Something for the weekend. Freedom Train by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters. In 1947 President Harry S. Truman commissioned a special train, staffed with United States Marines, to tour the country and display precious documents of American history to remind all Americans of their heritage. The train’s cargo included: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, one of the 13 original copies of the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, one of Lincoln’s handwritten drafts of the Gettysburg Address, the large flag raised on Mount Suribachi by the US Marines on Iwo Jima, the German and Japanese surrender documents that ended World War II, and much more, including one of the originals of the Magna Carta.
The train toured the US for two years and was surrounded by throngs of visitors wherever it stopped. It traveled 37,160 miles, stopping in 326 cities and towns. Over three million Americans went on board the train, many waiting up to six hours to do so. A second Freedom Train toured the country during the Bicentennial in 1975-1976. Continue reading
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.
Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the tenth of these blog posts.
Something for the weekend. God Bless America sung by the imperishable Kate Smith. This song became the rallying song for the United States during World War II. Witten by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was serving in the Army and revised by him in 1938, it was performed by Kate Smith on her radio show in 1938 and became an immediate hit, reaching unbelievable heights of popularity during World War II. The song is a prayer to God, as the first stanza, rarely performed today, makes clear:
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 a 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.
Few entertainers became so connected with one song as Kate Smith did with God Bless America. A Protestant, Kate Smith attended Mass for years prior to her conversion to Catholicism. In this Fortnight For Freedom we express our love for America and fervently beseech God to guide her. Continue reading
Kathryn Elizabeth “Kate” Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin‘s “God Bless America“. Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, reaching its pinnacle in the 1940s.
Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia. Her professional musical career began in 1930, when she was discovered by Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who became her longtime partner and manager. Collins put her on radio in 1931. She appeared in 1932 in Hello Everybody!, with co-stars Randolph Scott and Sally Blane, and in the 1943 wartime movie This is the Army she sang “God Bless America”.
Late in the following video you’ll see a young Lt. Ronald Reagan make a cameo. 39 years later President Ronald Reagan awarded Kate Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom America’s highest civilian honor.