I heard that you were, today, being sworn in as citizens of the United States
of America, I tried to think of something to give you as a token of this momentous
occasion. My thoughts came to rest on these simple American flag lapel pins.
My father used to wear a pin very similar to these. Every Sunday, he'd put on his
best suit and tie and dutifully take my mother and myself to church. On an inconspicuous
fold in the lapel of his jacket would always be the tiny American flag pin. It wasn't fancy.
It wasn't made of any precious metal and it wasn't studded with gems. It was small enough
not even to be noticed. Nobody would ever stop him and compliment him on his pin, and he
never mentioned that he had it on. Yet, every Sunday, as he went to church, that American
flag always sat in its fixed wave in the same spot, hidden on the lapel of his suit jacket.
My father didn't wear that pin for others to see. He didn't wear it to be fashionable.
He wore it quite simply because it represented something that was very important to him.
It represented his forbearers who endured untold hardships, giving up all that they
owned and all that they knew, to come to this country, this land of opportunity and
freedom. It represented their desire for a new and better life for themselves and
It represented the blood of patriots, shed in the hope that their sacrifice would
ensure the freedom of those who came after them. It reminded my father that he, too,
came close to becoming one of these martyred patriots in the service of his country.
It reminded him of that day, long ago in his youth, when all the world was at war,
and he sat huddled and afraid in the bowels of a bombed and burning ship as it slowly
sank to the bottom of the sea. It reminded him of his friends and fellow crewmen
who were not as lucky as he, whose families would never again see them in this life.
It reminded him that, despite the danger, he took that oath of service as a free
man, and would do the same if he were again needed.
That tiny flag also represented an idea; that mankind need not live under the spectre
of tyranny; that all men are created equal and deserve the opportunity to control their
own destiny and to live, worship, love, and laugh as they see fit.
In short, that tiny flag, hidden from view on the lapel of my father's Sunday jacket,
meant that he was an American. It meant that, in all of the thousands of years of the
history of mankind, my father had the privilege to be a citizen of the greatest nation
the world has ever known, a nation that is the best hope for all of humanity.
My father is gone, but his memory, and the memory of that pin, lives on in me. So,
as you wear these simple adornments, remember the legacy that they represent. Remember
the people who came before you that made your life in this country possible. But
most importantly, look upon these pins, and upon the flag they symbolize, with pride,
and know that you, too, are now Americans.