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Oregon lawmakers approve changes to 94-year-old state song

Oregon lawmakers approved new lyrics for their state song this week, removing language activists called racist and saying the song should reflect how Oregon has changed in the 94 years since have passed since its adoption.

The resolution, which the state Senate passed on Monday at 11:05 p.m., preserves the music for the state song “Oregon, My Oregon,” but changes the lyrics to reflect “the changing culture, history, economy, and culture. important societal role of Oregon ”. according to its text.

The changes include the exchange of the song’s first verse, which was written by John A. Buchanan with music by Henry B. Murtagh. Its original lyrics when it was first adopted in 1927 included the lines “land of empire builders, land of the golden west; conquered and held by free men; the fairest and the best. These will be replaced by “land of majestic mountains, land of the great North-West; forests and undulating rivers, the most grandiose and the best.

Changed lyrics will also replace a section in the second verse, so that “blessed with the blood of martyrs” becomes “blessed with the love of freedom”.

Following its passage in the Legislature this week, the resolution was filed Wednesday with the office of Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a spokeswoman said.

The change in lyrics follows last year’s nationwide protests against racial injustice, as well as pressure in cities and states to reconsider monuments and emblems from the Confederate and Colonial era.

In the resolution, lawmakers placed the proposal in the context of an “active and continuing national movement to ensure genuinely equal treatment for people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Indigenous people had lived in Oregon “from time immemorial,” lawmakers wrote, and blacks and Chinese had “suffered de jure exclusion during the early decades of the state of Oregon.”

Lawmakers alluded to concerns from musical groups over the original lyrics, saying “many musicians, bands and choirs would like to perform the Oregon state song but do not deem it appropriate to present the current lyrics in public.” .

“Oregonians from all walks of life deserve an inclusive way to celebrate our great state by singing,” the resolution said.

The new lyrics were proposed and written by Amy Donna Shapiro, a musician from Beaverton, Oregon who had been advocating changes to the song for years.

“I didn’t like the song and I didn’t like the lyrics,” Ms. Shapiro said in an interview on Wednesday. Recalling her working days as a music teacher and choir director, she said she was reluctant to teach the original song because of its lyrics.

In testimony in support of the resolution, she wrote that the song’s original lyrics were “outdated, deceptive and offensive words glorifying oppression and murder.”

She said she wanted the new lyrics to celebrate the beauty of Oregon by making reference to its mountains and forests.

Ms Shapiro watched on her laptop on Monday when the Legislature voted in favor of the new lyrics. “I was overjoyed,” she says. ” I could not believe it. We shouldn’t have a racist song.

Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate from 2018-2020, also supported the resolution.

In a letter to lawmakers in February, Mr. Stafford wrote that the state song “includes racist and excluding language from a more primitive era in our state’s history.”

He said that “the existing state song is filled with clichés and generic phrases insufficient for the true identity of Oregon.” He added that “that generations of Oregon youth sing this kind of language is an insult to them, to Oregon and to the song’s true power to tell the truth, to specify a deep identity and to Inspire”.

State Representative Sheri Schouten said on Wednesday that she supported the resolution because she wanted children “to be able to relearn their national song again”.

“All Oregonians, of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, deserve a state song that they can sing with pride and affection,” she said.

State Senator Brian Boquist said he voted against the resolution because he “did not believe in revisionist history.”

He added, “If the state wants to adopt a new and different song, then this is what it should do, not change an old song.

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