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Before Rand Paul announced his presidential bid Tuesday—declaring, “We have come to take our country back”—the crowd heard a special rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by Marlana VanHoose.

The Kentucky 18-year-old couldn’t see the crowd erupt in applause after she took the stage at the Kentucky Galt House Hotel. Nor could she read the stream of tweets praising her when she belted the national anthem.

Born with cerebral palsy, without a fully formed optic nerve, VanHoose has never been able to see. But after defying doctors’ predictions and making it past her first birthday, according to her website, “Marlana was humming “Jesus loves me” before she talked and by the time she was 2 years old she taught herself to play the piano.”

VanHoose has also sung the national anthem at sporting events and has been featured on ESPN.

She might not have been able to see the crowd clap, but she could hear them cheer.


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