My Flag Lapel Pin

By Rich Harwood

Last week, in Oak Park, IL, right outside Chicago, I kicked off my two-year, nationwide speaking tour. I’ll have more to say about the tour in the coming days. But, for now, I simply want to talk about why I decided to wear an American flag lapel pin at each tour event and why I have chosen to openly discuss it in my speeches. Many people are downright surprised by this. Maybe you are, too?

At its core, here’s what the tour is about: We don’t need to accept what is currently happening in the country (and has been happening for sometime). We can create communities, lives and an America that reflect the best in us, the best of us. This will take each of us stepping forward, with newfound courage and humility, to rediscover what we share in common and actively build on it. We must see ourselves as co-creators in this process.

There’s a point during my speech that I point to my flag pin and say: I am wearing this because I deeply love our country. This is what patriotism is about—love of country.

Such patriotism requires devotion. And devotion summons us to take action, especially when we do not like what we see happening around us. We need more patriots to step forward today.

We must step forward to address the original sin of slavery and the persistence of racism. We must step forward to ensure that every child—not just some children—can go to a good public school. We must step forward so that every American can fulfill their God-given potential and has a real shot at the American Dream. We must step forward—as people in Montana said this week on the tour—to exercise greater empathy toward one another and greater compassion.

Let me be clear: there are stains on our country’s civic fabric. In Montana, we discussed the history and plight of Native Americans; in Oak Park, we discussed race. I believe we must address these and other stains precisely because of our love of country.

My love for our country endures amid our challenges because we have demonstrated, time and again, that when we put our hearts and minds to something, we can achieve it. We have shown this through the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, child labor laws, civil rights and voting rights, the elimination of diseases, and many other day-to-day instances. This gives me hope.

Today, our work is not done. Our devotion to something larger than ourselves can motivate and galvanize us to engage in the difficult conversations we must have; to see and hear one another, and to afford dignity to every individual; to find ways to do common work—amid our differences.

I wear my flag lapel pin because I want to show that I recognize our common problems and still love our nation. And because of that love, I am committed to making a more perfect union. We Americans have work to do, together.

Click here to read more about Rich’s national speaking tour.