“Merle Haggard was a man who knew America instinctively because he lived an American life.” Majority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy opens his Senate speech to prove a point about Merle Haggard.
Bakersfield, Merle Haggard Post Office
It seems that politics at some point could collide with country and we can all at least for once, agree with the US Congress that Merle Haggard is a legend and was an American who showed us what being an American is all about.
One week ago, Rep Kevin McCarthy delivered a moving and convincing speech as to why the country icon should be honored by naming the post office in Bakersfield, California to Merle Haggard Post Office. It is highly to note that Merle Haggard is a native of Bakersfield, California and probably its most famous and influential son up to date.
Here’s the full speech and video, and I swear, every word that came out from McCarthy’s mouth is everything that one should know about the one and only Merle Haggard:
“Mr. Speaker, you can take a look back on American history. You can see figures standing tall who spoke for the everyday working man. Following a long tradition of Whitman and Twain, Merle Haggard was a man who knew America instinctively, because he lived an American life. It wasn’t a life for the movies, but it was all more compelling, because it was all more real. That is the reason they called him the poet of the common man.
Merle Haggard didn’t have it easy. At the height of the Depression, his family searched for opportunity out West. Merle grew up with the little means, and lived with the past mistakes and regrets. So he sang. He sang in “Branded Man” of the stigma of prison, crooning, “I held my head up high, determined I’d rise above the shame. He sang in “Working Man Blues” of the grind of doing his duty to his family. “Working as long as my two hands are fit to use.” And he sang of his roots. Not of power, or wealth, or of status. But of pride of being an Okie from Muskogee—a place of leather boots, football, and Old Glory.
He found success, and more importantly, redemption in the music he shared with his country. Now The Bakersfield Sound changed country music, and it’s a testament to Merle Haggard’s talent. When you listen to his hits, from “Branded Man,” to “Mama Tried,” to “Big City,” to “Working Man Blues,” or even to “Okie From Muskogee,” you not only hear the hardship and wisdom of a well-lived life, but you can hear the roots of so much of the music we still listen to today.
From a man who went from Bakersfield High to San Quentin Prison, to the Country Music Hall of Fame, a building doesn’t seem like much. But I hope when people pass by the Merle Haggard Post Office building in downtown Bakersfield, they will remember an icon of our community, and artist who never backed down, a man whose honesty above his own failings and willingness to pick himself back up inspired music that lifts our spirits, and feeds our souls.
Merle Haggard’s name will live on in this building, but his spirit will live on in his music that calls us to do the best we can every day God gives us. I yield back.”
God Bless America!