God Bless America

Posted by R. Berg on October 28, 2001

In Reply to: God Bless America posted by ESC on October 28, 2001

: : : Some people think the phrase "God Bless America" is being overused. I'd like to discover the origin of the phrase/the use of it. I see it as a prayer that does not exclude God blessing other countries. We ask God to bless marriages and births, why not our country? Any help would be appreciated.

: : It originated as the title of a song that Irving Berlin wrote in 1918. Many websites have the lyrics and play the song, including the one linked below, whose URL is www.discoverynet.com/ ~ajsnead/patriotic/god_bless_america.html

: : "Any help would be appreciated" aptly expresses the reason for this song's sudden surge in popularity.

: (See R. Berg post for link to the song.)

: Just examine the history of the composer. Irving Berlin (1888-1989). He was "born in Temun, Russia, near Osh. His real name was Israel Baline. His family moved to New York City in the early 1890s." (World Book Encyclopedia) His family "moved to New York in 1893 to escape the pogroms (organized massacres) in Russia... He was honored in 1944 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for "advancing the aims of the conference to eliminate religious and racial conflict... Berlin assigned the copyright for 'God Bless America' to the God Bless America Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts." (www.us-israel.org/ jsource/biography/berlin.html)

: God Bless America is "Used as an expression of appreciation and gratitude to America and its people for the opportunity to live and work there." (Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman, Random House, New York, 1996).

: That doesn't sound like "jingoism" to me. (Search Phrase Finder archives under "jingoism.")


: 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
: Thru 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,
: Land that I love
: Stand beside her,
: And guide her,
: Through the night
: With the light from above,
: From the mountains,
: To the prairies,
: To the ocean,
: White with foam,
: God bless America,
: My home sweet home.
: God bless America,
: My home sweet home.

On the question of overuse: I myself think "How are you?" is overused. Every December I think "Merry Christmas" is overused. (Can't people say something more original?) But so what? One fitting object of appreciation is our constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and speech. Whether you use the phrase "God bless America" as a prayer, a slogan, or a song title, you're entitled to say it as often as you want.