“O Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Amber Waves of Grain…”
Almost chosen as the National Anthem in 1926, “America the Beautiful” was written by Katherine Lee Bates, born AUGUST 12, 1859.
Daughter of a Congregational minister, Katherine Lee Bates taught high school, then English literature at Wellesley College, where she hosted gatherings at her home for students and literary guests, including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and William Butler Yeats.
Of her 1893 Colorado journey, Katherine Lee Bates wrote:
“Some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon.
Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules.
I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”
“America, the Beautiful” was quoted by President Lyndon Johnson in his first formal address before a joint session of Congress, Supreme Court Justices and the Cabinet, November 27, 1963:
“John Kennedy’s death commands what his life conveyed-that America must move forward. The time has come for Americans of all races and creeds and political beliefs to understand and to respect one another…
Let us here highly resolve that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not live-or die-in vain…As we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings and give Him our thanks, let us unite in those familiar and cherished words:
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown they good
From sea to shining sea.'”
“America. the Beautiful” was referred to by President Ronald Reagan in meeting South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, November 14, 1983:
“At the worship service Sunday morning with our soldiers…less than a mile from one of the most tyrannical regimes on Earth…a choir of little girls…all orphans…closing the service, singing “America, the Beautiful” in our language, was a spiritual experience.”
Katharine Lee Bates’ poem was printed in “The Congregationalist” for Independence Day, July 4, 1895:
O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,
For Amber Waves of Grain,
For Purple Mountain Majesties
Above the Fruited Plain!
God Shed His Grace on Thee
And Crowned Thy Good with Brotherhood
From Sea to Shining Sea!
O Beautiful for Pilgrims Feet,
Whose Stern Impassioned Stress
A Thoroughfare for Freedom Beat
Across the Wilderness!
God Mend Thy Every Flaw,
Confirm Thy Soul in Self-Control
Thy Liberty in Law!
O Beautiful for Heros Proved
In Liberating Strife,
Who More Than Self Their Country Loved,
And Mercy More Than Life!
May God Thy Gold Refine
Till All Success Be Nobleness
And Every Gain Divine!
O Beautiful for Patriots Dream
That Sees Beyond the Years
Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam
Undimmed by Human Tears!
God Shed His Grace On Thee
And Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood
From Sea to Shining Sea!
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more about the author please visit William Federer
Painting by Terry Redlin