SO MANY country songs have that upbeat, optimistic sound to them, you can't help but tap your toes and hum along. When there's good country music playing, it's like a good game of horseshoes -- I can't help but have fun and loosen up!

In fact, I enjoy country music so much that the carpenters built a stereo right into the desk in my study at the White House. It's a cozy room away from it all, with a view of a little garden outside the window. My dog Millie's bed is right next to the desk, and although I can't speak for Millie, I find myself more relaxed with Reba coming over the airwaves.

Country music hits all the right chords -- like caring for your family, remembering the good times and keeping faith in God.

There's nothing better than hearing the Oak Ridge Boys singing "a little story of an American family" at the end of a long day. Or Randy Travis telling about his love that's "deeper than the holler." Or the wonderful harmonies of the Gatlin Brothers and Alabama.

I enjoy every one of them because the best part of country music is the lyrics. There's a sense of everyday reality to them. For example, we all come home at night and switch on the television news -- and many times what we get isn't always good news. So Anne Murray's song "A Little Good News" really hits home to me when she sings: "I'll come home this evenin'/I'll bet that the news'll be the same/Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane/How I wanna hear the anchorman talk about a county fair/How we cleaned up the air/How everybody learned to care."

As always, there's love for America. You can hear it in the line from the Lee Greenwood song that we all love: "And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free . . . ." In a world where people everywhere are marching toward liberty and democracy, Lee's important message reminds us how blessed we are to be citizens of the country that stands as a model for so many others. His is a sentiment that I think most Americans have felt: "I'd gladly stand up next to you/ And defend her still today/'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land/God bless the U.S.A.!"

Aside from the beat, the tune and the lyrics of the songs, there are the people who sing country music. During the last few years, I've gotten to know many of the great country music singers.

I've enjoyed meeting and working with people like those wonderful sisters, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle and Peggy Sue. They traveled with me on the campaign trail throughout the heartland of America. They'd sing on our bus, wave to the passers-by and perform when we stopped along the way. The conditions were sometimes rough, but they'd never complain.

And Moe Bandy campaigned for us tirelessly; I'll never forget it. Larry Gatlin and his brothers, too, made the long hours a little easier to take. And this will come as no surprise to the readers of Country America: Not a single one of them behaved like some big-shot "star." Everyone was there because they believed, and they wanted to help.

That's what country music comes down to: real people singing real stories that we can all understand. When I hear those upbeat songs performed by great American singers, it brings to mind the words of Moe Bandy's "Americana":

"I'll keep holding to the dream/You're still what livin' means to me."