June 01, 2005

EMBLEM OF FREEDOM

Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

EMBLEM OF FREEDOM Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike CrapoThe American Bald Eagle is a fitting symbol of American pride and patriotism. Many will remember the eagles that were superimposed over photos and drawings of the New York City skyline and the Pentagon after September 11. The freedom, nobility and grandeur of a soaring eagle evoke powerful images. For me, the bald eagle is both a remarkable creation of Godâ??s and a symbol of what America means: freedom, strength and peace.Over the years of my public service, I have accumulated a number of different statues of eagles as well as photos and drawings depicting these majestic birds of prey. I have them in my office in Washington, D.C., and when I have time to reflect upon my job, they help remind me of why I first decided to run for public office. Elected officials have a solemn responsibility to defend freedom, act in courage and strength and exhibit loyalty to the ideals of individual liberty set forth in our Constitution.Almost 230 years ago, the eagle first appeared on a coin minted in Massachusetts. In 1789, the American Bald Eagle, indigenous to North America, was designated the national bird, seven years after it was incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States. I, for one, am glad in this case that the esteemed Benjamin Franklin did not have his wayâ??had Franklin won this particular debate, our national symbol would be a turkey. While they are wonderful at Thanksgiving, in my opinion, the bald eagle is a much better representation of nobility, quiet courage and fierce pride. Today, eagles can be found on our coins, state flags, official documents and many government buildings. Military patches, shields and emblems are emblazoned with these birds, and whether they are depicted in flight or at rest, the impact is the sameâ??fierce countenance, quiet strength, majestic beauty, and American through and through. I canâ??t imagine a more appropriate national emblem. Eagles represent America for many reasons. They are survivors. One mascot of a Wisconsin Union Regiment in the Civil War, aptly named â??Old Abe,â?? survived enemy rifle fire and 42 battles. Eagles are devoted. They mate for life and usually return to within 100 miles of their birthplace to raise their own families, year after year. Eagles are threatened by the loss of freedom and donâ??t prosper in captivity. Much like the great country they represent, they crave freedom and reject the loss of a place to live, grow and raise their families. As our national emblem, the American Bald Eagle is always depicted with a distinctive white head. Interestingly, bald eagles do not develop this coloring until they are four or five years old. In a similar way, the United States has been tried and tested and not found wanting. We have matured as a country, surpassing milestones such as D-Day which we celebrate this week to September 11, yet another true test of our mettle and strength. We have indeed earned our colors. We have many things in common with these amazing creatures. Especially timely is the fact that Congress is working on renewal of the Endangered Species Act, which helped bring back the Bald Eagle from the brink of extinction. Now, they are enjoyed from Virginia to Minnesota to Washington State and many states in between. How appropriate that we are simultaneously working to bring freedom, health and habitat back to them and working to preserve our childrenâ??s freedom to raise their families in safety and prosperity. The next time you see a bald eagle, whether a statue, image, or real, be thankful for their freedom and ours.