By Vivian Walker,2014-06-20 08:15
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Hilton Obenzinger

Lecture Notes MARCH 15

“This Land Is Your Land” at President Obama’s


"This Land Is Your Land" is one of the United States' most

    famous folk songs. Its lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in

    1940 based on an existing melody, in response to Irving

    Berlin's "God Bless America", which Guthrie considered

    unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it

    on the radio, he wrote a response originally called "God Blessed America for Me".[1] Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses than appear in recordings or publications.

    Guthrie wrote the song in 1940 and recorded it in 1944. The song was not published until 1951, when it was included in a mimeographed booklet of ten songs with typed lyrics and hand drawings. The booklet was sold for twenty-five cents, and copyrighted in 1945.

This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York Island

    From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

    This land was made for you and me.

    As I went walking that ribbon of highway

    I saw above me that endless skyway

    I saw below me that golden valley

    This land was made for you and me.

    I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps

    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts

    While all around me a voice was sounding

    This land was made for you and me.

    When the sun came shining, and I was strolling

    And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,

    This land was made for you and me.

    This land is your land, this land is my land

    From California to the New York Island

    From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

    This land was made for you and me.


    Confirmation of two other verses A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian,

    the earliest known recording of the song, has the "private

    property" verse included. This version was recorded the same

    day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several

    archivists for Smithsonian interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History - Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.

    There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me; Sign was painted, it said private property;

    But on the back side it didn't say nothing;

This land was made for you and me.

    Woody Guthrie has a variant: As I went walking I saw a sign there

    And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." But on the other side it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me.

    It also has a verse: Nobody living can ever stop me,

    As I go walking that freedom highway;

    Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.

    In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple; By the relief office, I'd seen my people.

    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, Is this land made for you and me?

Relief office: welfare for people out of work during the Great

    Depression (in the 1930s)

Individual freedom


Equality of opportunity

American Dream

    “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

    “The American Dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the

    barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

    From Epic of America (1931) by James Truslow Adams

Attitudes about the “American Dream”

    Numerous public opinion polls since the 1980s have explored the meaning of the concept for Americans, and their expectations for its future. In these polls, a majority of American consistently reported that for their family, the American Dream is more about spiritual happiness than material goods. Majorities state that working hard is the most important element for getting ahead. However, an increasing minority stated that hard work and determination does not guarantee success. On the pessimistic side, most Americans predict that achieving the Dream with fair means will become increasingly difficult for future generations. They are increasingly pessimistic about the opportunity for the working class to get ahead; on the other hand, they are increasingly optimistic about the opportunities available to poor people and to new immigrants to get ahead in the United States.

Income Gap

    The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its largest margin ever, a stark. The top-earning 20 percent of Americans those making more than

    $100,000 each year received 49.4 percent of all income

    generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

    At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.

    Three states New York, Connecticut and Texas and the

    District of Columbia had the largest gaps between rich and poor. Big gaps were also evident in large cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, home to both highly paid financial and high-tech jobs as well as clusters of poorer immigrant and minority residents. Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Hawaii had the smallest income gaps.

    "Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more," said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. "More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy."

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