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Garrison Keillor at the Washington National Cathedral

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Finally, excerpts from an evening with Garrison Keillor. The bard of Lake Wobegon and “A Prairie Home Companion” was also at the Washington National Cathedral recently, talking about poetry, singing old hymns, and telling stories about the strict fundamentalists who raised him.

“Somehow poetry saved their souls and gave them some mercy and some kindness.”

GARRISON KEILLOR (Host, “A Prairie Home Companion”): These were people with no money and not much in the way of books, except for the Good One, of course, and commentaries on it, and they read their Scripture very, very seriously. They departed from all of this—from the stone and from carved wood and from images and from gold and silver and vestments. And they met in plain rooms and spoke plainly, as a result of which there were never very many of them.

They believed in forgiveness in theory, but in practice it was, of course, it was of course more difficult, and living in a small town, they knew much too much about you to be merciful sometimes. But they loved, they loved the King James. They loved Scripture. They loved old hymns. They wouldn’t have belonged in the praise churches today, where people gather in big gymnasiums, and they hold their hands up over their heads, and they sing what we call 7-Eleven songs, where you sing seven words 11 times.

They had a very strict doctrine. We were forbidden to drink or smoke or play cards or go to movies or to dance, or even move in a rhythmic manner for fear that our carnal impulses would be awakened, though of course they were awakened and dressed and waiting for the bus to come. As strict as they

Washington National Cathedral

were, their salvation was their love of language. Somehow poetry saved their souls and gave them some mercy and some kindness.

ABERNETHY: Keillor spoke before the election, saying the country had become fractured. “We should remind ourselves,” he said, “that we are truly one people.” So he led his audience in singing a song everyone knew.

Mr. KEILLOR (singing along with audience): O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain. America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

  • Edith S Baker

    I was there and it was a most enjoyable evening. Mr. Keillor is an amazing human being.

  • Viola Jaynes

    Wonderful! Connecting with our deepest longings is so vitial for our country right now.

  • Susan

    thought you might enjoy this!

  • Fred Schwartz

    Mr. Keillor is truly on target. His comments on the country are accurate. It appears from all things going on that we may be picking up where we left off — in 1968.

  • Robert Schlameus

    I remember singing America the Beautiful in grammar school in grammar achool in the early 1950s. It still brings a tear to my eye and joy to my heart. Maybe we should pass a law so that at 7:00 PM every Friday night everyone has to report to the nearest park and sing this song with your neighbors. I think that act alone might teach us that we are in this together and that this is a country for all of us.

  • Myrtle Nygren

    I love Garrison and I enjoyed this article.

  • Doris Irving

    This is wonderful finding my favorite author once more. And so needed at this time. Mr.Keillor was just what we need in this period of crisis.
    thank you

  • Ruthie

    Thanks Garrison, for all your great shows of many years

  • Martha

    When will we see the light and make this our national anthem instead of the militaristic Star Spangled Banner?