I am finding great entertainment value in creating a new Top Ten List for myself, and although it is not yet completed, I am going to share the beginnings of it with you. I am titling it “Top Ten Things Every American Should Know.” Or you may hear it referred to periodically as “What Exactly Is America Thinking About?”
In pondering the contents of this list, I remembered (probably from Jeopardy!) that March 3 marks the anniversary of the date that Herbert Hoover signed the congressional resolution stating that “The Star Spangled Banner” is our official national anthem.
As is the case for most everything that is done on a wide scale, of course there were (and are still) grumblings and disagreements surrounding the musical selection. I suppose everyone needs a cause to believe in or a bandwagon to jump on.
People complain that because the song ranges through almost two octaves, it’s just too difficult to sing well. Believe me, I get that…just sit at any Fourth of July picnic and listen to the crowd when the band is playing. The range is a little tough.
There are those who think that “America, the Beautiful” is a prettier song, others who think Woody Guthrie created the perfect national anthem with “This Land is Your Land.” And then, well, then there is the group that just doesn’t even know the tune OR the lyrics to Francis Scott Key’s poem that was set to music written by John Stafford Smith.
I’m more than certain this one is going into the Top Ten List.
Because that group? The one that doesn’t know the lyrics or the tune? That group is the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens (including Christina Aguilera, if anyone watched Super Bowl XLV). While my admittedly quick internet search for statistics didn’t lead to any official numbers, I did find a very entertaining article written by journalist Clark Merrefield. Clark took it upon himself to offer up $10 gift cards to a local bookstore in Portland, Oregon to those individuals who could get through the song without any lyrical mistakes.
Short version: 73 adults between the ages of 19 and 80 years old were interviewed. Any guesses as to the number who got it right?
8. Eight people. EIGHT! Eleven percent.
I am baffled. What is it that Americans are spending time thinking about that has caused 89% of our society to lose sight of the importance of the foundation that was created for us to flourish within?
Another statistic found that 50% of tourists at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in DC actually VIEWED the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and upon an exit survey it was discovered that these tourists were leaving under the assumption that they’d viewed a flag made by Betsy Ross. Perhaps the huge sign describing the events leading up to the heartfelt lyrics had too many words on it.
It is disappointing, no matter which way you slice it. And somewhat insightful, I should add. You’ve heard the term “history repeats itself,” I am sure. It is painfully obvious, through this illustration, that “history repeating itself” is a simple function and byproduct of the fact that we, as a nation, are unaware of our own historical details to begin with.
The War of 1812 is often forgotten in our history, and I won’t include its relevance on my Top Ten List of Things Every American Should Know. But it was significant in many ways. It was fought in order to bring resolution to leftover issues from the Revolutionary War. Our nation’s capital was burned, destroying The White House (President Madison was on the front lines while his wife Dolley was home preparing a meal for 40 guests. She abandoned the lavish feast which was devoured by the British prior to the burning, and escaped with a portrait of George Washington that still hangs in the East Room today.).
And in 1814, when Fort McHenry prevailed after 25 hours of being bombarded by the British, Francis Scott Key (who was aboard a nearby British ship negotiating the release of American prisoners) was inspired to create the poetry that stands for our nations stamina, determination, and courage.
It’s just really not something to be taken lightly. And so it is the beginning of my latest Top Ten List.