A Celebration Of American And The American Flag

Sara Michelle Engbretson accepts the 2003 Patriot Prize Essay Contest Award.


Winning Essayists

Top 50 Stars


Winning Essayists

Top 50 Stars


Winning Essayists

Top 50 Stars

The 2003 Patriot Prize Essay Contest Winners

First Place
Sara Michelle Engbretson
Resurrection High School, Chicago, Illinois

The American Flag is to me the essence of the American Dream. It stands for the opportunity to dream, the rights to life, liberty and happiness, and the freedoms offered by a nation united.

The Stars and Stripes flew over the battlefields of the revolution, where our forefathers seized their opportunities to break free from Great Britain. It flew throughout the Civil War, as the North and South came to blows over what the American Dream means. It flew through World Wars I and II, as our troops fought for our dreams and our ideals. It flew on September 11, 2001, while we as a nation struggled to redefine what exactly our dreams and goals must become.

Old Glory flies today over hospitals where we welcome into the world our nation's newest citizens. It soars over cemeteries, where we honor the memory of those Americans gone before us. It flies today over parks and playgrounds, where children romp without fear, pursuing happiness to its utmost.

The Star Spangled Banner waves over our nation, from mountains, busy cities and peaceful countryside. It is saluted by young and old, by rich and poor, by representatives of every ethnicity in the world. The American Flag is the embodiment of the American Dream.

Second Place
Jeisun Charles Wen
University High School, Bloomington/Normal, Illinois

The shout of incensed voices grew as an American flag was set ablaze. This scene is what countless angry protesters reenact to show their resentment for the United States. Many Americans are shocked by these violent acts, but I saw something different. Although our flag was stripped of its dignity, it was then I felt I finally understood the true meaning of the flag and what it meant to me.

Our flag is a symbol. A symbol is a window that lets us see the spirit of what it represents. Our flag is a symbol of America. It stands as a promise of what America offers. That promise lives in the hearts of the American people. It is a promise that in this country, it is possible to truthfully rectify the mistakes of our leaders. In this country, we never have to fear persecution for worshiping the wrong god. In this country, success is possible if only we pursue our dreams with dogged determination.

It is a wonder how such a small flag can symbolize so much. It is important to realize that the flag is not important in itself. Rather, the values woven into its fabric are what makes the flag so precious.Ignorant people may dishonor our flag, but they miss the bigger point. Our flag is only a symbol of the undying American spirit and that spirit cannot be incinerated, trampled, or riddled with bullets. The flag I see will always fly proud and tall.

Third Place
Eva Sree Das
Mt. Zion High School, Mt. Zion, Illinois

Being the daughter of immigrants, the American flag means a lot to me. My parents traveled to this country nearly 25 years ago from India, so that their children could have a better life with more opportunities. When I look at the American flag I see my life, better opportunities, I see freedom, hope, and courage. When I look at the flag, not only do I see my life, but also I see the ghosts of millions who have lived and died for me. Our flag represents humanity; it flies high and silently, rustling in the breeze, dedicated to liberty. Old Glory has been carried into battle in faraway lands, always for the cause of freedom. For the freedom of others and for ours, we have left our dead in Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, on the beaches of Normandy, on the slopes of Korea, and in the jungles of Vietnam. Don’t let it all be for nothing, tell the brave they have all died for a worthwhile cause. Be proud of what the Stars and Stripes represent, and display it for all to see. Our flag shall fly forever as a symbol of our freedom, as it did for our ancestors and as it shall for our heirs. Our flag represents integrity and courage, and may she always have the strength to keep herself free, to remain a citadel of freedom and a beacon of hope to the world.

Third Place
Alexis Nwamaka Nwankwo
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Illinois

I was twelve the first time I said goodbye to the American flag and traveled to Nigeria for the summer. As I sat in the gate’s waiting area, I felt beads of anxiety dripping from my forehead. A young boy in the seat across from me sat whining and tugging at his mother’s sleeve. He had a design of an American flag printed on his blue T-shirt. When the flight was called, the travelers rushed over to the cheerful attendant lady who collected tickets and my ticket accidentally dropped from my hand. I bent down to pick it up, and from the corner of my eye I could see the flag shirt boy, waving goodbye to someone. As I disappeared into the long tunnel that would soon separate me from my home for three months, I could still see that flag on his shirt standing tall and solemnly billowing in the wind.

The American flag is more than just a vibrant blend of red, blue and white – it is justice, loyalty, and liberty. In Nigeria, a country that hungers to have a democratic political system, social and religious dichotomy, and economic prosperity, governmental corruption and social and religious dichotomy tear this dream apart. When I first arrived in Nigeria, my seven-year-old cousin greeted me by singing America’s national anthem in his heavy accent. "Where did you learn that?" I asked. "In primary school," he answered, and continued singing "That our flag was still there…" and I thought to myself, "Yes, it’s still here!!!"

copyright 2002   photo credits   audio credits