Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Miracle America

The morning sun is golden through the evergreens
Like the Torch of Liberty charging through the foggy beams
The landing of the Pilgrims on our verdant shores
Can you see that shining city still glowing through the storm

Have you seen the light of freedom
It's there for you and me
High above the harbor for all the world to see
A Miracle America the Light of Liberty

The gateway arch is shining afternoons on the plains
We're grateful to be sharing in that harvest of choice grain
We're the pillars of light the goldust in the sun
Can you see that shining city knowing how the west was won

Have you seen the light of freedom...

And for those brave souls who were lost to us
We remember you with tears
And for those who have yet to live the dream
May a brighter light appear
From the depths of the Grand Canyon
To the footprints in Moon dust
We can take those giant leaps
Cause it's In God We Trust

The California Gold Rush in Eighteen Forty Nine
And the last gleaming spike driven in the railway line
The Golden Gate at sunset red and yellow black and white
Every race will turn to gold as we face the amber light

Have you seen the light of freedom...

© 2004 Stefan des Lauriers

The first verse of A Miracle America came to me on a hilltop near Santa Rosa, California, on October 18, 1979: "I saw a bird on an evergreen tree with the sun in its breast," I wrote in my journal. "Through silhouetted evergreens pillars of golden fog shone like the diadem of liberty."

I thought to use the light of the sun to illuminate landmarks in the course of a day in America. It begins:

"The morning sun is golden
Through the evergreens
Like the torch of Liberty
Charging through the foggy beams"

I envisioned the song dawning in the East and highlighted the Pilgrims who followed the sunsets' aura of promise to a religious haven.

"The landing of the Pilgrims
On our verdant shores
Can you see that shining city
Still glowing through the storm"

The chorus goes:

"Have you seen
The light of freedom
It's there for you and me
High above the harbor
For all the world to see
A Miracle America
The light of Liberty"

This refers to the sun, which is self evident like truth, to the Statue of Liberty, and alludes to the Shining City on a Hill used by John Winthrop in a 1630 sermon.

The second verse begins,

"The Gateway Arch is shining
Afternoons on the plains"

It was the promise of a better life that early settlers followed Westward, towards the setting sun. I once sang A Miracle America to a circle of friends at the Gateway Arch with the sun directly overhead. The image of the arch is echoed in the covered wagon.

The 'choice grain' I referred to is inscribed on a building in Boston. 'God sifted whole nations that he might send, choice grain over into the wilderness.' And so I wrote:

"We're grateful to be sharing
In this harvest of choice grain"

The choice grain, referred to here is the people who have come to be American.

"The prairie schooners ventured
Through unknown terrain
And in the hearts of many
That pioneer spirit remains"

The song's bridge refers to the American Indian, the braves, and all others who were lost in the making of America:

"And for those brave souls
Who were lost to us
We remember you with tears"

I wrote the line for the 168 killed in the Oklahoma bombing, but now it also applies to those killed in the September 11 attacks.

"And to those who have yet
To live the dream
May a brighter light appear"

Then I contrast the troubled times—the pit that America transcends—to the pinnacle of American achievement. The image of the Grand Canyon then blends into the image of the famous photograph of a footprint on the moon.

"From the depths
Of the Grand Canyon
To the footprints in Moon dust"

I wanted to shed light on the unseen help we may have had landing on the moon.

"We can take those giant leaps
Cause 'It's In God We Trust."

In the last verse I mention the Gold Rush, which was perhaps the last significant influx of people pouring in,

"The California gold rush
In Eighteen forty nine"

The image that I envision when I sing the line,

"And the last gleaming spike
Driven in the railway line"

is that of a single sunbeam, a ray of hope breaking through the clouds. I imagined the torch of Freedom to be something similar to the Olympic torch, and as it passes over the Pacific, it symbolizes, as the golden spike did, the union of East and West.

Finally, the song touches on the Golden Gate, a symbolic door to freedom.

"The Golden Gate at sunset
Red and yellow black and white
All races turn to gold
As we face the amber light"

I envisioned the setting sun on the faces of people of all races—especially on the face of the American Indian, and on face of the African American—and I saw how the amber sun transformed the flesh tones into one. With that final thought I knew the song was finished.

An earlier version of A Miracle America

"From our Gotham City, New York, to the Cradle of Liberty, Boston, across the Appalachian springtime, to the City of the Big Shoulders, Chicago. Moving south toward Atlanta, over to St. Louis, past its Gateway Arch, across wheatfields into the stark beauty of the Southwest and then up into the still, snowcapped Rockies. And, after circling the greening Northwest, it came down to California, across the Golden Gate and finally into Los Angeles. And all along the way, that torch became a celebration of America. And we all became participants in the celebration." — Ronald Reagan, Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas August 23, 1984

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