It’s almost impossible to hear “God Bless the U.S.A.” without eyes brimming with tears and a heart bursting with pride.
“What’s never stopped surprising – and humbling – me is when the crowd stands up,” said Lee Greenwood, who pinned the classic more than three decades ago and has performed it before thousands of audiences.
Greenwood said when he wrote the song at age 41 he felt the same emotions it so clearly continues to evoke in others when they hear it.
“We’re proud of our home,” he said. “We’re proud of our country. We think about how grateful we are to have been born here or become a citizen of this country, and that without being here, we might be someplace that’s war-torn or not be able to have your own business or raise your children the way you want to or live your life the way you want to. That emotion rolls out.”
“God Bless the U.S.A.” has become an anthem for generations of Americans, and Greenwood said he wanted to ensure that future generations experience the unifying strength of the lyrics as well.
“Given the unrest in America today, I felt it was time to give the next generation something to hold and read that tells in a very simple way why it’s good to be an American and why we should be proud of it,” he said.
Greenwood said the idea of using the lyrics of “God Bless the U.S.A.” to create a children’s book was inspired by memories of reading to his own children.
“My wife and I would read the same favorite books over and over every night to our kids when they were little,” he recalled. “I wanted to write a book that children would read again and again, and later they’d read it themselves. I wanted it to help them understand the sovereignty of our country.”
Greenwood used the lyrics to his beloved song to create Proud to be an American. Released over the 2015 Memorial Day weekend, the inspiring hardback book was the No. 1 bestseller on both Amazon’s “Children’s Books on the U.S.” and “Children’s Multicultural Story Books” charts. It features artist Amanda Sekulow’s colorful illustrations of scenic farmland and cityscapes throughout the country as well as places like Arlington Cemetery, the Statue of Liberty and other national points of interest.
“The book gives a geography lesson,” he observed. “It gives a reason to be a patriot and what it means to be a patriot. There’s a lesson on loving your country – the things that represent us, the flag, the eagle – a very good beginning on why it’s important to embrace our country that still stands for freedom.”
Greenwood pointed out that in the book a gray-haired couple is accompanying a young boy to places and events through which he can experience various aspects of American life, including those involving American military men and women.
“I want parents and grandparents and even teachers to be able to use this book to teach about patriotism,” he said. “It is my goal that every school child in the country would have a copy of this at an early age for teachers to use in the classroom.”
Included with the book is a free download for a never-before-heard re-record of the song “God Bless the U.S.A.” with the full set of lyrics for all stanzas printed in the back. Greenwood said he wanted to ensure that those who receive Proud to be an American have every opportunity to experience the message of “God Bless the U.S.A.”
The Grammy-winning country music star has embarked on a national concert tour this summer, spanning the country from sea to shining sea. For a full list of upcoming tour dates and additional information on his children’s book or his new album, “Snapshot: Lee Greenwood,” visit www.leegreenwood.com.
– story by Claudia Johnson, Country Reunion Music © 2022