August 19, 2022

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The Science of News

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL updated for relevance | Don Caron

4 min read

Executive producer: Sally Headley | Directed and performed by Don Caron
We’re due for a new, updated national anthem that more accurately reflects who and what we are and are not. Since it didn’t seem to be happening, we took it upon ourselves to do it, so here it is.

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America has failed to lead
a global crisis pact.
Effects will last and not recede
because we failed to act.
America, America
it’s clear we will not be
a force for good and brotherhood
for all the world to see.

Both parties chose
to vote to cause
the largest loot to date
by bailing out the corporate world
and sealing workers’ fate.
America, America
with millions unemployed
who won’t survive while
wealth will thrive.
The other class destroyed

Corrosive, dangerous entropy
to gut the health care act
A bodyguard of lies he weaves
deception to protract.
America, America
the lies are a smokescreen.
The crazy claims
and who he blames
the likes we’ve never seen

Antagonistic racist creeds
from innuendo glean
support for their insanities
emboldened to extreme.
America, America
recovery’s not in sight.
With rot so deep, disease will creep
and drown us in our plight.

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain
America, America
is there still hope for thee?
Or is your run with greed undone?
We are about to see.


"America the Beautiful" is considered an American patriotic song. The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates, and the music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey. The two never met.

In 1893, at the age of 33, Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Several of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem, including the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City" with its promise of the future contained within its gleaming white buildings; the wheat fields of America’s heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding on July 16; and the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Pikes Peak.

On the pinnacle of that mountain, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room at the original Antlers Hotel. The poem was initially published two years later in The Congregationalist to commemorate the Fourth of July. It quickly caught the public’s fancy.

The first known melody written for the song was sent in by Silas Pratt when the poem was published in The Congregationalist. By 1900, at least 75 different melodies had been written. A hymn tune composed in 1882 by Samuel A. Ward, the organist and choir director at Grace Church, Newark, was generally considered the best music as early as 1910 and is still the popular tune today.

Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward, too, was inspired. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City after a leisurely summer day and he immediately wrote it down. He composed the tune for the old hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem", retitling the work "Materna". Ward’s music combined with Bates’s poem were first published together in 1910 and titled "America the Beautiful".

Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain. Bates was more fortunate, since the song’s popularity was well established by the time of her death in 1929.

At various times in the more than one hundred years that have elapsed since the song was written, particularly during the John F. Kennedy administration, there have been efforts to give "America the Beautiful" legal status either as a national hymn or as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, "The Star-Spangled Banner", but so far this has not succeeded.

Proponents prefer "America the Beautiful" for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations while still remaining as easily recognizable as "The Star-Spangled Banner". Some prefer "America the Beautiful" over "The Star-Spangled Banner" due to the latter’s war-oriented imagery; others prefer "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the same reason.

While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, "America the Beautiful" continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans, and was even being considered before 1931 as a candidate to become the national anthem of the United States.

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