As our great nation prepares to celebrate its 248th "birthday," I want to take a few minutes to reflect, once again, on what "the land of the free and the home of the brave" really means. On July 4, 1776, America's Founding Fathers gathered to sign a document that began with these immortal words:

When in the course of human events...

And thus, our nation's grand American experiment in liberty formally began. This bold Declaration was rooted in our understanding of God-given rights, a firm rejection of man-driven tyranny, and a profound confession of mutual reliance on Providence and our fellow man.

It was an experiment that would put everything at risk and cost many of those men their lives, their fortunes and even their families. Yet, at the heart of this Declaration and the very essence of this land we call America is a constant recognition that the future of our nation is perpetually in the balance — determined by each generation's willingness to stand and sacrifice.

+ + Our national question...

This tension between a nation's greatness and its inherent vulnerability can be seen in our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." A quick survey of most anthems finds much bravado and national pride. Our English forebears sing "God Save The Queen," a sentiment that did not play well on this side of the pond. "Advance Australian Fair" proclaims the anthem from "down under." Austrians sing about their "much praised" land as "Home to great daughters and sons."

"Beloved land amongst a thousand others," proclaim Brazilians. And our friends to the north sing, "True patriot love in all thy sons command." Even the world’s smallest country, Monaco, states in its anthem: "Forever, in our land, one flag has flown in the wind."

Yet, in arguably the most powerful and free land in the history of the world, a different anthem is offered. After a night of intense fighting, Francis Scott Key peered into the "dawn's early light" to see if American troops had maintained control of Fort McHenry. The first stanza of his poem, which later became our anthem, posed an enduring question: "Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Instead of an anthem full of pride and inflated language about our greatness, Americans sing forth a national… question. Every time our anthem is sung, that question goes forth: Will we survive the battles of the night? Will our flag of liberty under God still be raised at the dawn's early light?

Our national question is answered in the stanzas that follow, but it seems fitting that these words are not sung as our "anthem." Instead, at every formal gathering and every major sporting event, our national question goes forth:

Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?

This is why America is unique among nations. Yes, we can question. Yes, we challenge each other "in order to form a more perfect union." And yes, we acknowledge that the future destiny of our nation is always in question. Our future is dependent upon the faithfulness, determination and dedication of patriot-citizens who are willing to answer the call, to stand for the anthem, and to boldly sing forth our national question, knowing that the answer depends on our commitment to liberty and our firm reliance on the Creator and each other.

Happy Independence Day!

For life, liberty and limited government,

Steve Elliott, Grassfire

P.S. Did you enjoy this message? Please consider helping Grassfire build our vibrant, nationwide network of grassroots patriots by clicking here. Here are the subsequent stanzas of the "Star-Spangled Banner" that answer the national question posed in the first verse:

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! Oh 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!


Oh! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory 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!

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Steve Elliott


Steve Elliott is the co-founder of Grassfire, a 1.5 million member liberty-based citizen network. Steve likes to talk about politics, tech, faith and family.