Katharine Lee Bates, born in 1859, was an American writer, poet and professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Her claim to fame was not so much what she taught in the classroom, but what she was able to achieve far from a blackboard.
In her many travels, Bates spent a summer in 1893 teaching a course at Colorado College in Colorado Springs when she and a group of other teachers decided to go on a trip to the top of Pikes Peak. They hired a wagon to make their way up the 14,000-foot mountain and near the top needed to leave the wagon and travel the rest of the way by mules. Bates noted that she was very tired but when she saw the view from the top, felt great joy as “all the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.” That passionate reaction to the view from atop the mountain lead to her writing a poem titled “America the Beautiful” which was eventually set to the music written by Samuel Ward and frankly, the rest is history. The picture that this song paints – “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain…”
The words came to life for Don and me as we spent a few extra days in Colorado, hiking with Pikes Peak in the distance, prior to the CoBank conference.
What a beautiful land, indeed.