What so proudly we hail’d

By Dana Allen-Greil

This morning I had the pleasure of touring the museum with the grand prize winner of our national anthem singing contest, Jordan Shelton, and her husband. They’ve had a whirlwind tour of the Washington, D.C., area since they arrived Friday evening—a trip to the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.; a walk past the White House, Ford’s Theater, and the Washington Monument; and an outing to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. And that doesn’t include Jordan’s two outstanding performances at the National Museum of American History and the Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards. This is Jordan’s first trip to the nation’s capital but, she says, she’ll be coming back again—there’s just so much to see and do.

Before yesterday’s performance at the museum, Jordan took a tour of the Star-Spangled Banner exhibition with Director Brent D. Glass. That experience, she says—along with reading the exhibition’s companion book—gave her a much deeper understanding of our nation’s anthem. Turning the corner from the exhibition entryway, and into the darkened chamber where the flag is housed, was an experience she will never forget. Seeing that huge flag, Jordan felt a personal a connection with the way Francis Scott Key must have felt and the things that he saw nearly 200 years ago. Just a few minutes after viewing the flag that inspired the national anthem, Jordan performed the Star-Spangled Banner with a better understanding of and appreciation for the meaning of Key’s lyrics and the flag that inspired them.

Jordan’s performance was an important part of the museum’s celebration of Flag Day, which also included a naturalization ceremony, flag-folding activities, and music by the Fifes and Drums of York Town. Just prior to the singing of the national anthem, a group of more than 20 children were sworn in as American citizens. After the ceremony, many of the children rushed toward Jordan to get an autograph and to pose for photos with her. Winning the contest, she says, is the biggest honor she has ever received. “The flag is the ultimate representation of what we stand for, what we fight for, what we believe in. To not only sing the national anthem, but to do it on a day that represents the flag and our history, is so cool,” Jordan says of the experience.

NOTE: If you do not see a video player above, you can view it on YouTube.

Dana Allen-Greil is the new media project manager at the National Museum of American History.