Panel discusses U.S. patriotism, national anthem

By Becky Weiland, For the Daily
Published November 12, 2014

Oh say can you see?

In the gallery of the Hatcher Graduate Library Wednesday evening, a panel of University professors held an exploratory discussion on American patriotism and the significance of the Star Spangled Banner in an event titled “Exploring American Patriotism.”

The University owns a copy of composer Francis Scott Key’s original sheet music of the Star Spangled Banner from 1814, currently on display in the Hatcher Graduate Library. These copies of the national anthem are the most expensive pieces of sheet music in existence, according to Jamie Vander Broek, an exhibits and programming librarian.

“The exhibit in the Audubon Room highlights the history of the Star Spangled Banner from many different angles and inspired the discussion about coercive patriotism,” Vander Broek said.

Business Prof. Wayne Baker began the discussion by highlighting different types of patriotism and various definitions of national pride. Baker has blogged five days a week since 2008 on his site, surveying the sentiments of Americans towards their country. The major topics Baker discussed were symbolic patriotism, critical or “tough love of country” patriotism and uncritical or “blind love of country” patriotism.

“I think a real patriot is someone who debates the ideals of the nation and debates our policies and practices and is not afraid to criticize the government — but they do so in a way that is constructive and a way to improve things,” Baker said. “Especially in this university, what I would like to see is a very vigorous debate about what is patriotism — what does it mean to a person individually and what does it mean to us as a group.”

American Culture Prof. Kristin Hass continued the presentation with a history of cultural practices and displays of patriotism. Discussing major events, such as the start and completion of the Washington Monument and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Hass described the evolution of America as a country and the varying ways historical figures attempted acts of patriotism.

Concluding the panel’s presentation, Associate Musicology Prof. Mark Clague discussed the origin of the National Anthem and its evolution through history. Not only did Clague discuss the process of standardizing the Star Spangled Banner, he also explored the lyrical significance of the song.

“The thing that you don’t realize when you’re singing the Star Spangled Banner, whether it’s at the Big House or a graduation ceremony — that first verse ends with a question mark,” Clague said. “So many people on this campus are trying to create your future and identify who you want to become. Part of that identity is as a citizen. That question mark is really the key, that we have a responsibility and make citizenship and patriotism not a thing but an activity. Not a noun, but a verb that we’re going to use to do something.”