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Monday, July 3, 2023

America (My Country Tis of Thee)

In 1984, years before he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1st Lt Garlin Murl Conner of Albany, Kentucky was honored at a July 4th commemoration at Camargo Church of God in Mount Sterling for being one of the highest decorated military veterans in Kentucky. The war hero spoke to a crowd of about 365 people. There was a flag ceremony, the presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the congregation sang "The Star Spangled Banner," “America, the Beautiful” and “America (My Country Tis of Thee)."

Did you know that ''The Star Spangled Banner'' wasn't adopted as the official national anthem of the United States until 1931? Before that, the nation had a few de facto national anthems, and ''The Star Spangled Banner'' wasn't even the most popular. That honor goes to ''America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)." For a century, this was the most beloved 'unofficial' anthem of the nation.

The hymn was written In 1831 by Samuel Francis Smith, a student at the Andover, Massachusetts Theological Seminary, who had been asked to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks into English. The "God Save the Queen" melody caught his attention, but rather than translate those lyrics, he was moved deeply by the desire to create a national hymn that would allow the American people to offer praise to God for our wonderful land. And so, in just thirty minutes, "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" was born. The song was first performed on July 4, 1831, by a children’s choir in Boston.

All four stanzas of "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)," glorify freedom and liberty. God is the author of liberty. The hymn acknowledges no limits on freedom. The first three verses encourage and invoke national pride, while the last verse is a petition to God for His continued favor and protection of the United States of America. "Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light," 2 Corinthians 3:17 says “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (aka freedom)," which is to say Christ is where true freedom is found. It is a freedom that lasts for an eternity, not anything temporary. The kind of freedom we will never have to worry about being stolen or taken away. All four stanzas glorify freedom and liberty. God is “author of liberty” and unlike “America” the poem acknowledges no limits on freedom.

My country, 'tis of thee
sweet land of liberty
of thee I sing
land where my fathers died
land of the pilgrims' pride
from every mountainside
let freedom ring!

Click here to read more about 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

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