“They Called Her America”

Over the weekend I had the privilege of attending a private concert by Jenny Yates, a native of Phoenix and an accomplished singer/songwriter. She travels in impressive circles and works with some of the biggest names in music. Consider this: On her CD, Out of the Blue, she was able to recruit Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood to sing harmony on several songs. You can hear samples of Jenny’s work here.

I was especially impressed by They Called Her America. The song, co-written with Tom Kimmel, grew out of a visit to a Target store, Jenny said. When she stood face to face with the woman staffing the checkout line, she was jarred by the woman’s name tag.

“Your parents named you that?” she asked the young attendant, whose name, of course, was America. (This was before America Ferrera starred in Ugly Betty and made us all aware that America was being used as a first name.)

The young woman explained that for her parents, America symbolized hope, freedom and opportunity. In researching further, Jenny learned that many children both in Latin America and in Asia are being named America.

Here are the lyrics:

Down in El Salvador
In a world torn by endless rains
A blessed child is born
To those who have worn life’s chains
And they gave her a promise name

(Chorus)
They called her America
With all of the love they feel
For she is a miracle
Let all her dreams be real
They called her America

Many were stories told
Of life in a far-off land
Freedoms to have and hold
For each woman, child and man
North of the Rio Grande

Oh the refugee’s heart
It runs on faith
And hope is a star
That leads the way
They believe
They live – to be free

And now this child has grown
With dignity in her eyes
And strength that is only known
When one has the chance to survive
And by God – she will survive

I’ve written before about how America often sees itself as exceptional, as a “shining city on a hill.” It turns out, other people see us that way too, at least when we live up to the extraordinary ideals we pursue. My hope is that we continue to inspire people of other nations so much that they’ll continue to name their children America. I can think of no greater honor, and no more serious responsibility, for our nation. Thanks, Jenny, for writing this song.

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