I Am The American Flag Essay

Shanni Lam
Clara Barton School

What the American Flag Means to Me

What does the American flag really mean? Some call it Old Glory; others call it the Star Spangled Banner. In my opinion, it symbolizes opportunity, hope, justice, and freedom. Our country has so many freedoms that other countries do not have, such as the freedom to vote for all colors and men and women, freedom of speech, and so many more! We are so lucky to have these rights when many other countries are still fighting for it. I am beginning to believe that our citizens are forgetting how lucky we are to live here. They are unaware of all the advantages and privileges we have that other countries do not have.

Two decades ago, my parents immigrated to the United States from Asia for new opportunities. They thought America was a great place for more opportunities to have a better future and more freedoms. Every time I see the American flag, I cannot help but think if it were not for the freedoms of the United States, how life would be different for my family and I. Without the move, I would not be living the life I have today. Needless to say, the American flag has a huge impact on my life; I feel an intense emotional attachment between my country, its flag and me. As a citizen of the United States, not appreciating our country and the flag would be a strong insult to this wonderful country I live in.

Old Glory consists of three colors: red, blue, and white. Red represents the bloodshed from the bravery of our soldiers, who were willing to sacrifice their lives in order for us to give others a free life. Blue represents the sky; it reminds us to set our goals high as anything is possible and to reach higher and higher to achieve them. The sky is the limit. Last, but not least, white represents purity. It is not our country that is pure, but the people inside it. We, the people, are pure because we always believe in ourselves and are always willing to lend a hand to help others in need. For example, during the earthquake of Haiti, Americans donated much of their money even though the economy was struggling. Wherever and whenever a disaster strikes, America is always the first and most helpful to the country.

The Star Spangled Banner has thirteen stripes, since there were thirteen original colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Seven stripes are red; six stripes are white, each alternating turns in order: red, white, red, white, red, white... In the top left corner, is a small, blue rectangle with fifty white stars, representing the fifty states that make us the country we know today.

Red and blue also represents racial discrimination since they are exact opposites. There was a time when our country would not treat African-Americans/blacks just as fairly as the whites. Without the Civil War, today, we may not be able to play with our friends just because they were a different skin color! At the same time, the Union was divided into two. Nowadays, we are united under one nation, enjoying our freedom together. The Civil War is a symbol of justice bringing our nation back to one, united, as it always should have been. The American Flag is a reminder that our nation will always be united.

In conclusion, I am proud to be an American citizen and always will be. I am especially grateful for all the freedoms and privileges the United States has to offer. Americans are forgetting how lucky we are and the American Flag is a reminder of all the privileges we have. We should respect the flag as it represents the country we live in. When I see the American flag, I hold it in my heart and it reminds me to believe in myself.

A child. A truck. A quilt. A gravestone. These are all answers to the questions posed by the Share Your Story project: “What does the American flag stand for? Is it a sacred symbol? Has it meant something important to you? Does it represent you? Have you ever used the flag to make a statement?” Lots of things to think about. Many places your mind could go.

The product of the Star-Spangled Banner “Share Your Story” project is a mosaic of the American flag made up of stories and photos from people like you. Perusing the images and the words that have been submitted, I’m struck by how the flag is used to express different ideas about what it means to be American. It is a sign of freedom. A reference to the federal government. The emblem of a superpower. An icon of loyalty. A symbol of pride as well as a symbol of protest.

Flickr photo of Don Faulkner by engeldreim.

One of my favorite submissions is a photo of Don Faulkner, a Navy man who wrote an essay in the eighth grade about what the colors of the flag brought to mind for him. Blue stands for “the waters around the United States that hold it together like a vice holds two pieces of wood together”; white, “the clouds that fly over the United States, so easily without a bump or rough place like the peace of peace time”; and red, “the fire that consumes intruders that try to turn the handle that holds the United States together.”

Another veteran, mercenary2372 is pictured during a 15 month tour in Iraq:”I am holding a flag my dad sent me in the mail. The American Flag stands for freedom and is the symbol of our country that I salute in the morning for reveille and in the evening for taps.” Alongside his photo of flag flying outside the Department of Justice headquarters M.V. Jantzen writes: “I don’t feel the American flag is a sacred symbol, but it does feel like home.” JeanieBeach thinks her photo of a truck stop illustrates how “the American flag captures the rugged determination of Americans to create sanctuary anywhere they find themselves.” And Gelane explains that the young boy pictured in her photo was “born on the army’s birthday, Flag Day!”

With 15 rows of 24 image tiles, we need more than 360 photographs to complete the American flag mosaic. This is your chance to contribute your point of view. In commemoration of Flag Day this year, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and images of what the flag means to you. Spread the word and help us fill up the mosaic!

Dana Allen-Greil is the new media project manager at the National Museum of American History. She likes to think of the flag as a connector. 

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