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

Thirteen-Fifty Foundation 2004 Patriot Prize Thop Three Essaysists

First Place
Franklin Wiener
Naperville Central High School

“I See My Nation’s Flag”
The night is cold and the stands are packed. The smell of smoke from the hotdog venfor is in the air and the rhythmic thumping of my school’s drum line echoes throughout the stadium. As my team waits in the end zone I know there is one last thing to do before kickoff. The ban begins playing the national anthem and girls from the choir start singing. The flag is illuminated in the night sky by the stadium lights and I think about how fortunate I am. I have the opportunity to play a football game while other young men are patrolling the crowded streets of an Iraqi city. I know that my family is in the stands and they can feel safe in such a large gathering. Unlike other places in the world, our country is not at war with itself. No one is afraid of suicide bombers or gunmen. I realize that the guys on my team are an assortment of races and religions but none of us care. We are all Americans and we all play for each other. As I strap on my helmet, my thoughts turn back toward the imminent game, but whenever I see my nation’s flag, I remember the things I am thankful for.

Second Place
Chris Trigg
Illinois Math and Science Academy
“Anything to Anyone”

Two weeks ago, the flag meant nothing to me. I have never experienced war, I am no die-hard patriot, and I often oppose the actions of my government. Anything I would have written about the flag’s meaning would just have been the run of the mill, quote the Pledge, say its inspirational, meaningless essay.

But two weeks ago, things changed. I was asked to put up a new flag for the local hospital, and in just ten minutes, I realized the true power of the flag. Physically, I realized the strength it took to handle the large cloth flapping in the wind, so much so I found my hands bleeding when I was done. Emotionally was power too. While I was there, one man came up and thanked me, another thanked me and then began to help out, and one car drove by, honked its horn and waved. I was astonished.

The flag is a universal symbol that people can look to for help, hope, and inspiration. The fact that it can mean so many things to so many people, and that it can inspire so much respect and awe, and appreciation for all types of people is absolutely astounding. You don’t have to support every action of your government or die for your country to get meaning from the flag of the United States of America, you simply have to realize it can stand for anything to anyone, and appreciate that power.

Third Place
Timothy Credo
Illinois Math and Science Academy
“An American Idea”

My grandfather came to America from Germany when he was very young, but he learned quickly that hard work and perseverance could take him anywhere. My father learned this same lesson: working a minimum wage summer job in a steel mill in Pittsburgh, he must have had faith that the future would reward his efforts. Time passed, and this proved true: his studies culminated at Northwestern with a PhD in chemistry. They both discovered in America an idea, oft discussed, which empowered them to succeed.

To them, and to me, the flag stands for more than support for a political affiliation, an approval of the current president, or patriotism in a general sense. It represents the idea that all men and women are free to pursue their dreams, to become what they wish to be. Without restriction, each of us has the liberty to work for our own goals, towards our own ends; the only obstacles in our paths are those we set there ourselves. With courage and fortitude anything is possible, we need only dare to imagine. This flag flies higher than any political party, administration or even country. “Give me your tired, you poor, your huddled masses,” it may as well say, “and I will give them the strength to be kings.”

copyright 2002   photo credits   audio credits