No matter what’s on the agenda, the Columbus City Council has historically taken pride in starting all of its meetings one specific way: A prayer to God, the singing of the national anthem and reciting “The Pledge of Allegiance.”
Despite this tradition, the routine has been slightly modified in more recent years. Before mid-2009, the City Council meetings would commence with someone pressing play on an old tape recorder of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It served its purpose, but it certainly was not the real deal,” recalled Mayor Jim Bulkley, who was on the Council at the time. “We put the tape recorder right by a microphone and listened to it.”
That changed a little more than 14 years ago when then-new City Councilmember Beth Augustine-Schulte spoke to then-Columbus Mayor Mike Moser about getting the Council to sing the anthem together. Moser said he liked the idea and provided the lyrics to the council members.
“We had enough people here who I knew had a music background,” said Augustine-Schulte, who grew up singing all through junior high, high school and college and has a background in music and education. “I thought we could be strong enough to sing it.”
Elected officials have changed over the years, but now Council President Augustine-Schulte leads the prayer and singing with help from a few of the other council members.
“I love to sing and I was comfortable with it,” Augustine-Schulte said. “We’re all familiar with it, but you don’t realize until you’re actually singing it and become more familiar with those words. You start thinking about the words, the meaning behind what the words mean about our country.”
Written by lawyer/poet Francis Scott Key after he saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, following a night of British bombardment during the War of 1812, “The Star-Spangled Banner” relays the relief and joy of Americans who defended their nation against the British.
More specifically, Key watched U.S. soldiers raise a large American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, according to History.
“The song is a description of that whole battle. The fighting was so intense …” Augustine-Schulte said. “The more I learned, the more pride I felt in how this little ragtag 13 colonies of people were so committed to their beliefs and the extremes they went to stand up for those beliefs. That commitment led to this amazing nation we live in right now. To me, it’s just phenomenal.”
Watch the video on the City's YouTube channel of Augustine-Schulte explaining the origins of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by clicking here.
Congress passed a measure in 1931 declaring “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the country’s official national anthem.
It is not written in national or state law that city councils have an invocation, sing the national anthem and recite “The Pledge of Allegiance,” but Augustine-Schulte, Bulkley and other City of Columbus leaders and staff members are proud Columbus has and continues the tradition out of respect for the U.S.A.
“It’s a great tribute to our nation and God, and I think most of the citizens of Columbus appreciate it,” Bulkley said, noting Augustine-Schulte has a great voice and does a good job leading the group.
Leading the singing of the national anthem means a great deal to Augustine-Schulte, who added her appreciation to all who join her in singing the anthem.
“The patriotism of it,” she said of what she loves about singing it. “I hope it grows more awareness for the respect we should have for our flag and what our country has been through the course of history. There should be a lot of pride.”
Meeting attendees and those who watch the live stream will undoubtedly hear Augustine-Schulte belt out the song with pride yet again when the Council next gathers at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 5th, in its new Council Chambers in the voter-approved Columbus Community Building (see the agenda here). She and several other council members plan to carry on the tradition of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Mayor Bulkley said he’ll continue to love being part of it, but jokingly noted he won’t subject Columbus to his singing. He leaves that to Augustine-Schulte and the other council members who can carry a tune.
“I lip-sync …,” he said, with a laugh. “But I really appreciate those who sing it for us. It’s just really an added bonus we've added to our evening.”