June 30, 2011

Symbols Of Our Extraordinary Nation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Patriotic symbols, songs, speeches and writings are often part of our Fourth of July celebrations.  Some emblems of patriotism are ingrained in the fabric of our nation, yet their origins may be largely forgotten.  This Independence Day, as we gather with family and friends to celebrate our nation and the brave men and women who defend it, offers a time to reflect on the history of a few of these important traditions and the American ideals they represent.     

 

American Flag:  Our flag is one of our most widely recognized national symbols.  Modeled after the flag used in the American Revolutionary War, our national flag has undergone numerous design changes since June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution adopting the flag and providing for its design.  The current design of fifty stars representing the fifty individual states and thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies was adopted in 1960 following Hawaii's statehood. 

 

Standing as a silent witness to our struggles and accomplishments, the flag has served as a powerful image of our national strength and American principles.  Galvanizing images of it being planted on the Moon, raised by brave American soldiers during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, flown on houses and buildings after the September 11 attacks and draped over the coffins of courageous American men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom are deeply ingrained in our historical memories.

 

The Star-Spangled Banner:  Francis Scott Key's witnessing of the British's failed attempt to take Baltimore in 1814 inspired Key to write a poem that was combined with the melody of the "Anacreontic Song" to make "The Star-Spangled Banner."  In 1931, Congress passed and President Herbert Hoover signed into law a resolution establishing "The Star-Spangled Banner" as our national anthem.    

 

Played at some of our most triumphant moments, our national anthem is a musical representation of our flag and exemplifies the grit, determination and perseverance required to obtain and sustain our liberty:  "O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

 

Pledge of Allegiance:  "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  Written in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, the Pledge of Allegiance was congressionally recognized as our national pledge in 1942.  Twelve years later, through a Joint Resolution of Congress, the phrase "under God" was included in the national pledge.

 

The Pledge is recited during the opening of Senate deliberations each day, and many of us grew up reciting it in school and various club meetings.  The elegance of the pledge is in its brevity and lack of complication.  It is a concise reminder of our rights to liberty and justice and our unity as Americans.    

 

We have great patriotic symbols that are recognized around the world, but most valuable are the ideals they represent.  These principles are exemplified in the well-known second line of the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  These ideals and our commitment to protect them are what make our country exceptional. 

 

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