February 24, 2021

NELSON: Cheerleaders are leaving an impression by signing anthem

I’ve been to countless athletic events in my life and at every one of them the “Star Spangled Banner” has been played at the start. I know there are athletic programs at the professional level wanting to extract the national anthem from their pregame rituals, but as I study the origin of the song, Francis Scott Key wrote it after being inspired by U.S. soldiers at Fort McHenry in Baltimore raising a large American flag as a celebration of a victory over British forces during the War of 1812. To this day, I see it as a collective or corporate celebration of what we have as Americans. Sure, our country isn’t perfect, but we have this song we can unite around because we have so many opportunities as Americans that others in the world don’t have.

This item is so important it didn’t even make “The List” this week. See page 2 for that.

I was sitting at a basketball game last week, and when we stood to have the national anthem played, senior cheer captain Jennifer Holliday did a great job of singing it, but accompanying her were cheerleaders Lilli Dahl, Annika Phillippi, Addison Stringer and Ellie Brewer signing the song so that those who can hear and those who can’t can experience the song.

I can tell you that even though I am a hearing person, the signed version of the national anthem impacted me. I couldn’t talk until I was 6 years old. Doctors had to perform surgery on my vocal cords to correct them so I could speak. Until that point, I used sign language.

With that experience of only being able to sign for the first six years of my life, I understand why Holliday used “togetherness” and Brewer used “inclusiveness” as words to describe their desired result of signing the national anthem.

Whether it is a home or away game, if the national anthem is sung, the cheerleaders have been signing the national anthem. The playoff game the Wolverine boys played at Earlham recently was the only away game where the anthem has been sung instead of an instrumental version played, so the cheerleaders signed the song.

The cheerleaders say it took about two weeks to fully learn the signs for the song. I’d say it was two weeks well spent. It has certainly made an impact on me and I know it has made an impact on others as well.

I know there are a lot of great things going on on the basketball court and wrestling mats right now, but I had to point out this memorable act by the cheerleaders before it’s too late. They’re certainly making a worthy and lasting impression on this writer with what they’re doing.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.