How many of us know the National Motto of the United States? Not many, I’ll bet. But you’ll recognize it the moment you read it. It’s “In God We Trust.” The motto originated during the Civil War, according to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, “as an inscription for U.S. coins, although it was used by Francis Scott Key in a slightly different form when he wrote ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in 1814. On Nov. 13, 1861, when Union morale had been shaken by battlefield defeats, the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, of Ridleyville, PA, wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, ‘From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present disasters.’ The minister wrote, suggesting ‘recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.’ Secretary Chase ordered designs prepared with the inscription ‘In God We Trust’ and backed coinage legislation that authorized use of this slogan. It first appeared on some U.S. coins in 1864, and disappeared and reappeared on various coins until 1955, when Congress ordered it placed on all paper money and all coins.”
The designation of “In God We Trust” as our national motto was finally made official by Congress in 1956.
How about The Great Seal of the United States? How many of us can describe what it looks like? Again, not many, I’ll bet. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, “On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson ‘to bring in a device for a seal of the United States of America.’ The designs submitted by this and a subsequent committee were considered unacceptable. After many delays, a third committee appointed early in 1782 presented a design prepared by William Barton; and Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress, suggested certain changes, and Congress finally approved the design on June 20, 1782. The obverse side of the seal shows an American bald eagle. In its mouth is a ribbon bearing the motto ‘e pluribus unum’ (one out of many). In the eagle’s talons are the arrows of war and an olive branch of peace. The reverse side shows an unfinished pyramid with an eye (the eye of Providence) above it.”
Here’s another one I’ll bet nobody knows, (I certainly didn’t). It’s The American’s Creed. According to the same source as above, William Tyler Page, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote “The American’s Creed” in 1917. It was accepted by the House on behalf of the American people on April 3, 1918. It reads: “I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.” The foregoing creed contains a conglomeration of bits and snatches from great writings and thoughts of others. For example, the phrase “of the people, by the people, for the people” comes directly and nearly word for word from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The last part about “obeying its laws” and “defending it against all enemies” comes from the oath that all public officials take. Nevertheless, The American’s Creed is a wonderful summary of what we stand for as a people.
Now, here’s some little known information about one of our most iconic symbols, the Statue of Liberty. How many of us know where the statue came from and how it ended up on Bedloe’s Island, (now called Liberty Island), in New York harbor? It’s been there since 1886 and is officially called the “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.” It also commemorates the friendship between the United States and France. It was given to the United States by the people of France and created by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi envisioned a huge statue at the entrance of New York harbor welcoming the peoples of the world with a torch of liberty. The statue was placed on the foundation of Fort Wood, which had been built on Bedloe’s Island back in 1811. The statue itself weighs 225 tons and was sent dismantled in 214 packing cases from France in 1885. When assembled, the height of the statue from the base of the pedestal to the torch is 305 feet.
In 1984, two years before the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the statue, a major restoration was undertaken. The multimillion dollar project included the replacement of 1,600 wrought iron bands that hold the statute’s copper outer skin to its frame. The torch was also replaced and an elevator to the observation tower in the statute’s crown was installed. Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, which is inscribed on the base, reads, in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
As we continue to be the target of Islamic fanatics and others who would destroy what we stand for, perhaps the foregoing will remind us of what it means to be an American!
That’s -30-for this week.