"Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the playing of our National Anthem."
A hush falls over the crowd. Most people stand. Some don't, Some kneel in protest, a gesture certain to gain recognition, provoke discussion and be supported, disputed, or reviled. Freedom of speech is so fundamentally important to being an American that we find it enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Amendment states that this right shall not be abridged. I stand, exercising my right to freely express how I feel about the anthem and what it represents.
I stand as a gesture of respect to our flag and our nation. I know that the nation isn't perfect; it never has been. That does not mean that it is unworthy of our respect.
I stand in commemoration of the millions who have gone before us, in a proud legacy that stretches back to sunrise on the village common at Lexington on April 19, 1775, where badly outnumbered local militia faced off against British Army regulars. Eight of them died that fateful morning in the opening engagement of the American Revolutionary War. Another sunrise 39 years later during the War of 1812 found Fort McHenry still standing after a fierce bombardment, its badly damaged flag waving defiantly above the ramparts. Francis Scott Key witnessed the event from offshore, and was inspired to pen the words to an immortal poem that was eventually set to the tune of a British drinking song.
I stand in memory of my late parents, both of whom were World War II veterans. I often think of how well they lived their lives and what a wonderful example they provided.
I stand because of the fond memories I have of the people I knew in my professional life and tried to emulate. It was a privilege for me to work for and with men and women who wore our country's uniform proudly, took their oath seriously, and did their best.
I stand for those who no longer can, but would proudly do so if they could: veterans who are disabled by time or war wounds.
I stand and listen to our awe-inspiring National Anthem. I am thankful to be able to do so. The flag that we stand up for has changed significantly since 1775, but the ideals of our country have not. It still stands, too, and remains a beacon of hope two and a half century later.
That star-spangled banner still waves o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. I gratefully stand and salute it whenever I can.