A few weeks ago I made a two-day bus journey to the annual Continental Congress of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) in Washington, DC. It was my second such trip to the DAR headquarters with faithful delegates from the great state of Mississippi.
The weeklong DAR continental congress in June convened almost 4,000 female descendants of Revolutionary War patriots from all 50 U.S. states, our U.S. territories and several foreign countries.
We celebrated the DAR’s 125-year-old mission of historic preservation, education, patriotism and community service (especially to veterans) by documenting 14,383,078 hours of members’ volunteer community service given during the past three years. (These recorded hours reflected a mere fraction of the service donated in every American community by women.)
We honored national winners of 23 different academic scholarships, including two awarded to Mississippians. We installed a new national administration and inducted new state leaders. We also mapped out the next three years of plans for DAR service.
And we broke a Guinness world record for the most letters ever collected to send to American servicemen and women. The original Guinness record had been for 10,000 letters. The DAR annihilated that old record, collecting 100,904 letters from all 50 states.
Oxford, MS, was part of the Guinness record — our David Reese chapter submitted 137 letters, most collected from Oxford Elementary first graders and Oxford Middle School seventh graders.
Even the location of the annual DAR continental congress was inspiring.
The historic three-building DAR headquarters occupies an entire block a few doors down from the White House. At various times in history, the complex has housed the National Symphony and the American Red Cross War Office. The first of the three DAR buildings opened in 1904, built with funds raised by women who still didn’t even have the right to vote. The organization’s famous Constitution Hall was constructed and dedicated in 1929 and has been visited by every president since Calvin Coolidge. More than a half million people visit annually. This past spring, schools held more than 40 graduation ceremonies at the Hall between April and June.
As an official door hostess during two days of continental congress events, I got to meet fellow DAR Daughters from around the country. They included young professionals as well as old matriarchs, of all political persuasions (implied but not discussed because DAR is apolitical). I learned much from chatting about genealogy research issues with African American Daughters and Daughters of Jewish and Native American descent.
My memories of that week spent in Washington with diverse female American patriots, all committed to preserving the ideals of our nation’s founding, have comforted me during the past three weeks of terrible domestic and global events.
Those memories have attached themselves to a certain poignant melody that has floated through my brain continuously since the terrible events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas, and now Nice. It’s not the national anthem, or America the Beautiful, or Amazing Grace, or God Bless America.
The song is “The House I Live In,” written in 1943 by Lewis Allen and Earl Robinson, and sung by Frank Sinatra in 1945 for the nation during the last days of World War II, and for fans, presidents and soldiers until his death. The lyrics of this complicated song offer faith in what our imperfect America has the potential to be. The house refers to America.
“What is America to me? A name, a map, or a flag I see? A certain word, ‘democracy’? What is America to me? The house I live in, a plot of earth, a street. The grocer and the butcher, and the people that I meet. The children in the playground, the faces that I see. All races and religions. That’s America to me…”
I’m holding tight to that ideal right now, through my tears for America and for France, and for the world.
Check out the complete song and its complicated history: www.songfacts.com.
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.