The Californian

National Anthem no longer at rallies

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National Anthem no longer at rallies

Photo courtesy of ChicagoNow

Photo courtesy of ChicagoNow

Photo courtesy of ChicagoNow

Kiley Borba, Staff Writer

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Students who attended the winter rally last month might have noticed that something was missing: the National Anthem.

Although many students might not have even noticed that the “Star Spangled Banner” was not sung at the winter rally on Jan. 19, some students did. 

And they were curious as to why it was removed.

School leadership officers and the rally committee decided to skip the anthem due to the recent controversy involving unsung verses of the song that are deemed racist. 

In recent months, the California chapter of the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been trying to push for the removal of the national anthem because they view it as racist and anti-black, according to CBS News.

The unsung verse in question contains the phrase, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave…”

Leadership adviser Erin McFerrin agrees that the song is problematic and that action should be taken moving forward to ensure that every student feels welcomed, especially after last year when racial graffiti was found on campus.

“In the leadership class, [we strive on] being really inclusive and mindful of all the decisions we make,” said McFerrin. “We didn’t really know why we were doing [the anthem during] the rally, so we just thought it was something maybe we could take out.”

Many students, such as senior Alexis Hooper, didn’t notice the song was removed until informed.

“I don’t really care,” Hooper said. “The National Anthem is a tradition from many years ago and the only people who really care about it are older generations.”

But some students in this generation feel this decision is uncalled for. 

Senior Amir Udler feels the decision was at best, incorrect, and at worst, unpatriotic.

“It comes from a very disrespectful place,” said Udler “[Leadership] said it was in the name of ‘exclusivity’, but in reality, [leadership] is disenfranchising the vast majority of the school who loves the country, and who thinks the anthem should be played.”

Senior Dennis Fiorentinos also disagrees with the decision.

“I respect their decision to make the change and I understand why they did it, but I feel that the anthem doesn’t stand for that,” said Fiorentinos “I feel that California High School honoring and respecting those who have died protecting our freedom is more important.” 

Fiorentinos said he was so upset by the decision he contacted various news organizations, such as KTVU and Fox News. After The Californian was published on Feb. 9, KTVU Fox 2 and ABC 7 News both aired stories addressing the controversy. The East Bay Times also published a story on Feb. 13.

The story made national news that day when Fiorentinos was interviewed on Todd Starnes’ Fox radio broadcast. During the 10-minute interview, Fiorentinos explained what happened and expressed his disapproval of the decision making. Fiorentinos was praised by Starnes for standing up for the National Anthem and what his beliefs.

Starnes wrapped up his segment by encouraging his listeners to contact the San Ramon Valley Unified School District to express their concerns about this matter.

Some students and teachers on campus, such as teacher Barbara Carpenter, feel the leadership class should make the decision based on the student body’s opinion.

“I would like to see leadership poll the entire school, and see what the entire student body and staff want, not just what leadership students want,” she said.

Assistant principal Kathleen Martins, who oversees leadership, was unaware this decision was made before the rally.

The National Anthem will not be sung at rallies for the remainder of the year. A decision about rallies in future years will come at a later date.

ASB council declined to comment but provided an open letter published in The Californian that addresses the leadership decision. 



14 Responses to “National Anthem no longer at rallies”

  1. Grayson on February 12th, 2018 6:40 pm

    We live in outrage culture. A small vocal minority bullies people into not triggering them. Stop being professionally offended and focus on issues that matter.

  2. Craig Henry on February 13th, 2018 1:22 pm

    This is despicable, gutless behavior kowtowing to the lowest common denominator. Who do these morons think created this country at the risk of their lives,, their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that these snowflakes can insult their contributions.

  3. Mike Billips on February 13th, 2018 2:22 pm

    It’s unfortunate that those offended by the lyrics are not better informed about the wars and political conflicts between the United States and Great Britain from 1775 to 1815. “Hireling and slave” was a frequent way for Americans to condemn British troops and sailors, as well as “Hessian mercenaries” that the British contracted from small German principalities to fight alongside their own army during the Revolutionary War.

    British Navy sailors were often impressed, or forced into involuntary servitude by the British government, which Americans considered tantamount to slavery. The practice of impressing American sailors on the pretext that they were British subjects was a major cause of the War of 1812, which Key’s song commemorates.

    The verse makes perfect sense if one considers Key to be celebrating a victory over the impressed British sailors and mercenary Hessians, and makes no sense whatever as a celebration of killing enslaved Americans. The verse VERY CLEARLY states that the “hirelings and slaves” had boasted that the War of 1812 would result in the end of the American republic, which it calls the “land of the free and the home of the brave” in contrast to the home countries of the British and Germans.

    I hope this note will stimulate interest in the history of the period. I commend the students for their political activism, but I think they might want to do a bit more research.

    I don’t recall from my own high school days that we ever played the national anthem before pep rallies, but the country was a bit less obsessed with patriotic demonstrations in the late 1970s.

    Lt. Cmdr. Mike Billips, U.S. Navy Reserve

  4. Marcus Ruiz Evans on February 13th, 2018 3:46 pm

    True Californians.
    People like to ignore the fact that Kaepernick started the protest, and was from California. And that Black Lives Matter started in California. And that 47.5% of Californians were not opposed to leaving America in a poll by Ipsos/ Reuters in Jan 2017.
    These are all facts.
    Deal with it.
    – Calexit movement / Yes

  5. Vivian on February 13th, 2018 4:51 pm

    I was a little disheartened after reading the article about your student leadership making the decision of banning the National Anthem at your high school pep rallies. Before committing to such an unpatriotic decision study the lyrics more closely. Look at them from the time when Francis Scott Key wrote them. It was during the time of war and he created the lyrics with the war of 1812 in mind. The line that seems to be misunderstood, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave”, refers to the way the British used mercenaries (hirelings). Also the British had the practice of impressment, which forced men into military service (slave). These men had no choice they were American seamen that had been taken, it had nothing to do with their race. By forcing this as a racist problem makes it more of a racist problem. Don’t fall for all the hype created in this country to keep us divided. He meant for the Star Spangled Banner to be a symbol of triumph over all adversity.

  6. Charles on February 13th, 2018 7:21 pm

    If the students and teacher would also read history about Francis Scott Keys they would learn that he did own slaves but freed them and even hired them to work on his farm. He as a lawyer defended many African- Americans in is time. He was also part of an organization that once the slave was freed if they wanted to return to Africa he would pay for their passage. He left that organization when it became radical with the abolitionists and then devoted to prosecuting the abolitionists for inciting riots among African-Americans and other people. He believed that the slaves could gain freedom without violence through the normal process of law and peaceful mean. Who else believed this? Could it be Martin Luther King Jr. He wrote the song only after being held prisoner on a British ship overnight and the first thing he saw when he woke up was the American flag still flying strong over Fort McHenry. When he was able to finally return to the shore he saw the devastation that the Naval shelling had caused not only killing the military men but common people. The teacher that supported this action should beef up on her history and teach it correctly. The song has nothing to do with slavery one bit it is a tribute to the service men and the people who not only died but survived the night when Baltimore was under siege during the War of 1812.

  7. John K Graham on February 13th, 2018 8:37 pm

    The music itself comes from a maritime drinking song, but that’s not the point, plus the third verse had been largely ignored until the past year or so and no one ever sings it. We live in a country where one has the right to be wrong, but that doesn’t include foisting those views upon others; there’s no moral superiority here. This is only symptomatic of narcissism at epidemic proportions, as the only reason someone should make an issue of this matter is to garner attention for the purpose of making themselves feel more important than they actually are. Is this how student advisors promote self-esteem nowadays? Here’s a better solution – have the students write their own national anthem and have it voted upon by the student body.

  8. Delynn on February 14th, 2018 4:30 am

    Unbelievable. Our country is collapsing from within.

  9. Mary Wendt on February 14th, 2018 6:43 am

    Please students – read your history and get your facts before having such a knee jerk reaction to a word. The Star Spangled Banner’s 3rd verse has absolutely nothing to do with black American slavery. You are doing yourselves a great injustice by actions such as this and you are unwitting pawns in an attempt in our country to pit one group against another. If you want to be taken seriously, get the facts please.

  10. Marc Lipnick on February 14th, 2018 6:47 am

    Everyone has the right to their own opinion. However, to be so thin-skinned to spoil the enjoyment of such a wonderful patriotic song is a tragedy. If I felt that way then I would just move to another country – e.g. Canada, Australia, or even The United Kingdom.

  11. Glenn Gemmell on February 14th, 2018 7:15 am

    Thank you for your great story.

    I’m a Vietnam era veteran, and I’m from Baltimore where the National Anthem was written. I also walked through the Washington D.C. riots for hours in my Navy uniform during the Martin Luther King riots. I’m also white and have family members married to wonderful, loving people of color, whom I admire and deeply respect. That’s the backstory.

    I served and fought for ALL THE PEOPLE in this nation, WE ALL DID.

    And it’s very dangerous for any organization or individuals to strive to fragment our social fabric with policies designed to divide, rather than to unify this nation. Sadly, I think this is happening with your school not permitting the National Anthem to be played.

    We were at WAR when it was written. Yes, there was slavery at that time, as despicable as it was. But, not now—not today. That era was, and still is our history, and it must be remembered and understood, so it never occurs again.

    It’s critical to recognized that we’ve moved beyond those times as a nation, and to recognize the progress that has been made.

    Some may argue we’ve not gone far enough, that discrimination is active. And I agree. For instance, try to get a job as an older person in today’s world. You will be discriminated against. But… this nation was founded on the premise that ALL people are created equal, and this young nation went to war to defend that right, for EACH of us.

    Finally, remember, please remember, that slavery is not a thing of the past. It happens today all over this world. But NOT in THIS nation, NOT anymore. Here we ALL can strive to succeed, and to break the chains of our past.

    In closing don’t assume that I am “white privileged”. I grew up poor, in a blue-collar town, working two jobs my entire life to get ahead. Did I achieve all that I wanted to? No, not even close. But I’d rather be in this nation than any other, as flawed as some in your school think it may be.

    In fact, I invite them to go overseas and see the difference. Their opinions will change, as their perspectives mature.

  12. Gary on February 14th, 2018 11:43 am

    This story truly bothers me and it’s time the record is set straight. I really hope the students of San Ramon High get the message….

    Perhaps a history lesson is in order about the lyrics in question. I truly hope this lesson reaches every student that questions in integrity and full meaning behind the story of the Nation Anthem. And to the teachers that are actually encouraging young people to disrespect American values and traditions. It’s unacceptable and inexcusable.

    ● The Star Spangled Banner lyrics ”the hireling ” refers to the British use of mercenaries (German Hessians) in the American War of Independence.
    ● The Star Spangled Banner lyrics ”…and slave” is a direct reference to the British practice of impressment (kidnapping American seamen and forcing them into service on British man-of war ships). This was an important cause of the War of 1812.


  13. Kirt on February 16th, 2018 12:17 pm

    Restore the National Anthem at California H.S.!

  14. Mario De Sousa on February 16th, 2018 8:16 pm

    Interestingly enough if you research the inspiration and meaning of Francis Scott Key’s lyrics you will find the “slaves” mentioned were American seamen that were more than likely white and kidnapped by the British and forced to fight aboard British Man of war ships. The ‘hirelings were German Hessian mercenaries. You would think an educational institution would know American history.

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