Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” is a continuous benefactor to youth in New York City. Written in 1940, this iconic song’s royalties were dedicated by Berlin to a special fund.
Named the “God Bless America Fund,” its sole purpose was to support America’s youth, with a particular focus on the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City. Over the years, this fund has channeled over $10 million into local scouting groups, significantly impacting young lives.
God Bless America Supporting the Scouts
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, led to a renewed popularity of “God Bless America.” As the song echoed across the nation, royalties surged, directly benefiting scouting organizations in NYC. Victoria G. Traube, a trustee of the fund, noted that annual royalties, typically exceeding $200,000, were expected to triple that year. This increase meant more resources for scouting programs, especially in the poorest neighborhoods of New York.
Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City have been beneficiaries of this fund. They’ve historically used these funds to expand programs into underserved communities and offer opportunities to disabled and troubled children. Activities like nature hikes, cookouts, and educational field trips are just some examples of how these funds have been utilized.
A notable aspect of this support is the commitment to inclusivity. Over a year ago, the “God Bless America” fund trustees requested both scouting groups to confirm their non-discriminatory policies, including attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Both groups affirmed their commitment to inclusivity, with the Boy Scouts of New York actively working to reverse national policies against gay scout leaders.
Berlin’s Enduring Impact
Irving Berlin’s decision to donate his song’s royalties was more than a financial gesture; it was a commitment to American youth’s future. Linda Emmet, Berlin’s daughter, reflected that her father viewed children as the country’s future and believed in supporting them.
Berlin’s involvement with scouting wasn’t just financial; he was actively engaged on the boards of both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, highlighting his dedication to these organizations.
As “God Bless America” continues to resonate across the nation, its impact on New York’s scouting programs grows. Plans are underway to use these funds to help children, including scouts, cope with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. With at least nine troop leaders lost in the tragedy, the need for support and healing is evident.
Berlin’s vision extended beyond a single song or moment in time. His commitment to America’s youth, especially in fostering outdoor education and life skills through scouting, has left an indelible mark on generations. As “God Bless America” plays on, its royalties will continue to fund adventures, learning, and growth for countless children in New York City, ensuring that Berlin’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of America’s youth.