Workers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are singing a new, 126-word ode marking the regulatory agency's centennial. The hymn is performed by an employee chorus at awards ceremonies, picnics and commemorative events. "Now in this proud hour, a vibrant vision thrives,'' one line goes.
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"I just got to thinking about trying to express my feelings about my job with some words and music,'' says [composer Gerald] Harris, who has worked at the FDA for 35 years. His anthem is sung by an employee chorus -- numbering two dozen at a June 30 performance -- and sometimes accompanied by a wind ensemble.
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The FDA posted his lyrics -- and an essay by Harris with annotations -- on the agency Web site. FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach pulled Harris aside and thanked him. "The first time I heard it, I was stunned,'' von Eschenbach says in an interview. He hadn't known that Harris wrote music. "You don't associate people in these different contexts,'' he says.
Now Harris has groupies. After the June 30 performance, members of the chorus surrounded him, seeking his autograph on copies of the anthem.
"We really enjoyed it,'' says Deborah Price, an FDA analyst and chorus member who has performed the anthem half a dozen times. "We don't get much money but we can find happiness in these songs.''
Available online are the anthem's lyrics and -- God help us -- a video of its performance. I haven't the time to comment further on these; I'm off now to compose a hymn extolling my supervisor's many virtues. Is there anything which rhymes with "omniscient"?