|Katherine Lee Bates|
Click on video below to hear America The Beautiful performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
In 1893, Bates, a 33-year old English professor at Wellesley College, took a train trip from Massachusetts to Colorado to teach a summer school class at Colorado College. Awesome vistas rose up outside her window on the train which included “amber waves of grain”, through “gleaming alabaster cities” and around “purple mountain majesties” rising silently “above the fruited plain”.
While standing atop Pikes Peak, which rises 8,000 feet above sea level and overlooking the vast plains below, Bates was inspired to write her famous poem, which is now inscribed on a plaque on the pinnacle of Pikes Peak.
Originally titled, Pikes Peak, Bates majestic poem was first published in 1895 in a church periodical, The Congregationalist, to commemorate the Fourth of July. The music, titled Materna, was written by Samuel A. Ward in 1882. The music and the poem were first combined and published in 1910 as America The Beautiful.
Last year, in Bamberg, Germany, I participated in a program at St. Martin's Catholic Church honoring the home countries of many of the parishioners. It was up to me to read something that in a way summed up what my country, America, means to me. I decided to recite the words, (as I am not renowned for my singing ability, quite the reverse in fact,) to America the Beautiful. I had been in Europe for nearly two years, and as I recited the poem, I started to cry. The words are so moving that I simply couldn't hold back the emotions that overwhelmed me. I am a veteran, having served in the military along with with several of my family members. In this day and age, when so many people and countries speak out against our nation, and yet so many people fight to get in, my family and I are proud to serve our country and to be called Americans.
At the time of my poetic recitation in Germany, I never imagined I would have this wonderful opportunity to explore so much of America with my husband and daughter. Our 5-week road trip will take us through 28 States and include at least two Provinces in Canada covering a total of nearly 10,000 miles. You are welcome to ride along with us (metaphorically speaking) as we explore the grandeur, beauty and majesty of this great land of ours, America The Beautiful.
This piece, written by Pat, was originally posted on our website on June 8, 2011.