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One day when she was teaching English at Colorado College in the summer of 1893, poet Katharine Lee Bates and some other teachers decided to take trip up Pikes Peak in a prairie wagon to see the view from the top. Later she recalled that after leaving the wagon near the top and going the rest of the way on mules, she was very tired. But she continued: “When I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with this sea-like expanse.” Words of a poem began to come to her and when she returned to her hotel room, she wrote down the words, first published in the Independence Day edition of the church periodical, The Congregationalist in 1895 with the name Pikes Peak. In 1910 a hymn tune composed earlier by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward was published with Bates’ poem as America the Beautiful. (wikipedia)

I have thought for many years that this hymn should be our national anthem because of the qualities of soul expressed in each stanza and refrain. I am always disappointed when only one or two of the four verses are sung. Today, when we are reflecting on how to be our best selves as Americans, I hope to spend some time listening to – and singing – this wonderful tribute to our country. My prayer will be one of gratitude and hope that we will live up to the responsibilities that are ours as citizens of this beautiful land.

  1. Oh, 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.

  2. Oh, beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern, impassioned stress, a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

  3. Oh, 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 is nobleness and every gain divine.

  4. Oh, 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.