“The Stars and Stripes Forever”

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The Basics

Time Required

1-2 periods

Subject Areas

AP US History

Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930

Common Core Standards Addressed:

Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12


William D. Martin (2006)

The Lesson


This lesson attempts to explain how and why the United States abandoned a generally isolationist foreign policy and territorial expansion confined to the continental United States, resulting in the acquisition of territories around the globe and new strategic responsibilities that would define the United States as a world power in the 20th century.  Born in rebellion against the world’s most formidable imperial power, the Founding Fathers crafted a republican form of government that reflected disdain for the trappings of imperialism and an implicit faith in the right of the people for self-governance.  Yet, at the end of the 19th century the United States found itself ready to compete with the Old World powers for markets and geopolitical influence throughout the globe, particularly in the Caribbean, South America, and Asia.  While the Americans had been ready expansionists since establishing footholds on the North American continent, that expansion had been confined to the contiguous land areas and accomplished through diplomacy, demographic movements, and armed conflict, frequently bloody and ruthless, directed primarily at the Native Americans who resisted the inexorable movement of the American settlers.  But by the 1890s, this “frontier,” as Frederick Jackson Turner defined it, had closed, forcing the Americans to look abroad for new markets and areas of influence.

The 1890s witnessed major events that influenced its foreign policy: 1) the 1893 depression, the worst in the nation’s history, where it became clear that America’s prodigious industrial capacity required foreign markets in order to sell its surplus goods and maintain a high-level of employment; 2) the appearance among American political, intellectual, and military leaders of Social Darwinist notions that included a mix of ideas that included a firm belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority, a neo-Manifest Destiny sense of mission, and an unquestioned sense that democratic American values and institutions offered colonial peoples the means to liberty and self-governance; 3) the emergence of what diplomatic historian Walter Mead identifies as the Hamiltonian school of foreign policy, where the United States faced a new strategic reality that required it to maintain a two-ocean navy in order to protect its shipping lanes and defend its Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and to do this required territories throughout the globe whereby its fleet could replenish and repair.

By World War One, the United States had gained an empire, one that offered both opportunities but, more clearly, problems.  What rights and privileges should be provided to the newly acquired colonies?  Should the territories be annexed or offered independence?  What of matters of race, religion, and ethnicity?  Can the United States remain a republic while embarking on imperial conquest?  Can a republic hostile to standing armies accept the military necessity of defending an empire?  How these questions would be answered would largely define the role that the United States would take in the 20th century.

Guiding Questions

Why is music often used to impart feelings of patriotism?

Learning Objectives

to identify the immediate and long-range consequences of the Platt Amendment and the Roosevelt Corollary
to develop the complex situation surrounding the Panamanian revolt and the construction of the Panama Canal
to trace the impact of Taft’s Dollar Diplomacy in Central and South America
to discuss the principles surrounding Wilsonian idealism, especially as it related to relations with Mexico
to continue to develop multiple perspectives relative to American foreign policy decisions

Preparation Instructions


“The Stars and Stripes Forever!” (lyrics by John Philip Sousa)

“You're a Grand Old Flag”  (George M. Cohan)

Political Cartoon:

"You could no more obtain agreement with the Colombian government than nail currant jelly to the wall."—Teddy Roosevelt

Lesson Activities


Class will begin with John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which brilliantly captures the aggressive spirit of the age.  After introducing the class to Sousa and his role in creating the march as a popular musical form, the lyrics will be used to foster a discussion of patriotism and its extreme form jingoism.


The Progressive presidents—Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson—established precedents that would define hemispheric relations for much of the twentieth century.  Combining idealism, national security interests, and markets, the United States became intricately involved in the development of Central and South America.  Through military intervention, support for authoritarian governments, and economic penetration (e.g. United Fruit Company), much of the goodwill engendered by American idealism would be squandered over the course of the 20th century.  To what extent would this pattern be duplicated in Asian foreign policy?


How did the Foraker and Jones Acts resolve the status of Puerto Rico relative to the United States?
What were the features of the Platt Amendment?
How did Roosevelt justify the Roosevelt Corollary?
How did the Cubans under Maximo Gomez respond to the American position?
How did Roosevelt and Hay remove England from discussions about a transoceanic canal?
What was the Columbian Senate’s position relative to the Hay-Herran Treaty?
What role did Roosevelt and Buana-Varilla play in the Panamanian revolt, according to Morris in Theodore Rex?
What were the provisions of the Hay-Buana-Varilla Treaty?
How did the foreign policy of Taft and his Secretary of State, Philander Knox, differ from Roosevelt and Hay’s?
How did Wilson’s foreign policy in Mexico affect American business interests?
Why did Wilson order General Pershing to cross the Mexican border?
How do political cartoonists view Roosevelt’s foreign policy?
How does music of the period reflect a patriotic spirit?



“Stars and Stripes Forever”

Let martial note in triumph float

And liberty extend its mighty hand

A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers,

The banner of the Western land.

The emblem of the brave and true

Its folds protect no tyrant crew;

The red and white and starry blue

Is freedom's shield and hope.


Other nations may deem their flags the best

And cheer them with fervid elation

But the flag of the North and South and West

Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.


Hurrah for the flag of the free!

May it wave as our standard forever,

The gem of the land and the sea,

The banner of the right.

Let despots remember the day

When our fathers with mighty endeavor

Proclaimed as they marched to the fray

That by their might and by their right

It waves forever.


Let eagle shriek from lofty peak

The never-ending watchword of our land;

Let summer breeze waft through the trees

The echo of the chorus grand.

Sing out for liberty and light,

Sing out for freedom and the right.

Sing out for Union and its might,

O patriotic sons.


Other nations may deem their flags the best

And cheer them with fervid elation,

But the flag of the North and South and West

Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.


Hurrah for the flag of the free.

May it wave as our standard forever

The gem of the land and the sea,

The banner of the right.

Let despots remember the day

When our fathers with might endeavor

Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,

That by their might and by their right

It waves forever.


“You’re a Grand Old Flag”


There's a feeling comes a stealing and sets my brain a reeling,

When I'm list'ning to the music of a military band.

Any tune like "Yankee Doodle" simply sets me off my noodle,

It's that patriotic something that no-one can understand.

"Way down South in the land of cotton," melody untiring,

Ain't that inspiring!

Hurrah! Hurrah! We'll join the jubilee,

And that's going some for the Yankees, by gum!

Red, White and Blue,

I am for you,

Honest you're a grand old rag.


You're a grand old flag, tho' you're torn to rag,

And forever in peace may you wave.

You're the emblem of the land I love,

The home of the free and the brave.

Ev'ry heart beats true under Red, White and Blue,

Where there's never a boast or a brag;

"But should auld acquaintance be forgot,"

Keep your eye on the grand old flag.


I'm no cranky, hanky panky, I'm a dead square honest Yankee,

And I'm mighty proud of that old flag that flies for Uncle Sam.

Though I don't believe in raving ev'ry time I see it waving,

There's a chill runs up my back that makes me glad I'm what I am.

Here's a land with a million soldiers, that's if we should need 'em,

We'll fight for freedom!

Hurrah! Hurrah! For ev'ry Yankee Tar

And old G.A.R., ev'ry stripe, ev'ry star.

Red, White and Blue,

Hats off to you,

Honest you're a grand old rag.




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