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This past week, America’s favorite pastime, baseball started again. While Amer­icans began playing this patriotic sport in 1845, spec­tators par­tic­ipate in an even greater tra­dition at the end of the 7th inning — the singing of “God Bless America.”

Exactly 100 years ago today, the United States entered the First World War. During that con­flict in 1918, a soldier named Irving Berlin in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yap­shank, New York, was asked to compose a Ziegeld Follies-style revue for the sol­diers of the camp. For the finale, he wrote a song entitled “God Bless America.” In 1938, Berlin revived the song, and Kate Smith ulti­mately debuted the revised version on her radio show on Armistice Day in 1938.

For the next few years, Smith per­formed “God Bless America” every week on her radio show. As a result of her per­for­mances, and the musical mas­ter­piece courtesy of Berlin, the song sold nearly 400,000 pages of sheet music and earned $60 million in war bonds for the American efforts in World War II.  Both the Demo­c­ratic and Repub­lican parties used the song as their 1940 con­vention themes.  And as the United States entered the war, the song became a beacon of hope for sol­diers and sailors overseas – and for their fam­ilies at home. For America, God truly “[stood] beside her and [guided] her” through those hard times.
For many it was more than just a song. Smith told a jour­nalist in 1938, “As I stand before the micro­phone and sing it with all my heart, I’ll be thinking of our vet­erans and I’ll be praying with every breath I draw that we shall never have another war.”

Used as a ral­lying cry in antic­i­pation of the rise of Hitler and the coming of a new world war, Berlin’s lyrics call to mind what our Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence termed the“laws of nature and nature’s God” and certain “inalienable rights endowed by our Creator.” America as a nation endured as a symbol of freedom throughout the cen­turies. It may seem that Amer­icans lost sight of those “ines­timable blessings,” but perhaps the meaning of “God Bless America” can reunite us once again. Perhaps the “light from above” that guided the shep­herds to the manger of Christ, might perhaps guide our nation to the path of liberty.

“Through the mountain, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam,” America has endured through countless trials and tribu­la­tions. The tragic events of recent terror attacks across the United States and Western Europe raised sig­nif­icant con­cerns that the West can no longer defend itself. Many Amer­icans lost con­fi­dence in our country after the tumul­tuous election of Pres­ident Donald Trump and the rise of radical, violent protests. Time and time again there seems to be a failure and con­stant reminder of our inability to make America great again or even just protect the America we have now.

While the failures of con­tem­porary pol­itics may dom­inate our daily con­ver­sa­tions, it is still important to remember the sac­ri­fices our ancestors made for our sake on the bat­tle­field or even in the work­force. Even in a nation that has gone through decades of eco­nomic dis­tress and political turmoil, America is cer­tainly a blessed nation. We are cer­tainly “grateful for a land so fair.”

While yet the “storm clouds gather far across the sea,” our expres­sions of our grat­itude will go far to keep our feet grounded in the ideal of freedom. Although it may sound trivial, simply counting our blessings is a step towards a bright future. Whether out at the ballpark or in your home, take a moment out of your day to read this little song in appre­ci­ation of our nation and our Creator, and be thankful for America is surely “my home sweet home.”

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear alle­giance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the moun­tains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America, my home sweet home.
God bless America, my home sweet home.”

Mr. Yiu is a sophomore George Wash­ington Fellow studying pol­itics.