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The story of the United States and her people

By: National Flag Foundation

The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.” — Woodrow Wilson 

Intertwined within the threads of the red, white, and blue, lies the story of the United States and her people. The American Flag represents our nation’s freedom but also our country’s citizens and their history.  

It’s a stirring notion; that our shared history has the power to bind Americans today with generations of our countrymen who came before us. But sadly, that history is becoming lost.  

It may come as no surprise, but national educational progress test results show American students are getting worse at history, geography and civics. Only 15% of 8th-graders scored proficient or higher in U.S. history, and just 25% scored proficient or higher in geography and civics.    

While nationwide math and reading tests garner the most emphasis from teachers and legislators, what this means is that many students don’t even gain the most basic knowledge on the American Revolution, the Civil War or the Constitution. One annual survey found that only a quarter of Americans could name all three branches of government. 

The National Flag Foundation (NFF) is stepping up to try to change that.  

The NFF was created more than 50 years ago as a way to honor and respect our nation’s greatest symbol, but also to bring awareness and remembrance to the American Flag’s history. 

“Our goal is to assist in the continuing education of our students and the greater population about the history of the United States as told in the history of the flags,” says Jim Crawford, National Flag Foundation advisor, treasurer and former Chairman of the Board. “We’re a nonpartisan group and we strongly believe that all citizens deserve to hear the history of the United States and to learn what sacrifices have been made so we can enjoy what we enjoy today.”  

The NFF is also instrumental in teaching protocol for care, handling and etiquette of our nation’s symbol. 

The National Flag Foundation spreads its message of good citizenship and patriotism by funding materials for more than 7,000 American operated schools all around the world, in addition to Boy Scouts troops, and other civic-minded organizations or individuals. In pursuit of its mission, the organization has invested in books, pamphlets, and most recently, a Flag Education Center to be located on the first floor of the Koppers Building at 635 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pa.  

“It’s a place where school kids can come and learn about the history of our flag,” said Crawford.” In a post-COVID world, it’s a place teachers can bring their students when they visit Downtown. We’re hoping it’s something our whole community embraces.” 

The NFF has also invested in a series of 40 paintings, each depicting a different U.S. flag. 

From the American Flag that still flies over the grave of Marquis de Lafayette in Paris for his role in aiding the American cause, to the stories of all the sovereign flags that have flown on American soil, the NFF has important lessons to teach every U.S. citizen.   

“When we forget the pain that people experienced to create this nation, we start to take what we have for granted and that’s a bad thing,” said Crawford. “So, we’re motivated to keep the story alive and to keep people thinking about it and historians writing about it and the American people aware.”