America the BeautifulEvery morning in the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Heckenlaible, would play America the Beautiful on the piano as the class sang the first verse. It was part of our morning ritual. Over time, I am sure it became just another monotonous thing to do, but image of her playing the piano while we were singing the verse still stands very vividly in my mind.

While our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, has a more patriotic, rousing spirit to it, America the Beautiful will always remind me of those simple days of lying in the tall prairie grass while the wind briskly whisked above. Staring into the wide-open blue skies filled my thoughts of being able to do the impossible, to rise up in life, and to be always thankful for the presence of God’s grace.

America the Beautiful sings out for us to be grateful for the beauty all around us and calms us from all the surrounding noise. It serves as a gentle reminder while sounding an inspirational tone.

Why Mrs. Heckenlaible selected this song as our daily opening I don’t know, but she ingrained in us a wider perspective on what our country offers.

This Independence Day, we need to take a deep breath and appreciate the beauty around us – in our communities and our landscapes – and feel the freedom which empowers us to participate in building a good life, individually and for the people around us.

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!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates