I am the American flag.
I will speak from the wisdom of a long life. I first felt the vigor of wind on my multicolored face when I unfurled my 13 stars more than 200 years ago. I looked down to see horses with their clattering hoofs pulling rattling carriages over cobblestone streets.
Since then I have looked up to see silver jets streak across blue skies. I have known 40 presidents. I have traveled from New York to San Francisco, from Chicago to New Orleans and across every sea. I have unfurled my pride on sailing ships, steamers and mighty vessels of armed power to bring peace and freedom to oppressed people of the world. I have traveled far, across continents, oceans, deserts and on the chilly snow-white tip of a mighty Saturn with its blazing engines to soar through the silent seas of space until. I stood proudly on the gray surface of the shinning moon.
I have lived long, traveled far, and I, the American flag, have something important to say to my country today.
I, the American flag, have seen much. So listen and listen hard,
I have earned the right to speak. The price paid for my freedom of speech is a price few remember or can comprehend. Most forget, but I still see in my memory those bright, beautiful young men who died for me at Pork Chop Hill, Bastogne, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor, the Coral Sea, Okinawa, Corregidor and the Asian jungles half a world away. And when they died for me, I wrapped them in my love and draped my honor over their caskets in tropics, deserts and seas.
Those who died for my right to speak in freedom are buried in the Flander Fields of Europe, the Punchbowl in Hawaii, in the outskirts of Manila, the Philippines and in many other places under the sun. I fly proudly over their green graves at all of these places, praying that wars might and forever, Never forgetting them, I rise every morning to watch, hour after hour, over the graves of our finest men whose yars were short but whose service was longer than we can ever measure.
Yes, I, the American flag, have lived long, traveled far and endured much. A million lives and more were sacrified to give me the right to speak.
Now I will break my long silence, and I shall speak. LISTEN!
I shall speak about my land, today and tomorrow, her tragedy and triumph, her sins and her glory.
I shall speak about my world, for my heart weeps for all nations, all men and women and little children of every race, creed and color.
I, the American flag, now speak!
I say, be proud of your country! There is so much about her that is beautiful, compassionate, tender, powerful, yet gentle. I have this week been in her places of learning, listening to children by the hundreds of thousands, yes millions, pledge their allegiance to me in their schoolrooms.
I have looked back into their faces, in Brownie, Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings from east to west and north to sourth; in Little Leagues, Pony Leagues, minor leagues and to the major leagues where tens of thousands rose with respect as I made my gallant entrance.
Yes, I've been stained, torn, spit upon and defiled by my detractors for 200 years. Still ...
I'm pround of my country, Yes, in spite of all her sins, and they are many, in spite of her shame, and she is not without her share of shame, I am still proud of America. Show me any other country that is stainless, spotless, sinless or shameless over whose people I could fly with greater honor. I'm proud to fly over my imperfect America. For I know of no other people who have been swifter to unselfishly spend billions of dollars sailing strange seas, soaring through unfamiliar skies, to rescue beleaguered, besieged people with skin colors, facial features, foreign religions that all seemed odd to the eyes of kids from Peoria, Illinois, and Sioux City, Iowa. But their hearts never noticed, for the young GIs say them only as oppressed, tortured, fellow human beings who were hurting and crying for help.
So, our crew-cut American soldier, with pluck, ploughed on through the mud, leaving a trail of their own blood behind as they liberated people they had never seen before and would never see again. And along the way they found time to deliver babies of primitive mothers and to pass out chewing gum to children.
And with the peace they simply went home to Mom, asking no thanks and expecting no monuments, surely never aiming to conquer territory or to build a world empire!
I'm proud of my people's gifts to the world.
For 200 years, I've been packed in the trunks and suitcases of doctors, clergymen, missionaries and educators. Together we traveled to Africa, China, India, Japan and the uttermost parts of the earth to share the good life we were enjoying in America. Here these ambassadors built institutions that still stand today--hospitals, schools and churches!
Americans should be proud of our country!
For no country knows greater freedom than my country.
Freedom to each man, woman and child, to choose his life's work ad doctor, lawyer, astronaut or agriculturist.
Freedom to travel from state to state without armed border guards demanding to see passports.
Freedom to try and succeed.
Freedom to fail and not be cast in prison for failure.
Freedom to speak, write, praise, question or criticize anyone, no matter how high his station or rank, and not fear a wiretap on the telephone or a knock at the door at night.
Freedom to save and build a fortune you may give away at the end of your life to your family, church or friends.
Freedom to worship or not to worship, as the mind and heart dictate.
Every Saturday I am found in Jewish temples where I hear the worshipers chant:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord."
And on Sunday in Roman Catholic churches I hear them repeat:
"Hail Mary, full or grace, the Lord is with thee."
And In Protestant churches I hear them sing:
"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear."
Yes! I am the American Flag, proud of the opportunities in my country.
Freedom to borrow and build, to buy and sell, to make an honest profit in return for real service sincerely offered.
Freedom to start your own business and become a capitalist, to create dignified job opportunities for people who want to know the pride of honestly working to make a living.
I am proud of the harvest of our land: corn, wheat, cotton, apples, nuts, cherries, oranges, pineapples. I see the harvest of my 50 states, and I am proud. Let's be proud of our country!
Look at the fruit of her hand, for out of her factories and laboratories an endless creation of new products flows forth:
--wonder drugs and vaccines to destroy forever ancient plagues that for centuries killed children and struck terror in hearts of mothers every time they felt a fever on their children's brows;
--tools to handle any task, to reach the moon, to move mountains or to penetrate and photograph the inside of a human heart;
--tools made of iron, tools made of plastic, tools made of diamonds, tools made of glass, tools made of tempered steel.
I am pround of my country; I say be rpound that you're an American.
Be proud! Be confident! Be bold!
You can do anything that you want to do!
You can climb any mountain!
Possibilities? They're unlimited, except as you limit them with a cynical, bitter, negative attitude! Yes, when you see me flying in legislative halls, schools, courthouses and churches, listen to the rustle of my stars and stripes as I cry out to every boy and girl, every man and woman--"Dream you dream! Dare to believe! You can make it in America!"
I am the American flag. I have a second word for you. Be humble!
Look now at the sins that still remain and settle for nothing less than a deep cleansing. I need not tell you what you are doing a wrong. Deep down in your heart you know it!
Be humble enough to know where your glory and greatness come from.
"Old Glory," I am called. What is my glory? My glory is the freedom that I give to every law-respecting man, woman and child.
But mark this and mark it well: Freedom depends on morality.
The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the mount and the Word of God are the foundation stones of time-tested morality. Remove these foundations and suffer future shock, loss of freedom! The American way of life is characterized by freedom that was made possible because the vast majority of our citizens were trusted as basically self-disciplined followers of the Ten Commandments. As like children of good reputation, they could be trusted with great freedom. Should a majority of our citizens forsake the disciplines that come through moral commitment, then the society will no longer dare to trust itself with the greater liberties, as young people of questionable reputation are placed suspiciously under curfew and careful adult scrutiny, losing their freedom in their promiscuity.
So if my people depart from the virtues of God, they will find their freedom fading.
Be humble. The high cost of freedom is commitment to God and to the self-discipline that such a commitment, if sincere, will demand.
Be humble. Know that without God, my stars will be overclouded, my stripes will fade, my glory will depart and your freedoms will erode and die.
I, the American flag, have known glory and humiliation, too. I see men and women of high rank spending their billions on sensate pleasures; drugs, drinks and debasing pleasures.
Then I see them rise red-eyed to dress in clean clothes and pledge their allegiance to me without guilt or repentance. I want to cry out in shame, "Hypocrite! Arise! Case out your sins!"
When I see the adultery, the lying and stealing and the sins, I remember a 19-year-3ld boy who came back from war with an empty sleeve, another with an empty trouser leg and another with a patch over a hollow in his head where once a bright eye sparkled. I think of these boys and a million others who died for my country's freedom, and when I see how some of you live, I wonder if it was worth it! Oh God! What a waste!
No, not a waste--a challenge to call all under my stars and stripes back to the religious virtues that made freedom possible.
I am the American Flag.
I am your flag.
I am the flag of freedom.
Say what you will, you cannot explain the courage, the faith or the toughness of this country without taking into account her churches, her temples and her Bibles. More than we know, the explanation of our national strength can be found in the words of One whose teachings have permeated the vast majority of American citizens for our first 200 years.
This spokesman for God, jesus Christ, promised:
Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
I know that in some circles today, it is fashionable to discard all that has been held sacred: the Bible, the Ten Commandments, motherhood and marriage.
I warn you, you cannot have the fruit without the root, or you will only live like a cut flower lives. Forsake God's virtues and you cut yourself off from the deep springs from the have nourished spiritual faith country powerful and great. Sever and seal off these sweet springs of spiritual power with the asphalt paving of modern revisionism, and I warn you, your freedoms will suffocate and die.
Yes, the high price of freedom is faith in God. I ask you, are you a part of my country's problem? Become a part of my country's solution! Be proud. Be humble. Be renewed.
As I prepare to celebrate my 200th birthday, I have a prayer. Listen to it:
Our father' God to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light.
Protect us by Thy might, great God, our King.
And near the end of my first 200 years I have a dream:
As I dream of the next 100 years, I see our unquenchable, indestructible, imperishable spirit of human freedom spreading to the uttermost parts of the world. I dream of new doors opening, old walls falling and old ideologies fading away, until the prayer we have been singing for years comes true:
Not for this land alone, but be God's mercies shown, from shore to shore. And may the nations see, that men should brothers be and form one family, the wide world o'er.
I recall rising at dawn many a mornings to hear the trumpeter in camp rouse the slumbering to a new day with the urgent sounds of reveille.
We stand today on the threshold of a new era, a new age.
Rise up and make your country and your world great.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||first-person testimonial|
|Publication:||Saturday Evening Post|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1984|
|Previous Article:||The strange appearance of Norman Cousins.|
|Next Article:||Smoke alarm.|