The American flag represents more than just the country in which we live. It represents the freedoms that we have fought for as a people, the freedoms that men & women are still fighting for. The flag embodies the loss of thousands of lives throughout history, the blood and the tears that were shed, in the battle to maintain those freedoms.
It is a reminder of what we have been through and it is a sign of hope for the future. The American flag represents hope and faith for others who do not have the freedoms that we enjoy. But most importantly it symbolizes a strong and mighty and proud people. The American people…
And the anthem that we sing while standing and facing that flag is a tribute to all that it stands for.
The anthem is more than a song. It is a story. It is the story of thousands of soldiers; it is the story of innocent lives lost in various conflicts; it is your story; it is my story. It is OUR story.
Telling that story is an honor. This year marks twenty years since I stood before a crowd of over 10,000 people and performed the United States National Anthem for the first time.
Every time I sing it, I remind myself of the privilege bestowed upon me when they hand me the microphone. And beforehand, every time, I pray that I will do the anthem justice. Respectfully, I sing. Not boastfully or brazenly… Not drawing attention to myself… But focusing on the flag and keeping in mind all the people it represents.
The commercialization of the National Anthem by professional sports teams sickens me. SELLING the right to sing the National Anthem, in my mind, is wrong. While I believe that every American should know the words and should sing along. There is certain reverence that I believe should accompany such a tribute and that is lost on many anthem singers.
The networks that broadcast the games are far too dismissive with regard to the anthem as well, playing only a portion or none at all. Immediately following 9/11, the networks jumped onboard the PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN bandwagon and played the entire anthem. But over the years, that has drastically tapered off.
Throughout the United States, divisions still arise in various forms of bigotry. Situations occur that pit different groups of people against one another. Strife exists. There is unfair treatment. There is poverty. There is sickness. There is misunderstanding and apathy and overwhelming indifference.
But these are the United States of America… And for each of us, there is a moment in time that defines who we are as Americans. For some of us, every time we see the flag or sing the anthem, we have that moment.
On September 11, 2001, I had my first real moment. That day defined American pride for many people. It was a moment shared by many. And I never sang the anthem the same way after that day. I sat down and re-evaluated our National Anthem. I read the words out loud over and over again. And I realized that the most important part of the story for me was that after the struggles, bombs bursting in the air, the fight to stay alive… When the smoke cleared, a reminder of what we had been through, the sign of hope for the future, the representation of the strong, the mighty and the proud was still there.
“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave? Or the land of the free! And the home of the brave!”