America the Beautiful

Posted: Jul 06, 2005 12:00 AM

O beautiful for spacious skies

 On the night of March 4, 1776, troops under the command of Gen. George Washington prepared for a cataclysmic gamble. American soldiers, under the cloak of night, would take control of the Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston and place cannons there. The British would be forced to abandon Boston. But could 2,000 armed men and tons of supplies be placed upon the Heights without the British attacking? Only the most fortuitous weather could guarantee American success.

  For amber waves of grain

 Capt. Daniel Shays, a farmer and veteran of the Revolutionary War, would not tolerate the unfairness and chaos of the new regime. Victimized by high taxes, lack of a stable currency and unelected debtor judges, Shays led a revolt. In 1787, Shays' Rebellion was defeated, but he was soon pardoned by Gov. John Hancock. Would the anger of Shays and his followers have any effect on the creation of a new, more enlightened form of national government?

  For purple mountain majesties

 In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates vacationed in Colorado. Gazing up at the triumphal, towering Pike's Peak, Bates felt inspiration flow through her. "It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind," Bates would later recall. She took out her notebook and began to write: "O beautiful for spacious skies … "

  Above the fruited plain

 It was the age of agriculture. In 1900, farmers constituted 38 percent of the American work force. Well over 5.5 million farms existed across the country; America exported over $900 million per year worth of agricultural products, or 58 percent of total American exports. Around the country, 4-H clubs began to spring up. But as America became more and more of a world power, as population continued to climb, could production continue to keep pace?

  America! America!

 Sgt. Alvin York crept stealthily up to the machine gun nest. By the time the Germans spotted him, it was too late to stop the American. When one German fired at York, he immediately shot him. But the shots attracted the attention of surrounding German gunners, who killed nine of York's men. York proceeded to almost single-handedly capture over 130 German soldiers and kill an additional 28 before the fighting subsided. Said York, "A higher power than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do."

  God shed his grace on thee

 Depression dealt the town of Mankato, Minn., a severe blow. By 1930, many children were going hungry. On Thanksgiving, Capt. L.J. Hagie of Volunteers of America asked local businesses to chip in. Almost everyone obliged -- baskets of peas, tomatoes, milk, rice, sugar, flour, bread, potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, squash, butter, onions and chicken were sold cheaply to needy families. During the 1930s, Volunteers of America created employment bureaus, wood yards, soup kitchens and "penny pantries" around the country.

  And crown thy good

 Located about 10 miles from Munich, Germany, Dachau was the site of mass executions, purposeful starvation and forced labor. Over 200,000 prisoners were "processed" through Dachau. On April 29, 1945, the American Seventh Army reached the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp. Lt. Col. Walter Fellenz described the scene: "There before us, behind an electrically charged, barbed wire fence, stood a mass of cheering, half-mad men, women and children, waving and shouting with happiness -- their liberators had come! ... Our hearts wept as we saw the tears of happiness fall from their cheeks."

  With brotherhood

 On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. A history of hardship and oppression could be cast aside, King believed. The promise of the founders could be renewed. Before a crowd of over 250,000, King approached the microphone and began to speak.

  From sea to shining sea!

 American men and women continue to spread freedom across the globe, while protecting it here at home. From Poland to Japan, from Iraq to South Korea, the sun never sets on the millions spanning the earth who enjoy the fruits of God's liberty -- liberty championed by the unwavering faith and the undimmed power of the United States of America.