So let's take a minute to know what we're protesting. Shall we?
You know, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is something that is always performed with vim and vigor and boast. And the Millennial Orchestra & Choir, I did a project with them. It's called To Be An American. And it's a collection of American songs.
And I told them the story of some of these songs, like "The Star-Spangled Banner." And it's not a boastful song. It is a song that really is pensive and calls each American to ask themselves, "Is this going to last another day?"
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was first recognized as our national anthem --- but not officially --- by Woodrow Wilson, in 1916.
Congress didn't make it our official national anthem until the 1930s, I think '31. Before that, it was "Hail, Columbia," which, ooh, that's a bad song. Also, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," which is "God Save the Queen." We just took their music and replaced the lyrics.
So this is something that is relatively new. It's 100 years old, as our national anthem. And not even officially. One hundred years ago out of 228, 100 years ago, we decided, yep, that's us.
But we misinterpret the whole thing. If you actually listen to "The Star-Spangled Banner" you hear a different story entirely. You have to understand that this is the War of 1812. And Washington is on fire. And Francis Scott Key goes out, and he's on a mission for President James Madison.
And he goes out to a ship where they're holding a couple of prisoners. They're American prisoners.
The British are holding them on a ship. One of them is a famous doctor at the time, who is accused of getting a bunch of British rounded up and arrested.
And so Francis Scott Key, on an official --- under a flag of truce, goes on board this British ship and says, "Hey, we want to exchange prisoners." Well, during dinner, they start talking about an attack that they're going to do. And this attack that they're now planning, Francis Scott Key and his partner hear --- and the captain of the ship realizes, "I can't let you guys go because now you're going to tell your side. You're going to tell the Americans. So you have to stay on the ship until this battle is over."
So in a story that seems to becoming more and more impossible for me to tell, they're in the ship. And they're watching the battle over Fort McHenry. And they are seeing the rockets. And they're seeing a small flag over the fort. And it's the battle flag. It's not the big one. It's a small one.
And they're watching this through the night. Now, the next morning, they don't know if there's going to be a country left. So as they're watching this, they are peering through the slats of the ship in the portholes. They're hearing the battle rage on. And they are staying up and trying to stay awake. And all they're doing is watching that little teeny banner:
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, over the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
They only knew that they were still a country, that Fort McHenry was still there and still operating and the fight was still going on when there was an explosion because there was nothing lighting up that flag. It was just the rockets' red glare. It was just the explosions and the fire that allowed them to see that that little, teeny flag was still flying:
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 or 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. It is the Star-Spangled Banner. And long may it wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In the morning, the first thing they did when they opened their eyes, if they had been able to shut their eyes, was to look for that flag:
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 of their foul footsteps' pollution. No refuge could save the hirling and the slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph doth wave.
O thus be it forever when free men shall stand. Between their loved homes and their war's desolation. Blessed with victory and peace, may the heaven's rescued land praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause is just. And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
You know, most people don't know and, in fact, I would guarantee you that everyone who is taking a knee at the Star-Spangled Banner has never heard the sixth stanza. We know there's five.
Those are all printed. Did you know that"The Star Spangled Banner" added a sixth stanza? It's 1861. And this is added:
When our land is illuminated with liberty's smile, if a foe from within strike a blow at her glory, down, down with the traitor that dares to defile the flag of her stars and the page of her story. By the millions unchained, who our birthright have gained, we will keep her bright, blazing forever, unstained. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, while the end of the free is the home of the brave.
Tell me that this doesn't stand for freedom for all.
Our ignorance of our own history. Our arrogance that has taken a story and turned it into nothing, but something that proceeds the cheer after "play ball" is shouted.
I promise you now, if we do not reconnect with our history, both the good and the bad --- if we throw the baby out with the bathwater, the plea that is "The Star-Spangled Banner" --- it is not boastful. It is not about war. It is a plea.
I promise you, if we don't reconnect with both the good and the bad and make peace with both the good and the bad, it will not be too long before we get up in the morning and we ask sincerely, "Does the flag still wave? Is it still there? Are we still America? Has it been taken down? Has it been lost overnight?"