Thursday, September 27, 2012

Columbus Day: What Columbus & Shakespeare Have in Common

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He sailed and sailed and sailed and sailed
to find this land for me and you.
~ children's song, traditional

Christopher Columbus!

Depending on your age, you either learned Columbus was a great visionary or an equally great imperialist. One shared view of Columbus, however, is that it took tremendous courage to make that first voyage upon a sea that was believed to be so flat – a flat plate upon which only the most daring would brave sailing off its distant edge.

Columbus made not one bur four trips to the New World.  The first of these journeys left Spain on October 12, 1492. This is the day that has been celebrated in the New World since colonial times. Imagine that. By the time the United States made Columbus Day an official, federal holiday (1937), the discovery of the New World had been celebrated throughout many parts of the world for well over 400 years.

etching of Columbus claiming the New World for Spain
Born in Genoa, Italy in 1451, Columbus had sailed the Atlantic many times prior to his famous voyage with the Santa Maria, the Niña, and the Pinta. His original goal was to find new route to Asia, heading west over the water. A voracious reader of geography and theology (Library of Congress), Columbus not just an adventurer, but an educated man – an educated man with a vision.

Upon his return to Spain and given his original agreement with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Columbus was knighted, given a coat-of-arms, the titles of Admiral of the Sea and Viceroy of the Indies, and 10% of the riches he claimed in Spain's name.
Christopher Columbus' coat-of-arms

But within the space of  less than 10 years, the Crown would charge Columbus with gross mismanagement and abuse of authority. In 1500, he was arrested and put in chains. He lost his titles permanently, and much of his wealth. In 1504, however, Spain was willing to fund Columbus' fourth and final voyage to the New World.

Columbus died two years later in Spain. His death, however, was not the end of his journey. His body, though originally buried in Spain, was moved to what is now known as the Dominican Republic. In the 18th century (1795), they were moved to Cuba. In 1898, they were returned to Spain. 

It is generally accepted that Columbus died believing he had discovered a route to Asia.  And just like Shakespeare, there is no known contemporary portrait of him. Yes, we do not really know what Columbus looked like.

Let it fly!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Star-Spangled Banner: The Complete Lyrics

The original star-spangled banner (The Smithsonian)
The Star-Spangled Banner
Lyrics by Francis Scott Key
Music by John Stafford Smith

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The originals ...
The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC houses what remains of the original flag that Francis Scott Key saw wave in the morning light after the battle at Fort McHenry. Although the flag has been restored, it remains very fragile. Was all this damage from the battle? Yes and no. Bits and pieces of the flag were given away in the years that followed, a custom similar to people collecting bits of the Berlin Wall.

To see Key's original notes, the first published broadside of the poem, or to learn more about the events that inspired the song (Key was "a guest" on a British warship at the time he wrote it), check out this link to The Smithsonian. It is the best around. No kidding.

The National Anthem Project
Did you know people are forgetting the national anthem? Some people never even learn it. 

Early sheet music (Photo: web archive)
Perhaps you, dear reader, are asking the question why learning the anthem is important. It is a legitimate question. 

The simple answer is that anthems make community. Think of all the songs you and your friends know and love – not patriotic songs but the songs you grew up with. Think of how those songs make you feel. They have the power to remind you of your friends, of significant times in your life, and of deep feelings.

Anthems, like so many other symbols, are symbols that unite one person to another. A national anthem becomes a shared heritage that every one of us owns. 

The National Anthem Project is an effort by The National Association for Music Education to keep the anthem alive and well and includes resources for teaching the anthem.

A historic replica of the Star-Spangled Banner (

Let it fly! collects the history behind The Star-Spangled Banner and other patiotic songs. If you have stories to tell, please share them with us!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Patriot Day: Remembering September 11

Patriot Day is a national day of remembrance honoring the victims of September 11, 2001. 

Photo by Michael Pendergrass, US Navy
 While Patriot Day is not a "federal holiday" (requiring schools and government offices to close), it is a "discretionary holiday" (at the annual discretion of the president).

To celebrate Patriot Day, President Obama asks us to do two things:

Observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. (Eastern time), the time of the first attack – on the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Fly the flag at half-staff at home, at work, and on government property.

Link to how to fly the flag at half-staff.
The difference between Patriot Day and Patriots Day

Drawing of 1 WTC
Patriot Day should not be confused with Patriots Day, a holiday in honor of "the shot heard round the world," the Revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord. Patriots Day occurs the third Monday in April. 

Patriot's Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine as Maine originally was part of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Generally, it is celebrated with parades and re-enactments of that first battle of the Revolution.

One World Trade Center (1 WTC)

One World Trade Center or 1 WTC was originally called Freedom Tower. It is scheduled to be completed in 2013. 

When it is finished, it will be the tallest building in the entire western hemisphere and one of the three tallest building in the world. From the ground to the top of its spire, it will stretch to 1,776', a height designed to remind the world and ourselves of the American Revolution. 

Like its original name, Freedom Tower, it will be a bold statement about strength and resilience. 

1 WTC will be over 2 million square feet. It will be a landmark not just in physical structure or symbolism but also in its construction: It will use recycled rainwater, renewable energy, recycled construction materials, and natural light. It was designed by the architect David M. Childs of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (NYC). Childs is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and a Fellow of the Design Futures Council.

Future tenants include the NY/ NJ Port Authority, the US General Services Administration, and publisher Condé Nast (publications include Vogue, The New Yorker, and Architectural Digest). Condé Nast has rented over 1 million square feet (25 floors).

To find out more about One World Trade Center, click here.

The National 9.11 Memorial Museum
"In remembering the victims of the attacks and honoring those who went to their rescue, the Museum will explore the very real impact of terrorism in the lives of very real people, and their families, friends, colleagues and communities. ... This Museum will do nothing less than underscore the absolute illegitimacy of indiscriminate murder."
~ Museum Director Alice Greenwald
The infinity pool at the 9.11 Memorial Museum
The Museum is dedicated to fighting terrorism and hate through memory and education.  Exhibits examine the September 11 attacks and also look beyond them. They examine the nature of terrorism and hate and also how to fight it: the importance of helping others, about the place art has as a cathartic response to tragedy, and, of course, how to talk to children about these topics. 
To explore lesson plans and educational goals, click here

To explore museum exhibits, click here.
Let it fly!