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

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com