We’ll be back from vacation with a new blog and podcast soon. In case you missed what’s going on, www.dicksummer.com/podcast/latest will explain. But something happened that I need to tell you about right now.
My Lady Wonder Wench and I were at a Mets Spring Training game, when the P.A. Announcer asked everyone to “Stand and honor America as 8 year old Raquel (Somebody) sings our national anthem.” I don’t remember her last name. I wish I did. She walked out behind home plate and stood in front of 6,000 people in all her 4 foot something, maybe 90 pounds worth of little girl splendor. She was probably the only person in the stadium wearing a dress. Pink, I think, with a little bow on top.
Lady Wonder Wench and I stood up, put our hot dogs on our seats, and our hands over our hearts. Little Raquel took a deep breath, and started to sing…
“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,” It was a little girl’s voice…but with just a hint that in a few years, it might sound a bit like the late, great, Whitney Houston…but not yet.
“What so proudly we hail, at the twilight’s last gleaming.” I started thinking about how proud my Lady Wonder Wench and I are of our two little girls…grown up women now…with their own kids.
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, were so gallantly streaming”… The old guy in the row in front of me had one arm around his wife, and his other hand was holding a very ancient baseball cap over his heart. “U.S. ARMY” it said on the cap…probably circa World War 2. He stood as straight and tall and proud as my dad used to stand.
“And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”… The old guy began singing along with Raquel…very quietly and a little off key…but singing. And Wonder Wench started singing along with him…singing and crying…and I knew she was thinking about her brother Bob. His simple white cross stands in the sand behind Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod.
“Gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there”…More and more of the people around us started singing…very quietly and a little off key…but singing…together.
“Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave”… All of us were singing now. Very quietly and a little off key…but singing. All of us. All around the field.
“O’er the land of the free”…Even I was singing. Quietly. Off key, I guess. But singing…and thinking about my Uncle Joe the World War 2 B-17 navigator, and my brother Geoff who did a second US Army tour in Vietnam because he knew the experience he got the first time around would save a couple of buddies. He was right. It cost him a chunk of his leg…but he never talks about his Purple Heart and his Bronze Star.
“And the home of the brave.” We all sang it together…quietly…a little off key…. Little Raquel, my Lady Wonder Wench, me with my jacket that says BROOKLYN across the front, and about 6,000 other people who just came to enjoy a baseball game together.
It wasn’t a huge majestic sound. It was really kind of quiet…and a little off key. But it was…all of us…together. I don’t think any of us expected that.
There was an almost embarrassed moment of stunned silence. Then someone in the bleachers cut loose with one of those long, loud, two fingers between the teeth whistles, and the place exploded with applause, and laughs… more than a few tears…and so much pride. So much pride we felt at that moment…together. .
E Pluribus Unum…out of many, ONE. That’s more than just a slogan on our money. Out of many, one. Teamwork. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us so powerful. That’s what makes us able to do things no other nation could possibly accomplish. Listen !
No nation has ever done what we do…on the scale that we’re doing it. No country anywhere near our size, with our power, our wealth, our thrust…has ever been governed by its own people. There have been kings, and dictators, who have successfully ruled over their people. But here…we are our own rulers. We are an experiment in progress. And I think the Fearful Fringe has no idea of how powerful our possibilities are. The only thing that can stop us…the only thing that can steal our unique power is…fear. And those of us who are fearful are making lots of noise, but they’re living on the fringe. And there was proof of that at the same ball game.
A little guy by the name of Tyler threw out the first pitch. Tyler looked like about six years old. He had a little league uniform, a fiercely determined look on his face, and he threw from a full wind up. And he threw a strike. And the crowd gave him a big cheer. Then the announcer mentioned that Tyler was a representative of the Make A Wish Foundation. And the crowd was quiet for a moment, and then they went nuts. You see, The Make A Wish Foundation is devoted to helping to make at least one wish come true for kids…like little Tyler…who are probably going to die. Soon. But little Tyler had only one thing on his mind. He went out there, and threw his strike. He didn’t let the fact that he wasn’t going to throw many more of them stop him. He just rared back and fired his pitch. That’s what made America. That’s what we’re made of. That…and our secret weapon…team work… E Pluribus Unum.
That song we sang together just before the baseball game…the one about the bright stars and the broad stripes, and the perilous night ends with a question to which I think Francis Scott Key really wished he knew the answer all those years ago. “Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”
The answer is yes. Oh yes. For those of us in the ball park that night, singing together, and watching little Tyler throw his strike, those stars will always shine their light…and those broad stripes will wave with pride and power…in every dawn’s early light.
That’s who we are. All of us. Together. The most powerful force on the face of the earth. We can do whatever we set our minds and our hearts on doing. So…maybe we’re looking at doing things that other nations haven’t been able to do. So what ? We have our unique secret source of power. Our own secret weapon. Our teamwork. Our E Pluribus Unum.