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Symbols of the United States and Spain
 
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Symbols of the United States

Flag

Flag of the United States

No one knows with absolute certainty who designed the first stars and stripes or who made it. Congressman Francis Hopkinson seems most likely to have designed it, and few historians believe that Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, made the first one.

On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

Act of January 13, 1794 - provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.

Act of April 4, 1818 - provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.

Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.

Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.

Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizon tally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

Seal and Coat of Arms

Seal and coat of arms of the United States

The American bald eagle is the most prominent feature of the obverse of the Great Seal of the United States. Across the breast of the eagle is a shield with 13 alternating red and white stripes (the pales) representing the 13 original States. Across the top of the shield is a blue field (chief) that unites all the stripes into one. The blue chief represents the United States Congress. In his talons the eagle grasps an olive branch representing peace, and 13 arrows representing war. Above the eagle are thirteen stars inside a circular design, representing a new constellation. In his beak the eagle grasps a flowing ribbon bearing the first motto of the United States: "E PLURIBUS UNUM", meaning "out of many, one".

The main feature of the reverse side of the Great Seal is a pyramid representing strength and duration. At the top of the pyramid is an eye and the words "ANNUIT COEPTIS" meaning "He has favored our undertakings". The "He" refers to God, and is in reference to the Founding Father's belief that God had favored their nation and provided providentially for its success during the struggle for freedom. At the base of the pyramid are the Roman numerals for the year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI), the year of the nation's birth.  The scroll at the bottom contains the words "NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM" meaning "a new order of the ages" and referring to the new American era.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to research and devise a National Motto, as well as a seal for their new Nation.  On September 9th Congress gave that new Nation a name, calling it the "United States".

In 1782 Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, introduced the design for the new Seal of the United States. On June 20, 1782 Congress approved the design, and the Great Seal of the United States was born. The image of the eagle within the seal became the National Coat of Arms.

On July 30, 1956 the words "In God we Trust" were designated as the National Motto.

Anthem

It was the defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during the British attack on September 13, 1814 that inspired 35-year old, poet-lawyer Francis Scott Key to write the poem which was to become the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The poem was written to match the meter of the English song, "To Anacreon in Heaven". In 1931 the Congress of The United States of America enacted legislation that made "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official national anthem.

Oh, say, can you see, the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen, thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In fully glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has vanished out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand.
Between their loved home and the war's desolation:
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just.
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust".
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Listen to the U.S. National Anthem in MP3 format.

Declaration of Independence

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.

Declaration of Independence of the United States
Text of the Declaration of Independence of the United States.

Constitution

The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Because the delegations from only two states were at first present, the members adjourned from day to day until a quorum of seven states was obtained on May 25. Through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government. All through the summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the new Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected--directly by the people or by the state legislators. The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.

Constitution of the United States
Text of the Constitution of the United States of America and its amendments.

Pledge of Allegiance


Kids reciting the pledge of allegiance at school

The Pledge of Allegiance is a promise or oath of allegiance to the United States and to its national flag. It is commonly recited in unison at public events and, especially, in public school classrooms, where the Pledge is often a morning ritual.

Francis Bellamy (1855-1931), a Baptist minister and a Christian Socialist, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader's Digest of its day. The original Pledge read as follows:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In 1892 Bellamy was also a chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. As its chairman, he prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute using his "Pledge of Allegiance". He considered placing the word, "equality" in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States of America". Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.

In 1954, Congress, after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, "under God" to the Pledge to give it its current form:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

Some objections have been raised since the addition of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge. Critics contend that this phrase violates protections against establishment of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Symbols of Spain

Flag

Flag of Spain

The flag of Spain symbolizes the nation, and is sign of its sovereignty, independence, unity, integrity, and promise of its perpetuity through the times. The national flag is regulated by article 4 of the Spanish Constitution:

The flag of Spain is formed by three horizontal stripes, red, yellow and red, being the yellow of double width than each of the red ones.

Coat of Arms

Coat of arms of Spain

The coat of arms of Spain is regulated by Law 33-1981, of October 5:

The coat of arms of Spain is divided quaterly. In the first party, a gold castle on a gules or red field represents the kingdom of Castile. In the second party, a purple, rampant lion crowned of gold on a silver field represents the kingdom of Leon. In the third party, four red pales on a gold field represent the kingdom of Aragón. In the fourth party, a gold chain on a red field represents the kingdom of Navarre. At the tip of the shield, a pomegranate with two vert or green leaves on a silver field represents the kingdom of Granada. The shield is accompanied by two silver columns with gold bases and capitals, on waves of blue and silver, topped the one on the right by an imperial crown and the one on the left by a royal crown, both of gold. Surrounding those columns, there is a red ribbon with gold letters, reading "PLVS" on the right and "VLTRA" on the left. Embedded in the main shield there is a smaller one: three gold fleurs de lis on a blue field with red border represent the reining dynasty (Bourbon or Borbón). The shield is topped by a royal crown, which is a gold circle encased with precious stones, and made up of eight fleurons of acanthus leaves, visible five, interpolated of pearls. A diadem of pearls emerges from each fleuron, all converging in a globe of blue with a gold half-meridian, equator, and cross. The crown is lined in red.

Anthem

Historians and musicologists agree that at the root of the Spanish national anthem is the Grenadier March (Marcha Granadera), although Father Otaño believes it originated much earlier, from the debatable hypothesis that song number 42 of Alfonso X's "Cantigas" ("Songs") contains a sentence of the anthem.

In 1761, Manuel Espinosa wrote the "Book of Ordinance of Military Music for the Spanish Infantry", in which the March appears as having unknown author.

King Carlos III declared it March of Honor on September 3, 1770, and it soon acquired status of national anthem, without written disposition.

In 1870, General Prim organized a national contest to create an official anthem for Spain, but the jury declared no winner and advised to continue using the Grenadier March as the national anthem.

A law of August 27, 1908 instructed military bands to play the so called Royal March, regulated by Maestro Bartolomé Pérez Casas, of the Royal Corp of Guards Halberdiers.

A law passed on July 17, 1942 declared the Grenadier March the national anthem of Spain, without including any score, thus keeping the version of Pérez Casas.

After the approval of the Spanish Constitution on December of 1978, 27 president Suarez established a task force integrated by members of the Section of Music of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and representatives of the Ministries of Economy and Treasury, Education and Culture, Defense, and Public Administrations to write a new version of the anthem. After the favorable report of the Royal Academy, a new adaptation authored by Maestro D. Francisco Grau, director of the Royal Band, was approved.

The national anthem of Spain has no lyrics.

During most of its history the national anthem of Spain has had no lyrics. In June, 2007 the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) proposed a contest to select lyrics for the anthem. The selection committee chose the following lyrics by Paulino Cubero in January, 2008:

¡Viva España!
         Long live Spain!
Cantemos todos juntos
         Let's all sing together
con distinta voz
         with different voices
y un solo corazón.
         and a single heart.

¡Viva España!
         Long live Spain!
Desde los verdes valles
         From the green valleys
al inmenso mar,
         To the endless sea,
un himno de hermandad.
         an anthem of brotherhood.

Ama a la patria
         Love the fatherland
pues sabe abrazar,
         that embraces
bajo su cielo azul,
         under its blue sky
pueblos en libertad.
         free peoples.

Gloria a los hijos
         Glory to the sons
que a la Historia dan
         who gave History
justicia y grandeza
         justice and greatness,
democracia y paz.
         democracy and peace.

The COE had planned to collect the necessary signatures (more than 500,000) to propose the lyrics as the official anthem of Spain as a popular initiative. However, and due to the lukewarm reaction to the proposal, it decided to withdraw the lyrics.


Listen to the Spanish National Anthem in MP3 format.

Constitution

A convention to draft a new constitution convened on the 22nd of August, 1978 with representatives from all the political parties. There were difficulties reaching consensus on issues such as education, abortion, death penalty, and socioeconomic matters, due to differences between the two main parties (centrists and socialists). However, an agreement was reached and cemented by the creation of a Constitutional Court responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution. The final text was approved by a public referendum on December 6th, 1978 with 88% of the votes. The most important achievement of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 is that it has resolved some of the historical problems that hung over the Spanish people for over a century.

Spanish Constitution
Text of the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

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