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Official Poem of Tennessee's Bicentennial

Who We Are   Adopted: May 30, 1997

Who We Are

by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate 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.
	

Adoption of the official poem of Tennessee's Bicentennial

Honored by the Tennessee General Assembly with the title of Poete Laureate of Tennessee in 1995, Margaret "Maggi" Britton Vaughn penned "Who We Are" for the Tennessee Bicentennial Celebrations.

"Who We Are" became the "official poem of Tennessee's Bicentennial" when Governor Donald Sundquist signed House Bill No. 545 (HB545) on May 30, 1997.

Filed for intro on 02/06/97
SENATE BILL 556 By
Womack

HOUSE BILL 545
By Fowlkes

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3, to designate Who We Are by Margaret Britton Vaughn as the official Tennessee Bicentennial poem.

WHEREAS, Margaret Britton "Maggi" Vaughn of Bell Buckle is an inspirational poet and one of the most distinguished interpreters of the rural South; and

WHEREAS, Maggi Vaughn believes strongly in the power of the written word, and she has devoted her life to bringing the rich and wonderful experience of poetry to everyone she can possibly reach; and

WHEREAS, her inspiring poems reverberate with the magical incantatory power of family and roots; as she says, "Poetry is for everyone and we need to keep the touch that is understood by all walks of life"; and

WHEREAS, in recognition and appreciation of her sterling career in Belle/Lettres, this General Assembly designated Margaret Britton Vaughn as Poet Laureate of Tennessee in 1995; and

WHEREAS, during her illustrious tenure as Poet Laureate, Maggi Vaughn has fulfilled the many important duties of this august office with the utmost acumen, aplomb and dedication; and

WHEREAS, she has composed numerous articulate and moving poems that vividly capture the pride and sense of belonging we all feel as Tennesseans; and

WHEREAS, as a part of the special ceremonies celebrating Tennessee’s Bicentennial on June 1, 1996, Ms. Vaughn composed and recited an especially inspiring poem entitled Who We Are; and

WHEREAS, Who We Are simply, yet eloquently, describes, the many prominent persons and inspirational average citizens who comprise the multicultural community known as Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, Who We Are also describes the many geographical entities and cultural institutions that make the Volunteer State such a special place to live, evoking the patriotism and citizenship that exemplify the true spirit of Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, because Who We Are celebrates this state’s 200th birthday with peerless meter and rhyme, this General Assembly finds that this exemplary poem should be specially commemorated as the official Tennessee Bicentennial poem; now, therefore,

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3, is amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated section:

Section 4-1-3   . 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
1796-1996

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.

SECTION 2. The secretary of state is directed to include the text of Who We Are by Margaret Britton Vaughn and pertinent biographical information about Ms. Vaughn as part of the 1997-1998 Tennessee Blue Book.

SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.


Sources...

The Tennessee General Assembly. House Bill No. 545. Nashville: State of Tennessee. Web. 06 Aug 2011. <http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0545>
The State of Tennessee. Tennessee Code Annotated. Nashville: State of Tennessee. Web. 06 Aug 2011. <http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode>.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.


Additional Information

Margaret Britton Vaughn: Poet Laureate of Tennessee: 2002 newspaper article, by Jay Mouton, from The Chattanoogan.

Tennessee State Poet Laureate: Margaret Britton Vaughn: 2004 article by Linda Sue Grimes.

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Tennessee state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Foretasting Heaven: Talking to Twain at Quarry Farm
Foretasting Heaven
Margaret Britton Vaughn

Foretasting Heaven: Talking to Twain at Quarry Farm, by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee. 55 pages. Publisher: Bell Buckle Press (August 2001).

The Light in the Kitchen Window
The Light in the
Kitchen Window

Margaret Britton Vaughn

The Light in the Kitchen Window, by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee. 74 pages. Publisher: Bell Buckle Press (1998) 1991 was the year that saw release of one of Maggie's most popular poems__The Light in the Kitchen Window. "Light" was the lead poem in the collection of the same name.

Some consider this poem the pivotal work that would lead to Maggie's tenure as the 'Poet Bard' of Tennessee.

Acres That Grow Stones
Acres That
Grow Stones

Margaret Britton Vaughn

Acres That Grow Stones, by Margaret Britton Vaughn. 53 pages. Publisher: Iris Press (January 1996) Poetry by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee.

A Selection of Poetry, Short Stories, and Children's Books by Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee.