“I’d like to write a great peace song,” Irving Berlin told a journalist in 1938, “but it’s hard to do, because you have trouble dramatizing peace.”
"Years before John Lennon or Bob Dylan were even born, Berlin took up the challenge of penning an anthem that would inspire his fellow men to live in harmony."
"The song wasn't without its critics. Certain Democrats called the song jingoistic, questioning why God should bless America and no other country, and what about separation of church and state? Others griped about Berlin’s pedigree. As a Russian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. in 1893, why should he speak for America? A prominent pastor in New York, Edgar Franklin Romig, grabbed headlines by calling the song a “specious substitute for religion.”
"One songwriter who didn’t like Berlin’s anthem was Woody Guthrie. It’s said that he got so fed up with hearing Kate Smith on the radio, he wrote a rebuttal in “This Land Is Your Land.” In the original version of Guthrie’s classic, he painted pictures of a desolate, corrupt country, ending each verse with “God blessed America for you and me.”
"As Cole Porter's daughter Mary Ellin Barrett said, “I came to understand that it wasn’t ‘God Bless America, land that we love.’ It was ‘God bless America, land that I love.’ It was an incredibly personal statement that my father was making, that anybody singing that song makes as they sing it. And I understood that that song was his ‘thank you’ to the country that had taken him in. It was the song of the immigrant boy who made good.”