As dawn broke on September 14, 1814, a young Marylander named Francis Scott Key witnessed a unique display of American patriotism and tenacity that moved him to write a poem that would later become our National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.
While the full force of the British military bore down on Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the Stars and Stripes still flying atop the Fort. He realized his fellow countrymen, many of them volunteer militia from Maryland, had survived the battle and stopped the advance of the world’s most powerful military. Now, 200 years later, we as Americans are preparing to celebrate and honor America’s “Second War of Independence.”
The bicentennial of the War of 1812 gives Marylanders and the nation an opportunity to celebrate an historic event that legitimized America’s independence. It’s an opportunity to teach our children about the National Anthem and the American flag, two national treasures that emerged from the war and that will forever enshrine the legacy of the Americans who gave their lives during the conflict. It’s also a tremendous economic opportunity for Maryland businesses as thousands of visitors travel throughout our state during the celebrations.
I’m proud that Maryland will be at the center of the “Star-Spangled 200” celebration, a three-year celebration that begins in mid-June with the kick off of Baltimore’s “Sailabration.” During this week-long festival, visitors can tour dozens of tall ships and naval war ships, hear the premiere of a new symphonic work, and view an air show featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Through 2014, Maryland will host numerous events along the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine to celebrate the bicentennial.
I also am pleased that U.S. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger and I joined together in sponsoring legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, that will help provide funding for the bicentennial celebrations. This legislation authorized the U.S. Mint to sell 100,000 commemorative gold coins and 500,000 commemorative silver coins honoring the War of 1812. These coins can raise up to $8.5 million that will go to the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission for celebration activities. Additionally, the funding from the coin sale can be matched, dollar for dollar, by private fund raising efforts.
I am also pleased that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution I sponsored to mark the bicentennial, to celebrate the heroism of the American people during the conflict, and to recognize the various organizations involved in the bicentennial celebration, including the United States Armed Forces, the National Park Service, and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.
Our nation’s history is our legacy and it’s important that we honor and cherish it, particularly for future generations. We have a unique opportunity to do that as we remember our “Second War of Independence” and as we also honor the brave men and women who are currently serving in our Armed Services throughout the world to ensure America’s promise of freedom and equality.