Symbols of America

The United States of America have a rich history full of poignant symbols which continue to inspire the voting public to this day. The themes running through many of these symbols are independence, industry, and inclusivity. The United States has always been a whole of many parts, where people are encouraged to be free while losing none of the rights of the society.

One of the earliest symbols of this unity is Betsy Ross's Revolutionary War flag, which featured the thirteen stripes we have today, as well as thirteen stars arranged in a circle on the blue field. The number of stars and stripes represented the number of colonies rebelling from Britain.

From the very beginning, Americans considered themselves citizens of New Jersey, or Massachusetts, or Virginia, rather than of America. In order to promote unity, Benjamin Franklin devised a pictogram which is instantly recognizable-a split-up snake with the words 'join or die' under it.

If everyone merely considered themselves a member of their own state, the revolution would flounder. Ultimately, the spirit (and even the name) of the United States grew out of this duality. Though we did unite to fight the British, the powers of individual states to operate independently of the federal government were recognized in the Constitution. This all gave rise to America's slogan- 'e pluribus unum', or 'out of many, one.'

Independence is identified with the United States in the more modern symbol of the cowboy in cinema. The myth of Wild West gunslingers and their free-range nature embodies the same individuality as the stories of the pioneers and Revolutionary War soldiers... even if actual cowboys were not like those from the movies.

Many American tenets are also summed up by the Statue of Liberty. The copper statue was a gift from France to the United States, given in 1886. Instantly recognizable as American, the statue recalled both the American independence from Britain, and welcomed refugees who were coming to America from Europe. Emma Lazarus's poem 'Give me your tired, your poor [...]' associated with the statue promotes the American ideal of giving liberty to all comers, regardless of their wealth or social standing.

Another great icon of America is the Empire State Building. It stands for another side of America, which flows out of individualism and liberty-commerce. Built in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years. It is iconic in the New York City skyline, and inspires the simultaneous idea of wealth and hard work.

The American Dream-the idea that if you apply yourself in the United States, you can achieve anything-is intensely tied to the Empire State Building... so much so that even today, Americans who live outside of New York City consider it the place to go to live their dreams. If the Statue of Liberty says 'give me your poor,' the Empire State Building says 'I will make them rich.'

American symbols have a dual message... that of freedom, and that of achievement. It's a place where you can arrive as an immigrant, are free to live either off the land in rural areas or conduct commerce in the city, and are bound to find happiness if you work hard enough. In confusing or dark times, these symbols can guide the way to the true heart of this country.

A: George Washington
B: Benjamin Franklin
C: Betsy Ross
D: Emma Lazarus

A: Plurality above all
B: Out of many, one
C: Give me liberty or give me death
D: Think and grow rich

A: Belgium
B: France
C: New Zealand
D: The United Kingdom

A: George Washington
B: Benjamin Franklin
C: Betsy Ross
D: Emma Lazarus

A: The idea that if you work hard, you can achieve anything
B: The idea that American citizens are superior to English citizens
C: The idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer
D: The dream George Washington had during his first night in the White House

A: 1940
B: 1931
C: 1898
D: 1921

To link to this Symbols of America page, copy the following code to your site: