News that Justin Bieber's hit single "Baby" was played in a kindergarten graduation ceremony to replace "God Bless the USA" has reached the ears of Lee Greenwood, the man who wrote and recorded the patriotic song in 1980s. The 69-year-old singer issued a statement to condemn the school principal, Greta Hawkins, who initiated the replacement.
"I wrote 'God Bless the USA' about the love I have for this country and the struggle we have gone through to remain free," Lee said. Replying to argument that the lyrics might "offend other cultures," the singer said, "Our country was founded on the principle that it welcomes people of all cultures and gives them the same rights we have as citizens."
Despite the protest and controversy, Department of Education reportedly supported Hawkins' decision to replace the patriotic song with the Canadian pop singer's flirty track. According to New York Post, the officials agreed that "the lyrics [of God Bless the USA] are not age-appropriate."
In response, Lee said, "I feel compelled to echo the faith of our forefathers who all believed in God and a respect of a higher authority. Personally, denying the children of PS 90 to sing 'God Bless the USA' offends me as a Christian. My song is about hope, faith, spirit and pride. How could that be wrong on any level?"
Not every official, however, supported Hawkins. "When a Justin Bieber song is deemed an appropriate substitute for a song about patriotism and love of country, what message are we sending our youth?" congressman Michael Grimm asked. "It's time we stop letting our political correctness destroy our values and American traditions, and start embracing the exceptional people and cultures that make our country great."
The incident itself happened at the Edna Cohen School in Brooklyn which is filled with proud immigrants from Pakistan, Mexico and Ecuador. When Hawkins ordered the song to be cut off, both staff and parents reportedly were stunned. "A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride," said mom Luz Lozada, whose son, Daniel, is in the kindergarten.
"God Bless the USA" was sung at the school's previous events.