Goshen College has every right to make this decision—especially if it’s a question of conscience and faith—though one wonders what prompted the decision now. After all, “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t suddenly change.
Of course, those of us who disagree with Goshen’s decision have the right to point out how misguided it is.
Interestingly, just a couple hours down the road from Goshen College, there’s another Indiana school that takes a very different stance when it comes to Francis Scott Key’s song and other patriotic pregame rituals.
In 1966, amid the tumult surrounding the Vietnam War, a local newspaper publisher encouraged Purdue University’s marching band director “to get some patriotism into these kids,” as the Purdue University website unapologetically explains. The band director responded with these simple but stirring words, which would be “spoken over an arrangement of ‘America the Beautiful’” during the next home football game:
I am an American. That’s the way most of us put it, just matter-of-factly. They are plain words, those four: you could write them on your thumbnail, or sweep them across a bright autumn sky. But remember too, that they are more than just words. They are a way of life. So whenever you speak them, speak them firmly, speak them proudly, speak them gratefully. I am an American!
The band director figured it was a one-time deal. But in response to strong popular demand, and after the tribute was presented before a national TV audience during the 1967 Rose Bowl, “I Am an American” became a permanent pregame football tradition at Purdue University.
More than four decades later, Purdue fans and visiting fans alike are invited to read the words of “I Am an America” during the pre-kickoff festivities of every home game—festivities which also include “The Star Spangled Banner.” When the crowd roars those last four words, it’s a reminder that what unites us is bigger than what divides us.
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