July 03, 2008

Barack Obama: "We Only Have One National Anthem"

"We only have one National Anthem. And so, if she was asked to sing the National Anthem, she should have sung that. 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' is a beautiful song, but we only have one National Anthem"--Sen. Barack Obama

Developing . . .

Having spent part of the day Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Dem presumptive nominee Barack Obama waded into Denver's national anthem fiasco:
Sen. Barack Obama said today a jazz singer's decision to sing the 'Black National Anthem' at Denver's State of the City speech this week was wrong.

"Well, 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' is a beautiful song that has been sung in African-American churches and other events for a very long time," Obama told the Rocky in phone interview. "We only have one National Anthem. And so, if she was asked to sing the National Anthem, she should have sung that. 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' is a beautiful song, but we only have one National Anthem."

Obama's comments came as the controversy over Rene Marie's rendition entered its third day.
Looks like Obama is attempting to distance himself from any involvement or association, real or perceived (and rightly or wrongly), with Marie, the song, or the kerfuffle itself.   That he was in Colorado was a coincidence.  Better to get out ahead of a story that has legs far beyond what might be expected under normal circumstances--but with Denver hosting the DNC next month and Obama to be the focus of the showcase, this story has become enough of a concern that Obama chose to deal with it now, not in August.

More "explanations" for the choice of the song by the singer, Rene Marie, have emerged:
After Tuesday's ceremony, Hickenlooper called Marie to "understand what happened." The mayor said Marie told him that her song "was an artistic expression of her love for her country."

But in interviews with the news media, Marie provided a somewhat different explanation.

"Her interviews with the media have conveyed different content and tone," Hickenlooper said in a letter to city employees. "While I cannot speak to her intentions, it's now fair to say the city was deceived."

Marie said she started working on the song about three years ago after she toured Russia and an interviewer referred to her as an American. She said she was "startled" by that reference and felt like she wasn't an American.

"I struggled with why I felt that way when I came back to United States because I love living in this country," she said, adding that she decided to rewrite some of the patriotic songs she learned as a child, both as a creative outlet and to reflect her black heritage.
Rep. Tom Tancredo jumped in:
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, "condemned" Marie - as well as the mayor - "for the national anthem debacle that took place during the State of the City address," according to a press release from Tancredo's office.

"I hope that this is not indicative of the 'state of the city' and the cult of multiculturalism and anti-Americanism does not hold sway over the majority of the people in Denver," Tancredo said. "It's also distressing because it appears to be another aspect of the racial politics plaguing this nation."
Marie attempts to stress love for country, while positing a questioning of that affection:
"I've been working on that song about three years. Its inception was during an interview I was having when I was touring in Russia and I was being interviewed by this Russian woman who referred to me as an American.

"I was startled by that reference; I almost corrected her. I felt, 'I'm not an American.' Then I was shocked by the fact that I felt that way, and I struggled with that because I love living in this country; I'm so attached to it. My father taught me about having love for this land, our native land.

"But as much as I love singing all the patriotic songs, I grew up in a town that was segregated.

I went to an all-black school as a kid. So I decided I wanted to rewrite these patriotic songs I learned as a kid. I wanted to sing the lyrics but change the melody.

"The entire suite expresses my personal love for this country and my hope for the country."
City Council President Michael Hancock sums up the sentiments of those in Denver and across the country--it's not the song itself, but the singer's choice and question of intent that represents the source of anger:
City Council President Michael Hancock, the master of ceremonies at Tuesday's event, said he's been the target of hateful e-mails and phone calls just because he introduced Marie. Hancock didn't know the singer and didn't know she was going to perform the black anthem, he said.

"She made a very bad decision," he said. "And unfortunately, the mayor and (myself) and other City Council people and other elected officials are bearing the brunt of her very bad and inappropriate decision."

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