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Tennessee Symbols, State Bicentennial Poem
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“Who We Are ”
Written by Margaret Britton Vaughn
Adopted in 1996 .
Sheet Music | MIDI
Tennessee Code Annotated
4-1-322. Official poem of the Tennessee Bicentennial.
The poem entitled Who We Are by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee, is designated and adopted as the official poem of Tennessee's Bicentennial, which poem reads as follows:
"Who We Are"
The Bicentennial of Tennessee
The fertile soil of Tennessee
Grew more than corn, tobacco, and cotton,
It grew a crop of people who are
Trailblazers, child raisers, flag wavers, soul savers.
Like the roots of the tulip poplar,
Our feet are planted deeply
Into good living, neighbor giving, God fearing.
Like the iris, buttercup and wild daisies,
Our towns have sprung up
In valleys, basins, mountains, plains and plateaus
That house cabins, mansions and hillside chateaus.
We're the one-room schoolhouse in the hollow;
We're the university grad and the front-porch scholar.
We're Davy Crockett at the Alamo,
Sergeant York, World War I hero.
We're Cordell Hull who served Roosevelt;
We're Chief Sequoyah and his Cherokee alphabet.
We're W.C. Handy and the Memphis Blues;
We're Ida B. Wells and Civil Rights news,
And Grand Ole Opry with old wooden pews.
We're "Rocky Top" and "Tennessee Waltz" the same;
We're "Star Spangled Banner" before the game.
We're mockingbirds singing Appalachian folk songs;
We're country church sing-alongs.
We're hand clappers, toe tappers, knee slappers
And Mama's lap lullaby nappers.
We're Jackson, Johnson and James K. Polk;
We're city slickers and poor hill folk;
We're Anne Dallas Dudley and the Suffrage Vote.
We're John Sevier, Don Sundquist and governors galore;
We're congressmen, mayors and Vice President Gore.
We're Wilma Rudolph's run for the gold
And Sunday golfers' eighteenth hole.
We're Christmas Eve and the Fourth of July;
We're 4-H and homemade chess pie.
We're TVA rivers, creeks and man-made lakes;
We're ruts in dirt roads and interstates.
We're all religions, creeds and peoples of race;
We're Tennesseans who love the home place.
We're the Volunteer State and will always be
Ready to go when someone's in need.
As our trees turn green and our barns turn gray.
We celebrate our two hundredth birthday.
We know we've done our best, stood the test,
And will be laid to rest
In the fertile soil of Tennessee.
[Acts 1997, ch. 337, § 1.]
Origin of Poem:
Who We Are by Margaret Britton Vaughn was designated Tennessee's official
bicentennial poem in 1996. It was adopted by Public Chapter 337 of the 100th
Tennessee's poet laureate, Maggi Vaughn, poet-in-residence for the Tennessee Arts Commission and also the official Tennessee State Bard, has published numerous books of poetry and has written several plays that have been produced in Tennessee.
Designated as Tennessee's Poet Laureate for the term of her natural life by House Joint Resolution 101 of the 101st General Assembly in 1999. Vaughn, a native of Murfreesboro, had her first critically acclaimed book, Fifty Years of Saturday Nights, published in 1975. Some of Vaughn's other works include Grand Ole Saturday Night, The Light in the Kitchen Window, and the play, I Wonder If Eleanor Roosevelt Ever Made a Quilt.
Margaret Britton Vaughn, 64, has been poet laureate of Tennessee since 1995. As part of her official duties, she wrote the Bicentennial Poem of Tennessee, “Who We Are.” Early this year, Vaughn penned “Mr. Tennessee Music Man” to coincide with the U.S. Mint's release of the Tennessee State Quarter.
Vaughn's inspiration is the state's rich history, its natural resources and its people. Her base of operation is Bell Buckle, the quaint Bedford County hamlet eight miles northeast of Shelbyville. Twenty years ago, Vaughn left her career as a newspaper ad salesperson in Nashville and never looked back.
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Vaughn owns Bell Buckle Press, publishing the works of a handful of poets, including herself. Visitors often drop by the shop to trade stories with Vaughn, recognizable in her Minnie Pearl-style straw hat.
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