by baldilocks

With it being Independence Day and all, on my Facebook page, I’ve mostly been posting videos of people singing pleasantly sonorous versions of the Star-Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs. On my page, there’s a mariachi band singing a fantastic version of the SSB, a Christian “boy-band” harmony foursome doing a medley of songs and, of course, Ray Charles’ iconic rendition of America, the Beautiful—this one from a 1972 episode of the Dick Cavett Show. Lady Gaga also did a wonderfully understated version of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl a few years back, showing us—surprisingly–that she understands something that many female singers of the Anthem do not: less is more and better.

And then there’s the standard against which all versions of the Anthem are measured: Whitney Houston. Her appearance at the opening of the 1991 Super Bowl is still a tear-jerker.

Houston died a few years back of a drug-overdose and it has almost become her legacy, but not quite. The voice and showmanship of the young Houston and the flawless performance of the Anthem were too powerful to be totally over-shadowed.

What goes less remarked upon about Houston are her other renditions of patriotic songs and her performances for the troops. And when I looked it up on YouTube, I found that there was, arguably, an even better performance of the Anthem by her—this one was for the Navy. In it she is still young, slim, beautiful and in perfect voice, albeit in a lower key than in the Super Bowl performance. It’s very emotion-invoking, especially when you know the outcome of Houston’s story–and that of her daughter.

So, I choose to remember Whitney Houston as the American icon who put the love and feeling back into our National Anthem. As the foibles and tragedy of her life fade away, she should always be remembered for that.

Happy Independence Day, my friends.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

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If you are tired of and disgusted by the persistent attacks against the American way of life, an advertisement and an event in Chicago should make you feel better on this Fourth of July.

Budweiser has released a new ad in which actor Adam Driver, a veteran himself, surprises a fellow veteran and his family by delivering in person a scholarship to his daughter.

U.S. Army veteran John Williams sustained a serious injury while training for Operation Desert Storm. Driver was also injured shortly before he was deployed to Iraq, putting an end to his military career.

That’s apparently why Driver was chosen to give Hayley Grace Williams a scholarship to nursing school.

The scholarship is part of a joint effort between Budweiser and Folds of Honor, which has awarded numerous scholarships to veterans and their family members since 2011.

In a letter, Hayley explained that her father’s military injury was so severe that he needed steel rods and six screws to stabilize his spine.

“They sent me your letter; I was in the military too,” Driver said as he met the family. “[Folds of Honor] reached out to me, and they told me to let you know that you got the scholarship. But also, Budweiser and I thought that you shouldn’t have to worry about school, so Budweiser is gonna be covering all your remaining school expenses for the rest of next year.”

Here is the video:

In Chicago, more than 250 wounded, ill, or injured athletes representing the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Special Operations Command, the Australian Defence Force, and the U.K. Armed Forces are taking part in the Warrior Games.

“Sport has played a part in all of our guys’ lives at some part of their career,” said U.K. Armed Forces Sports and Recovery Coordinator Emily Griffith. “But we are finding out that quite a lot of our guys are getting involved for camaraderie because they feel they can open up more while in the sport rather than in a group environment, so it is a part of their recovery whether it’s physically or psychologically.”

Scheduled to take place June 30 through July 8, the Warrior Games feature Paralympic-style competition in eight sports, including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

The games are open to the public and will be held at a variety of prominent locations throughout the downtown area of Chicago, including the McCormick Place, the United Center, and Soldier Field.

For more information, see http://www.dodwarriorgames.com/

Have a Happy and Memorable Fourth of July!

On the 4th of July I normally post the declaration of Independence but it hit me that given our divisions these days a better choice would be these lines from the 2nd verse of America the Beautiful which I think captures what we are and what we should be perfectly:

America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

Why does this matter, think about it:

God mend thine every flaw. Says that while we rightly celebrate our country we acknowledge that we have flaws as all do and call on a power greater than us to allow them to be solved.

Confirm thy soul in self-control, Reminds us that self control for a country, like for a person strengthens one’s soul. The ability to act with calm deliberation when others are in panic is what a leader and a great nation and great people do.

Thy liberty in law! The sign of a free people is when not popular passion, wealth or power rule, but law. We are free when we are ruled by law and willing to be ruled by law, and when we don’t like said laws, we can work to elect those who will pass laws we do like while still obeying the laws in force.

Those lines are the secret of America’s greatness and we abandon them at our peril

Have a great 4th!