July 4 ~  From Sea to Shining Sea Embracing the Present

"America! America! God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!" ~ Katharine Lee Bates

Jasper Johns

Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), an English professor at Wellesley College, took a summer teaching job at Colorado College in 1893.

While scaling the 14,000-foot of Pike's Peak she was inspired by the beauty of the "spacious skies" and "purple mountains."

"When I saw the view, I felt great joy," Bates recalled. "All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

The words to her poem America the Beautiful, poured easily from her heart and was first published in a weekly journal called the Congregationalist on this day in 1895.

In 1904, Baptist minister Clarence Barbour matched Bates's words to the tune of Materna, a song written by Samuel Augustus Ward in 1882. The merged words and music was first performed at a Baptist church in Boston.

As a gift to the American people, both Bates and Ward gave up all royalty to the song--a tribute to America's greatness and a patriotic masterpiece of spirit, praise, and prayer.

About the immediate and lasting success of her tribute, Bates said, "That the hymn has gained such a hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood."

Will RogersHappy Birthday, America!

Ray Charles: