"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, Let us swear allegiance, to a land that's free. Let us all be grateful, for a land so fair, As we raise our voices, in a solemn prayer” Irving Berlin, 1913
On this day in 1888 one of America’s greatest song writers was born. Irving Berlin of Belarusian Jewish origin (born near Mogilev in Russian Empire, nowadays Belarus), is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907 and had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911.
Berlin had many other hits such as "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas", "Remember", "Always", "There's No Business like Show Business", and "Easter Parade."
At 4-years-old, he immigrated with his family from Russia to New York. Falling in love with America, he served as a U.S. infantry sergeant in World War I.
Irving Berlin wrote the Broadway musical, "This is the Army," which was made into a 1943 film starring Ronald Reagan.
President Harry S. Truman awarded Berlin the Army's Medal of Merit in 1945 for: "Extraordinary service as creator and producer of the musical revue, This Is the Army."
Berlin wrote the patriotic hymn "God Bless America" in 1917 but never introduced it to the public. It was introduced to the public in 1938 when Kate Smith sang it on an Armistice Day radio broadcast.
Berlin gave all the royalties from the song, over $100,000, to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a Congressional Bill awarding Berlin a “Congressional Gold Medal:” "In recognition of his services in composing many popular songs, including “God Bless America.”
Upon receiving the medal, February 19, 1955, Irving Berlin commented to President Eisenhower: "To me, 'God Bless America' was not just a song but an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am."
In 1977, Irving Berlin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ford. On October 12, 2001, Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware stated:
"In the aftermath of September 11.Republicans and Democrats burst into that song of the same name by Irving Berlin on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. It was a slogan for peace."
I first heard God Bless America sung by Kate Smith as a child during the Second World War. Since then every time I hear her version it brings tears to my eyes and chills up my spine as I remember so many great things about this county. Am I patriotic? I answer with an unequivocal yes.
During my years in business and for pleasure I have traveled all over the world from Europe and Asia to the North Africa and Latin America. From Argentina to Wales and all stops in between I have seen beautiful scenery and tasted delicious food along with meeting great people along the way. I have stood with my legs straddling the Equator in Equator and the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England. During the Cold War I visited Communist dominated nations and have seen great poverty in developing nations. All of this was a wonderful and educational experience, but I have never seen a nation where individual freedom is so revered and protected. I have never been in a nation founder on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I have never seen a nation processing the unselfish generosity of the American People. God truly has blessed this nation.
AS we continue on into the 21st century we are being torn apart my multiculturalism. We are no long the melting pot of Irving Berlin’s day but have turned into a salad bowl of special interest national groups who have not pledged their allegiance to a land that is free.
Today we a beset by groups of immigrants who have and are coming here not for freedom and opportunity, as Berlin’s parents and my grandparents did, but for free stuff. You can witness the disdain many of the offspring of these immigrants have on our college campuses where they are benefiting from the blessing bestowed upon us by the efforts of our forefathers. They burn our flag and hoist their own national banner during their demonstrations demanding more and more free stuff.
While he was growing up on the Lower East Side, Berlin’s mother would say "God bless America" often, to indicate that, without America, her family would have had no place to go. The Economist magazine wrote that by writing "God Bless America", Berlin was "producing a deep-felt paean to the country that had given him what he would have said was everything. It is a melody that still makes his fellow countrymen want to stand up and place their hands over their hearts.”
So on this 125th anniversary of the birth of a Jewish songwriter from Russia let us take a moment to reflect on those words he wrote 95 years ago and has become a part of our American lexicon.
"While the storm clouds gather
far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance,
to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful,
for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices,
in a solemn prayer.
God Bless America,
Land that I Love,
Stand Beside Her,
and Guide Her,
Through the Night,
with the Light From Above,
From the Mountains,
to the Prairies,
To the Oceans
White with Foam,
God Bless America,
My Home Sweet Home,
God Bless America,
My Home Sweet Home!"