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?
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."
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.