And Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood

“O beautiful for spacious skies…” begins a tune that America has beat its drum to for many years. The song, a poem by Katharine Lee Bates set to music by Samuel A. Ward, speaks of the beauty of this land. Purple mountains in their majesty, amber grain waving in the breeze, seas shining in the sunlight. But it also speaks of the strife that came as a result of the “patriot dream” that founded this country.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

As we in America approach the day we celebrate our freedom, it’s tough to ignore the people who have had their freedom stripped from them. While we all may disagree on politics and who’s to blame for injustice, we do agree that something is wrong.

I love celebrating holidays, and the Fourth of July has always been one of my favorites. It’s summertime; it’s reminiscent of cookouts, fireworks, and just having a fun time (read no stress of Christmas shopping). But it breaks my heart that others don’t get to celebrate freedom too.

This post was originally about the separated immigrant families, but now it should be more than that and more than just the freedom we think about in July in America. Freedom, while it is a construct (as in not something we can physically give to someone), it is something we have to create for ourselves and others.

To encourage the sharing of freedom, I arranged America, the Beautiful for piano solo and have it open for free downloads on Soundcloud. The sheet music is also available for free here: America, the Beautiful

In exchange, I urge you to do what you can to make a difference. Act. Do what you can (even if it doesn’t feel like a lot) and spread the word. The world will get better starting with each of us individually.

I picked this song for a reason. While most people only sing the first verse, the lyrics are still relevant to these events today. If I had to pick only three verses to go along with my arrangement, it would be these.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

The phrase that caught me in the first verse is, “And crown thy good with brotherhood.” Not all families are the same, but all the ones I’ve been around have been hospitable. If a friend brings me home, their parents do everything in their power to make sure I am fed and feel taken care of.

To crown someone is to bestow an honor upon them, so to crown someone with brotherhood is to give them the honor of being their family, regardless of blood. It’s more than hospitality, and it’s something that Katharine Lee Bates was celebrating as part of the beauty of the America that she loved.

All of the verses end with a benediction. “May God…” do good for you, and these wishes for the listeners also become our responsibilities. God sheds grace on us, so we can be a brotherhood. God mends all our flaws, so that we can forgive those around us. God refines our gold, so our success can be noble, good, and do good in the world.

All in all, whatever your beliefs, this song is part of the American tradition and is urging us to be a family. I hope you’ll join me in doing all you can to make that happen.

Happy freedom, happy fourth, and encouragement to all of you!

 

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