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Patriotic Traditions

Mike Lawson • Archives • October 21, 2006

During the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key penned America’s national anthem after seeing that the flag flying over Ft. McHenry had survived the day’s intense bombardment. Many of us can remember the extraordinary performance of the national anthem that Whitney Houston delivered at the Super Bowl a few years back. Prior to that time I cannot remember anyone who overwhelmed an audience with such a powerful musical interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner.” However, there is some very disheartening evidence that very few people in our country actually know the words and background to this national treasure.

Harris Interactive recently conducted a poll that provided an in-depth look at the lack of knowledge many Americans displayed regarding the national anthem. The result revealed that “nearly two-thirds of all Americans don’t know all of the words to the Star Spangled Banner”, and “of those who claim to know the words, only 39 percent know what follows – ‘whose broad stripes and bright stars’ (answer: ‘through the perilous fight’).”

Another interesting statistic that came out of this survey was that 70 percent of Americans learned the national anthem in school music class. With budget cuts affecting the number of music teachers in schools and general music instruction, however, this statistic is in grave danger of slipping disgracefully lower.

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