I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, with I trust in God We shall not. ~John Adams, July 3, 1776

Independence Day is my favorite non-religious holiday (although to me, it is also a religious holiday, worthy of both solemnity and celebration). The gift our forebears bestowed on us--the greatest liberty ever known to mankind--through their courage, wisdom, and commitment has benefitted the entire world immeasurably. How this cannot be the world’s favorite holiday is beyond me.

Last year at this time, I shared the background of The Star Spangled Banner. This year, it seems appropriate to share the words of America the Beautiful. The lyrics were originally a poem written by Katharine Lee Bates, and were first published in the church periodical The Congregationalist on July 4, 1895. They were subsequently set to music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward, and were first published as the song we know today in 1910.

How often have we heard this song and failed to appreciate the humble gratitude and commitment to duty contained in these verses? May we all truly experience its patriotism this Independence Day, and each day forth. God bless America.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd,
And mercy more than life.
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

To read about America’s founding documents, see our archives.

~Shyla Lefever