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Happy 4th of July

The United States of America is looking good at 241 years of age.

Still youthful and vibrant, yet equally wise and challenged, the American experiment continues to work and thrive in a world of great uncertainty and overwhelming odds against it. There are moments of tremendous divisions that give the impression of weakness and disorder. Although, those that proclaim this notion are ignoring history and basic reality.

As the past 241 years have demonstrated, its the similarities and differences (small and large) between Americans have actually contributed to the strength and durability of the United States of America as the greatest country in the history of the world. We are free to debate, free to express our speech and free to change the course of an issue or, yes, even a nation or the world, through individual expression. Whether in the form of dissent or a rallying call, the opportunity for a better tomorrow is always present for the taking, if we so choose. Fierce debate and strong willed disagreements at the individual, local, state and national level don’t broadcast weakness or reason to sulk and panic, but instead presents the chance for someone (or a group) to see something differently and take action to bridge the seemingly unbridgable gap for a positive vision of unity.

The harder the task, the more impactful the reward.

On the 4th of July, we celebrate all the amazing characteristics that define the United States of America. These celebrations, universal and deeply personal, are special and warrant grand spectacles in the form of spectacular fireworks, wonderful parades, delicious bbq’s and entertaining movies with friends and family.

Above all, we remember that some of this nation’s most critically important historical moments have occurred in the face of intense adversity and daunting uncertainty that, once the smoke clears, continues to reveal a country that will sustain and thrive in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined.

This was one of those moments.

“…and the home of the brave?”

The concluding charge in “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key (there’s a family connection to Mr. Key) that, when answered, refreshes the promise of the American experiment for generations to come. And today is a perfect occasion for us to answer that call, in our own unique fashion, for the country we love.

Happy Independence Day. 

America’s Musical Key

If you’ve always thought that the “The Star-Spangled Banner” sounded like poetry…

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

A perceptive observation, dream or random idea can alter the course of history and America has been sitting in the front row since the summer of 1776. When these lightning-in-a-bottle moments arrive without warning, people in all eras have proven to be quite receptive. This is what makes Francis Scott Key’s poem so remarkable. Mr. Key wasn’t hired to write poetry in that war zone, yet he saw something nobody had before. Forgive me if the following sentiment reads like a bit of a hyperbolic stretch, but perhaps Mr. Key, like everyone else, was familiar with the language of America’s declared independence, but he was the first to see the resonance of those words off paper via the lone flag flying after a battle of life and death.

At this point in American history (and world history), the future of the United States of America was unknown. The American experiment, as it continues to evolve today and tomorrow, was just that at its inception and sequential decades thereafter, including the War of 1812. More accurately, less was known and understood about “America” during the late 18th century because these supremely radical ideas were only beginning to be molded into a stunning reality.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is relevant due to the circumstances of how and why the lyrics came to be. And, at this country’s crossroads of sheer existence early in the 19th century, America’s purpose was realized within the smoke and fire of battle through a uniting anthem.

That anthem rocks to this day.

Fun Fact: I am, as surreal as it reads, related to the aforementioned Francis Scott Key.

Okay, let’s give this a shot:

My dad’s uncle (John Lentz) was married to Frances, whose grandfather’s brother was the grandfather of Francis Scott Key.

The lineage may not read like poetry, but it inspires pride in being an American all the same.