AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
Katharine Lee Bates, 1859–1929
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
After what I owe to God, nothing should be more dear or more sacred to me than the love and respect I owe to my country.
—Jacques Auguste de Thou
Each time we join together in singing the vividly descriptive lines of “America the Beautiful,” we are moved emotionally as we contemplate the wonders of our great nation. The scenic beauties, the courage of the early settlers, and the sacrifices of heroes in battle all stir us to avid appreciation of our country’s heritage. But this national hymn does more than inspire us to praise our great nation. It also encourages us to pray for it. Each stanza is completed with an earnest plea for God’s grace, God’s healing, and His refining until we as a people achieve true brotherhood, law-abiding control, and nobility.
The author felt deeply about the message of her patriotic hymn:
We must match the greatness of our country with the goodness of personal godly living. If only we could couple the daring of the Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take from us.
As we consider this hymn, we are reminded that America owes its birth to the living, vital and dynamic faith in God that our founding fathers demonstrated. There is a real need today for a return to such a national dependence upon God as well as a renewed pride in our wonderful land.
Katherine Bates, who was a teacher and head of the English department at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, wrote the original lines of this text in 1893, while teaching summer school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains and Pike’s Peak had especially impressed her.
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 ev’ry 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 ev’ry 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.
For Today: Isaiah 32:17; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–17
Give thanks to God for the noble heritage and the many beauties of our great country He has entrusted to us. Raise your voice in praise to God and country—