Shed Grace on Thee

A fuss has been made about the Super Bowl XLVIII Coca Cola commercial, featuring America the Beautiful being sung in many different languages. I admit to skepticism about this comment from ABC news, “However, the soda maker is set to air a new 90-second version of the ad during today’s Olympics opening ceremony, hoping the controversy will simply fizzle out.” (my emphasis) Last I heard, controversy means that the commercial will be looked at incessantly, so I imagine that fizzling out is the last thing Coke would want.

Nonetheless, when I watched the ad online, it didn’t bother me in the least. While there might be an agenda behind it, I found the commercial moving.  My grandparents were grateful and patriotic American immigrants who, although they learned English, might have expressed their love for the country in their native languages as well.
However, a real America the Beautiful outrage happened concurrently. Recently, our eldest daughter and a friend took their children to participate in a youth program at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. These programs are wonderful opportunities, exposing children to various music styles, instruments and musicians. Both mothers appreciate that the symphony invites homeschoolers to join.

The program they attended was on American music, featuring the music of artists like Aaron Copeland and Duke Ellington. All was well until the orchestra played a rendition of America the Beautiful. To add to the children’s enjoyment and allow them to sing along, the words to the song were shown on a screen.  Except, they weren’t the actual words; they were an altered, politically correct version of the words.

Our daughter gasped aloud at seeing the following in which I’ve highlighted the amended line.

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

She gasped again at realizing that most of the teachers showed no reaction to the lie being taught to their students. Did they not know or not care that around 1895 Katherine Lee Bates actually wrote, “God shed His grace on thee.” (Put to music a number of years later.) Did they not know or care that the “new and improved” version makes no sense? Who was responsible for deciding that revisionist history should be imposed on innocent children?

Our eldest and her friend were in a bit of a quandary. They are grateful to the symphony for their programs. They certainly don’t want to rock the boat and lead to pesky, educated, traditional homeschoolers being excluded. Yet, they did feel the need to say something. Here is a copy of their letter to the organizer of the program.

Dear Ms….,

We are two homeschooling mothers who enjoy attending the BSO mid-week education concerts.  We find them to be an enriching component of our homeschooling programs.

On Feb 4, 2014, we were enjoying the music, pictures, and guest artists at the America the Beautiful concert when we were shocked to hear an inaccurate representation of the song, America the Beautiful.  As we are sure you are aware, the correct lyrics written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1913 are as follows: 

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!

To our dismay, the words on the screen were “We shed our grace on thee.”   In our opinion, altering the words of a significant song is problematic on many counts. It teaches children to distrust those in authority, breeding cynicism and lack of respect. It betrays a trust to be true to the intent of the composer and bring the composer’s work to the public.  Corrupting the words of the song to reflect an agenda is inappropriate and insulting. It deeply offended us, as Americans and as Jews who appreciate the freedom of religion found here, which is historically based on the deeply God-loving roots of this country.

Once again, we appreciate the performances you stage. However, we feel that a message apologizing and stating the correct lyrics is owed to the participating students, teachers and parents. We look forward to hearing from you.

Were they right to send this letter?
Have you been in a similar situation? I’d love to know.

10 thoughts on “Shed Grace on Thee”

  1. This had to be a good teaching moment for the homeschoolers! I believe that they were right to complain. I thank them for their effort. All too often we see the references to God and patriotism being eliminated or perverted. May God bless them for speaking out against the insidious nature of this incident.

  2. I believe they were right to complain. I thank them for their effort. Today ,we see the perverting of anything related to God and patriotism all to often. This also was a great teaching opportunity for homeschoolers.

  3. In regards to removing the reference to God. I believe confronting someone in charge at the time of the concert would have made more of an impact. If their response at the time was not adequate I would have then followed with a letter to the proper authorities. It’s my feeling that American citizens are lazy when standing up for what is right and immediate action (out of view of the children, of course) would have been more appropriate. But I still commend you for speaking up (even in writing) more people should have done the same.

  4. I think this letter was right on the mark. It shows appreciation for the event and the purpose of the event, exposes the fraudulent change of a beautiful song, and firmly requests corrective action for those who may have been deceived.
    The writer has my commendation for standing politely, but firmly, for what is right. Good response to the cheap revisionist attack!
    I am outraged at this destructive theft of American values and its cowardly attack on young minds.

  5. Every time I hear a story like this, it sickens me. I am so frightened for my young nieces and nephew growing up in the public school system in one of the most liberal areas of the country…what’s next in this country’s assault against God! Bless your daughter and her friend for their bold and articulate response to this travesty.

  6. oh my goodness……yes, absolutely! They changed someone’s art. They probably thought that saying “God” would offend a few, but they ended up offending a different few. I have never understood the need of some people to be so very politically correct that they offend 99.9% in favor of the .01%. You mentioned before that your faith has led you to decisions that kept you from participating in many things but that is a price you are willing to pay. You do not wish to stop others from doing or, in this case, hearing something “just because”. People believe in God. I believe in God and I am really getting tired of people apologizing for something that I am not sorry for and teaching that the many have to bend to the few just incase one, just might, maybe, have to think of someone besides themselves. Jeepers, I could rant about this for days.

  7. They were absolutely right for sending the letter. I think they should take the time to gather a group together and go en masse to the offices responsible for this injustice and demand a public apology.

  8. I agree with both points.
    I would think we’d want our cultures expressing the goodness of the USA in their native language so their fellow countrymen would understand. We write books in many languages for good reason.
    As far as sending the letter. Absolutely. At the very least, they distorted the writers work. Would we change the writings of Muhammad? If we did, then there would be an outrage.
    What gives? If they don’t like the lyrics, it shouldn’t be played.

  9. I believe those gals did the right thing. Why should we “Americans” just set on our hands & not speak up about such an important thing such as the changing of lyrics to a song about our great nation. I was completely outraged @ the very thought of taking God out of our national anthem…I mean really…what right do these, obviously ungodly people, think they have the right or rights to change something so dear to us real americans and mislead our youngsters whom are our future. I just don’t understand how a God made man could show such disrespect towards God, our nation, our people & our precious children that God has blessed us with. I sincerely hope they get the apology they so deserve & the persons responsible would understand what they done.

  10. I applaud the women for writing the symphony and for not sitting quietly by.
    For too long, too many have chosen to “not rock the boat” and look where doing nothing has gotten us.
    Silence is approval. And we have been silent too long

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