The 194th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner

By Megan Smith

Today is the anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” In light of this important occasion, I’m going to admit something to you hundreds of blog readers.

I used to think history was really boring.

I’m not alone in this, I know. With the exception of a single fantastic American history class in high school, my historical education involved a whole lot of memorization and very little understanding. I thought that because I hated learning dates and the names of battles, I didn’t like history.

What I’ve learned since high school is that history is so much more than dates. Take the Star-Spangled Banner. The story of Francis Scott Key writing the words to our national anthem is a grand, important story. But it’s also a very personal one. It’s a story about a man—a citizen of a very new country—waiting all night on an enemy ship, watching helplessly as his city is attacked. What must our friend Francis have felt as he stood there, watching the “bombs bursting in air,” not knowing what the next day would hold? Would he have a country to return to?

Read the lyrics of the anthem—the joy you’ll find in those words is the honest expression of a relieved and triumphant man, whose country survived a “perilous fight.”

It’s these stories—of everyday people doing extraordinary things—that really get me in touch with my inner history nerd.

Happy Defender’s Day, everybody!