Yesterday we were standing at the starting line with thousands of other participants, all dressed in pink waiting for the Treasure Chest 5K race to begin. The announcer was sharing important details about the race, while music was playing and the crowd’s energy was building. I was rehearsing my cell phone number with my youngest two children, just in case we got separated somewhere along the race route. It was almost time to run, right after the national anthem.

A hush fell upon the crowd as the female singer’s voice began to fill the air with the familiar patriotic words:

Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light

Some of us put hands over our hearts, while others just stood at attention. The excited energy of the crowd was restrained in a moment of reverence:

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars…….

Mid-lyric, the singer’s voice disappeared. The country’s anthem paused, but only for a second. Suddenly this magical thing happened when thousands of strangers, without prompting and in absence of a leader’s voice, picked up the refrain all at the same moment in time:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

At some point towards the end of the song we heard the soloist’s voice reemerge through the restored sound system, but by this point there was no stopping the crowd: 

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The laughter and cheering afterward gave me goosebumps! It’s hard to explain in words the pure and infectious spirit of comradery evident in the crowd. Despite a moment of technical difficulty, and without a leader, the people lifted a sound and completed the anthem together- neighbor to neighbor.  

In this crowd of thousands, there were many things that divide us: age, ethnicity, religion, politics, handicaps, and gender. Serious runners and costumed walkers all showed up for the 5K to raise awareness about the importance of research and early detection of breast cancer. Despite obvious and acknowledged differences, everyone stood together for our shared community.  

Friends, after all the national rhetoric dies down, our country will still stand neighbor to neighbor. The truth is this is not Donald Trump’s America or Hillary Clinton’s America. This is my America and your America. We cannot let our differences divide us, offend us, or silence us. We must look to that higher goal of community so that we can ensure liberty and justice for our children’s children.  

When the lead singers are silenced due to whatever technical difficulties appear, we must keep on singing strong and holding onto the common bonds of unity we all share. Keep on singing neighbor, keep on singing …. cause we’ve got a race to run!