they would have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.
This was the era just before television when radio shows were how people got most of their news. American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite news shows and entertainment and no entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith… in more ways than one. Kate is what we would call “plus-size” today. The well-known phrase, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is in deference to her closing song on the popular radio program each night.
She was also very patriotic. It hurt her to see Americans so worried, fearful, and depressed… afraid of what the next newscast might bring. She had hope for America and faith in her fellow Americans. She wanted to do something to cheer them up so she contacted the famous American songwriter, Irving Berlin (composer of White Christmas), and asked him to write a song that would make them feel good again about the future of their country. But he didn’t have to write it because once she described what she was looking for, he pulled from his files a song he had written 22 years before but never published. He gave it to her and she worked on it with her studio orchestra.
Not sure how popular the song would be, Kate and Irving both agreed they would not take any profits from the song and instead would donate them to the Boy Scouts of America in perpetuity… which has resulted in millions of dollars donated in royalties from this song.
The link to the video below is the first public performance of God Bless America. After this performance, it became Kate Smith’s signature song. There is a short preamble to the song that is dropped most of the time but which Kate always used in her performances. After the first couple of verses, the video shows scenes of the 1940 movie, “You’re in the Army Now.” Notice at the about the four-minute mark, the young actor Ronald Reagan sitting in an office, reading a newspaper.
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:
My home sweet home.”