I am so excited to talk to you about our newest book, The Star-Spangled Banner, and what it means to me. Yes, it’s not the national anthem I grew up with, being a French native, but it is my husband’s and children’s anthem and is very dear to me. Recent events have made me think even more carefully about the purpose of this new book. To summarize in one word, I think it is about HOPE.
- Hope that our children will live to love and respect one another within and beyond the borders of this beautiful country.
- Hope that we, as parents, will work hard and actively participate in shaping the country we want for our children.
- Hope that they will see their flag as a symbol of unity and equality.
As a parent myself, I get questions from my kids on the meaning of the song, and the meaning of Independence Day. Here’s what I tell them (hopefully, I will save you some fact-checking!):
The Star Spangled Banner Was Initially a PoemWritten by Francis Scott Key in 1814, during the War of 1812 with the British. It was initially called “Defense of Fort McHenry.” He wrote it after seeing British ships attacking Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The next morning, after 27 hours of bombardment, the fort’s flag was still there, raising triumphantly, and it gave him hope and the inspiration for the lyrics. The poem talks about the incredible bravery of all the human beings who fought for their freedom in this War.
Here’s what it means verse by verse:
O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light
Oh, can you see, the sun is coming up?
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
what we saw last night at sunset, that made us proud?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
It was our flag with its wide stripes and stars, in the middle of the fight
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
We saw it over the walls of the fort and it was floating triumphantly
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
There were bombs exploding and making flashes of red light
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
And the light of the bombs revealed that our flag was still there.
O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
Hey, is our flag with the stars on it still waving…
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
…Over the United States, land of the free and of the brave?
Did you know? / 3 Fun facts to tell your kids about The Star-Spangled Banner
- Our national anthem was initially a drinking song! No wonder it’s so catchy! It was Key’s brother-in-law who made the connection between the poem’s words and the British drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven” and printed it in the newspaper.
- The song is difficult to sing, even for a singer. It was initially a drinking tune, intended for a group of (maybe not so demanding) people to sing together. Today, it has become a solo with a much slower tempo that even superstars struggle to sing:; even Christina Aguilera forgot some of the lyrics at the Superbowl XLV, and Michael Bolton had to write them on his hands!
- It took more than one century after it was written to become our national anthem. In 1814, The Star Spangled-Banner started as a song printed in a newspaper. It became an anthem for union troops. Then it was so popular that President Wilson had it declared the national anthem of the US for all military ceremonies. Finally, a petition signed by millions urged President Herbert Hoover to pass a law in 1931, making it the official national anthem of the United States of America.
To celebrate Independence Day and do our part in bringing hope, for every Star-Spangled Banner book sold, we will donate $1 to the Sphinx Organization (@sphinxorg ), which is dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.
Happy Independence Day!