America the Beautiful

July 4, 2022

Grand Teton range in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

When I was in third grade, our teacher’s name was Miss Mary. I am not sure if Miss Mary had any professional credentials for teaching. But she lived across the street from our school with her parents. Her Dad was the school janitor, and they were a faithful Catholic family. One of the things that Miss Mary would have us do while she was teaching reading groups was to copy poems from our Reader. I think they called it “seatwork” (aka known as “busy work”). While Miss Mary was teaching reading to the Bluebirds, the Redbirds copied poems and vice versa. I don’t remember if I was a Bluebird or a Redbird.

One of the poems that I remember copying was the poem by Katharine Lee Bates, “America the Beautiful.” Ms. Bates, a college professor in the east, authored the poem while touring the Midwest and west. Katharine wrote the poem after visiting Pikes Peak in Colorado, July 1893. Initially the poem was titled, “Pikes Peak.” The music was written for the poem by an organist, Silas Pratt, choir director at Grace Church, Newark, NJ. The poem and music were first published together in 1910. Since then, two other versions of the poem have been written. Interestingly, Katharine Bates and Silas Pratt never met.

“America the Beautiful” speaks to me because of its breadth, “From sea to shining sea.” The beauty it paints of our country, “…purple mountains majesties, Above the fruited plain.” The vision, “That sees beyond the years, Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears.”

The commitment of our sisters and brothers, “Who more than self, their country loved.”

And its reality: “God mend thine every flaw.”

The beauty, the breadth, the vision of our country still lives and breathes. There has been a significant uptick in the number of people visiting out National Parks; record-breaking, in fact.

We want to touch and feel and embrace that beauty, that vision, that commitment which our National Parks radiate. Amidst all the flaws, and today the flaws feel SUPERSIZED, we, each of us, embrace our country. No political group owns patriotism. It can’t be owned. It can only be shared and celebrated. The American flag belongs to each of us, citizens, and those yearning to be citizens; the rich who hang their flags from their condo balconies and the poor who wave the flag they acquired at the dollar store. It’s our flag. It’s our country.

And the flaws are all of ours, too. On this 246th celebration of our country’s birth, let each of us make an effort to reduce the flaws that we as individuals bring to our country. We can do this.

“God mend thine every flaw.”

Happy Fourth!


America the Beautiful

By Katharine Lee Bates, 1911 version

O 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!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O 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 be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O 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.

3 thoughts on “America the Beautiful”

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  2. “God mend thy ever flaw.” That touched me. I need to pray that I mend my flaws and pray that others mend theirs so that we become kinder to each other. But it begins with my own mending. Thanks Bridget.


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