Picture it. It was the fall of 1972. I was just entering sixth grade in a small town in Mississippi. One of my assignments that year was to memorize and recite the words to our National Anthem. It was something that everyone in my class had to do. We didn't mind, we were being told to do so by our teachers, and our parents, at least mine, insisted that we always show respect for our nation. Especially when the "Anthem" was being performed.

A lot has changed in 50 years regarding the National Anthem and how it is perceived and accepted in our country. Case in point, legislation has been filed in the Louisiana Legislature that would make the playing of our country's National Anthem mandatory before any sporting event held at a state-funded facility.

Sharon Hewitt, a State Senator that represents the Slidell area filed the legislation because she feels that a lot of our population, especially our younger citizens, are losing their spirit of patriotism. She suggested that many of today's students don't even know the words to the song.

Some would call Hewitt's move "political grandstanding" or "wrapping herself in the flag". I call it a darn good idea. Here's why I feel that way.

I don't believe our nation's song should be used as a political device to divide our nation. I think the song should serve as a unifying message. Granted, these United States are not perfect, but as someone who has spent a lot of time visiting outside the borders of our country I can tell you, we are in a lot better shape than most places.

What is amazing to me, is the fact that in those places where personal freedoms are often curtailed by the government, the feeling of national pride is a lot more prevalent. Just look at the way partisan crowds at international events such as the Olympics erupt when they hear the first strains of "their national song".

While I would support Senator Hewitt's legislation, it personally makes me sad. Why wouldn't the citizens of the greatest nation that was ever conceived want to show and share that pride at every opportunity? We should want to play our Anthem, not be forced to play our Anthem.

Somewhere in the dusty depths of my faded memories of sixth grade I can see Mrs. Miller, my former teacher, shaking her head in disbelief. Well, at least she can rest comfortably knowing that this American and her former student in sixth grade still knows the words and sings along, proudly, every chance I get.

You know one other way you can really show your American pride is by supporting our men and women who serve in our nation's military. Currently, there are several thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines from Louisiana serving in harm's way. If you'd like to do something nice and overly American on their behalf, you might consider these ideas.

10 Things You Can Send to Our Troops