The Jazz Ambassadors from the United States Army Field Band were in town on Sunday.
From the stage to the rafters, their patriotic music filled the Murphy Theatre in celebration of our Independence Day and in honor and respect for the men and women who have served this great nation. Modern and classical patriotic tunes filled us with love for our country.
Almost every seat in our beautiful old theatre was filled as the big band sounds of trombones, trumpets, saxophones, piano, upright bass, guitar and drums blended to the absolute delight of everyone present.
As Master Sergeant Marva Lewis sang Lee Greenwood’s stirring lyrics to the hit song “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the entire audience was filled with pride.
Every person in the theatre stood as Lewis sang the lyrics, “And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend Her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land… God Bless the U.S.A.”
I could feel my eyes welling with tears. As we clapped along with the music, a single tear ran down my left cheek. Looking around, I noticed several people wiping away tears. Tears of pride. Tears of love for our country.
This is the greatest country that has ever existed. Period. Don’t argue about it. It is.
We cherish life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Our Founding Fathers had a keen understanding of all things that make life precious; all that people cherish in life and all that makes life worth living. They incorporated these ideals into our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and our Bill of Rights.
Those ideals have been tested many times throughout the years.
At Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln addressed the principals upon which the country was founded, when he stated that the Civil War tested, “Whether that nation or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated could long endure.”
Praise God. We have endured. This country has endured challenge after challenge to the freedoms we have been guaranteed by our Founding Fathers.
Most true Americans have willingly and proudly pledged their allegiance to the flag of this country and to the republic for which it stands. The pledge of allegiance is a short, simple declaration of our commitment, as citizens, to this country and to Old Glory, which is the symbol known worldwide as the flag of the United States of America.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The original pledge was written by Colonel George Balch in 1887, just a little over 20 years after the Civil War ended. It was important to him and to the healing country to note that we would never again be divided.
In 1892, Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, revised the original pledge. He included that this nation would be indivisible. That pledge was then published in The Youth’s Companion.
In 1923, the pledge was modified to specify “the flag of the United States of America.” In 1954, congress and President Eisenhower agreed to add the words, “under God” to the pledge.
Pastor Bellamy wanted a pledge that, not only stated our commitment and allegiance to the flag and our country, but he wanted it to sound right. He wanted it to be short and concise. He wanted it to have a flow and cadence that was pleasing to the ear when spoken.
Most people pause between the words, “one nation” and “under God.” There is no comma separating those words. A pause isn’t necessary. It isn’t even grammatically correct, but to maintain the cadence, most people… pause.
Whether you pause or not is not important. Whether you make the pledge or not… now, that is important.
Many times since the founding of this country, America has been called the Melting-Pot. That compares us to a stew; the bringing together of many different ingredients to develop a mixture that is pleasing.
Melting together people who are completely different to achieve people who are all the same, or who are at least similar, is not necessarily a good thing. In melting together people from different cultures, backgrounds and nations we lose the diversity that makes us unique, strong and powerful.
Picture a pot of stew where everything is equally melted, blended together; where nothing is any longer unique.
Picture a tapestry where threads and cords of different colors and textures are woven together to form a piece of art, a thing of strength and beauty.
Like the threads of a tapestry, we need to be proud of our individuality. We need to be proud of the cultures from which our ancestors grew. We need to be proud of our individual religions, ancestries, ethnicities, histories and creeds.
I don’t want to be part of a stew. I want to be part of a beautiful tapestry; a work of art, one nation under God.
As a nation, we must remain indivisible. Yet, we as individuals, should strive not to define each other by those things that make us different. We should celebrate our diversity, or individuality.
In that sense, let us all pledge our allegiance to each other and to this great country – The United States of America.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.