A Little Happier: Justice O’Connor, “America the Beautiful,” and My America Feeling

I sometimes get what I call my “America feeling.” I get it when I vote, or when I see the Statue of Liberty, or when I read the Preamble to the Constitution, or when I hear certain songs.

For instance, I’m overwhelmed by my America feeling whenever I listen to the very funny song “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1943 musical OklahomaWith that song, I get so worked up that I actually get tears in my eyes. It’s that line, when Aunt Eller sings:

I’d like to teach you all a little sayin’
And learn the words by heart the way you should
I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else,
But I’ll be danged if I ain’t jist as good!

That song makes me choke up, because it’s one of the great dreams of the United States. “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, But I’ll danged if I ain’t jist as good!”

Recently, I attended the memorial service for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Years ago, I served as one of her clerks, so I had a role to play in the ceremonies marking her death.

We attended the funeral service at National Cathedral, which was very beautiful and grand, but also personal and funny.

At the very end, we all sang “America the Beautiful.” When we came to the middle verse, which I didn’t remember, I was overcome by my America feeling.

Here are the words to that verse:

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America, America!

God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.

Justice O’Connor dedicated her life to working to uphold the rule of law in the United States and around the world, to preserve our liberties through justice and the wise administration of law.

Singing those words made me tear up. It’s one of the great dreams of the United States…confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.




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