Savannah Celebrates National Anthem for Flag Day - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/14/07

Savannah Celebrates National Anthem for Flag Day

We sing it at ball games and patriotic concerts, but do you actually know the words to the national anthem? Most people don't. That's why the City of Savannah is one of several cities nationwide trying to change that through the National Anthem Project.

In September 1814, Francis Scott Key penned the words to what later became our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, inspired by the American flag, still flying after British forces abandoned their attack on Baltimore, Maryland.

"We want them to know, first of all, that there are four verses to it," explained Savannah city alderman Van Johnson, when asked what he wanted people to know about the national anthem, "but I think, more importantly, that it was written during a time of struggle. It was written in hopes of a better day. Certainly, as we fight for even better days today, there's still hope and that is what this country represents. On Flag Day, I think it's so appropriate that we're able to celebrate this with both the young and the old."

The National Association of Music Education started the National Anthem Project two years ago after a survey found two-thirds of all American adults didn't even know the words to the national anthem. They also discovered only one of every three American teenagers knew the name of our national anthem and only 15 percent could sing the first verse from memory.

Today, a giant American flag graced the front of Savannah City Hall. Inside, people sang The Star Spangled Banner and thought about what the song really means. Rachel Robinson, a fifth grade student at Jacob G. Smith Elementary School, performing with the Savannah Children's Choir, thought about Francis Scott Key's inspiration.

"I'm picturing how he was there looking at that, the flag and how he was so moved," she said.

Her choir director, Roger Moss, said singing the national anthem is an emotional experience.

"I'm thinking of our men and women overseas," he said. "They're young people. They are someone's son, someone's daughter. It gets pretty moving to think about those kinds of sacrifices."

"For two years, our nation had been fighting a war with Great Britain," said Joseph Conyers with the Savannah Chamber Players, explaining the history of Francis Scott Key's famous song to people at city hall.

The Savannah Chamber Players provided more than just the music. This week, they've been taking the story of the national anthem to children in Savannah and the children, like Rachel Robinson, have been listening.

"It's just such a great song and it's so important to history," said Robinson, "and you should really learn it."

The flag in front of Savannah City Hall will remain on display through July 4.

For more information about the National Anthem Project, go to: http://www.thenationalanthemproject.org.

The Star-Spangled Banner
Words by Francis Scott Key; Music by John Stafford Smith

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep.
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the Star-Spangled Banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the Star-Spangled Banner, in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust."
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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