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Media Literacy

Same Message/
Different Meaning

Discover a variety of answers to the question, “What does the U.S. flag mean to you?” How does your background and identity influence your answer to that question?

Select each question below to read each person’s response.

Marlon - a college student


a college student

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

The United States flag to me represents dominance over others, at least as it is represented in the national anthem. The national anthem says we value war; it talks about rockets and bombs exploding and freedom. It shows we value war to achieve our freedoms.

John - an elected official


an elected official

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

To me, the United States’ flag represents the evolution of our country, from its founding in 1776 to currently 2021. We are a representative republic. Were we perfect at the outset? Absolutely not. Are we perfect now? Absolutely not. But I feel we’ve made a lot of progress and if we continue to make progress the way we have over the last, what, 245 years, this is going to be onee awesome country for a long time.

Lucinda and Jesus - journalists/publishers

Lucy and Jesus


What the United States Flag Means to Me…

Lucinda: The American flag for me means freedom. This freedom means to me the wars, the blood, that wasn’t wasted in the wars. That’s what the American flag means to me.

Jesus: Here, as an American citizen, the American flag represents liberty. So for me as an immigrant from Colombia, the American flag represents more than liberty. It means more to me than a person who was born here. It’s (being) reborn again. It represents liberty, it represents opportunity, it represents family - my kids were born here. I have more ties, I feel, to the American flag than someone who was born here.

Quinton - an activist


an activist

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

I think it definitely symbolizes hope because I hope that my daughter (who is age 7) can grow up and look at the flag and feel like that flag represents her and stands up for her and takes into consideration her skin color. I would hope that she feels like there is one justice system for her under the American flag; right now, we feel like there are two justice systems. The American flag for me represents good and it also represents bad. I feel like it takes my history and tries to erase it or tries to cover some of my history up while at the same time lifting their history up and putting it on us like that is the only history behind the American flag when it’s not.

Larry - an Army veteran


an Army veteran

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

All gave some, some gave all; those that came back with the flag draped over their coffin. The flag to me is (that) we are the standard for the rest of the world. Some of that has diminished over the last few years for a variety of reasons. Our country was founded on freedoms and these are the freedoms we enjoy because of the American flag and those who fought for it. It didn't come free. It used to be the U.S. flag was respected all over the world; today, we've lost that respect. Our country is a melting pot of the world; we have forgotten that.

Simone - a clergy member


a clergy member

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

The American flag and I have a complicated relationship. I grew up with the Old Navy July 4th T-shirts and walking in the July 4th parade and really believing that the U.S. was a leader and a power for good in the world. More recently, what does it mean to be driving in a more rural area and see lots of American flags on a barn or flying in a field? I no longer feel pride when I see that. Honestly, as a Jew, I feel fear that that kind of outright nationalism/patriotism, has taken a dangerous turn. Rather than thinking, “How pretty the flag looks waving against the blue sky,” I think, “I better not stop the car, better not identify myself as a minority.”

Tha - a director of a non-profit


a director of a non-profit

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

It means a lot of things. Given the situation in Burma, it represents democracy for us, and the desire to represent democracy in other countries. Democracy is fragile. I'm thinking of the January 6th events at the Capitol; democracy is in the making. Who does the flag represent? It is predominately white people or all people? It changes with who's in power and where the country is heading. In the United States, we have a lot of things to reckon with as a result of slavery and racism and xenophobia. We are a very privileged country; the flag also represents privilege to me. We are so rich with resources.

Joseph - a practicing Quaker


a practicing Quaker

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

Quakers do not emphasize the flag. They don’t believe in oaths or formal swearing. One should speak the truth all the time, regardless. The primary allegiance is to God rather than one’s country. At sporting events and so forth I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s my Quaker background. It’s because your allegiance is to God and not the flag. I stand but don’t speak. I do associate the flag with the character of the country and if the country is really on what I think is a bad policy regarding war, I tend not to fly the flag. It’s a sort of mild witness.

Sarah - a communications specialist


a communications specialist

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

For me, it is more of a symbol of the freedom of speech and choice, and also the ability to make changes you won’t typically see in any other country. The ability to have conversation, to have dialogue, whether you agree or disagree. I am originally from Malaysia and conversations like these don’t exist and if they do, they are in limited places and there’s repercussions for those types of conversations.

Matt - a high school history teacher


a high school history teacher

What the United States Flag Means to Me…

Throughout history we’ve experienced growing pains as we’ve sought, as we’ve strived to expand the principles of freedom and liberty and democracy to everyone in this country. That is still an ongoing process. When I look at it, it is always an aspiration to be more inclusive of people in this country and to expand those ideals to everyone. I also think when I look at the flag it shows us the challenge of this country, that we have 50 separate states that have different identities. We try to weave them into one country, into a United States. That is such an interesting experiment.

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