Former Congressman Schwengel presented this speech on numerous occasions and over the years added slight variations. Here is the text of the version he delivered in February 1988.
I AM THE FLAG
I am the Flag of a nation born July 4, 1776: the Declaration of Independence is my birth certificate. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights assured my future. The bloodlines of all the people of the world are in my stars and stripes. From its birth, my nation offered freedom to the oppressed and to those who yearn for Freedom. There are five freedoms that we especially cherish, defend and promote. They are freedom from fear and want, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of movement of men and goods. I am surrounded and supported by the flags of the states and territories. I am many things to many people. I represent the nation called THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Over 240 million living souls–and the ghosts of millions who have died for me are now a part of me.
In my history are Nathan Hale, Deborah Sampson and Paul Revere. My heritage is at Lexington where the shot heard around the world was fired. Among others in my heritage are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, and Patrick Henry; Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Clara Barton, and Abraham Lincoln; Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington and Mary McLeod Bethune. Once when my ideals were seriously challenged, a civil war resulted. After much valor and sacrifice, I survived and freedom was preserved and extended. Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address reset my goal.
Remember the Alamo, the Maine, Pearl Harbor, and Iwo Jirna? I was there. Two times when Freedom was in trouble in the world, I answered; and stayed until it was over, Over There. I’m testifying for Freedom among the flags at the United Nations. I was with my heroic dead in Flanders fields, on the rock of Corregidor, on the bleak slopes of Korea, and in the steaming jungles of Vietnam.
I was there when they built the Brooklyn Bridge, dug the Panama Canal, cultivated the wheat lands of Kansas, plowed the corn fields of Iowa, and quarried the granite from the hills of Vermont. I am the coalfields of the Virginias and Pennsylvania, the fertile lands of the West, the Golden Gate and the Grand Canyon. I am Independence Hall, the Monitor and the Merrimac.
U.S. Capitol I sprawl from the Atlantic to the Pacific . . . my arms reach out to embrace Alaska and Hawaii . . . three million square miles throbbing with industry. I am more than three million farms. I represent forest, field, mountain and desert. I am quiet villages—and cities that never sleep.
You can look at me and imagine young Ben Franklin walking down the streets of Philadelphia with a bread loaf under each arm, or old Ben Franklin flying a kite. You can see Betsy Ross with her needle. You can see the lights of Christmas, and hear the strains of “Auld Lange Syne” as the calendar turns.
I am Babe Ruth and the World Series. I am 130,000 schools and colleges, and 350,000 churches where my people may worship God as they think best. I am a ballot dropped in a box; the roar of a crowd in a stadium and the voice of a choir in a cathedral. I am an editorial in a newspaper and a letter to a Congressman.
I am the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the President. I am Eli Whitney, George Washington Carver, and Thomas Edison. I am Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Margaret Mead, and Jonas Salk. I am Billy Sunday, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons. I am Stephen Foster, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, and Will Rogers.
I am Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman. I am these and countless numbers of other coalminers, farmers, clerks, soldiers, sailors, writers, poets, singers, composers, and ordinary citizens who have loved and honored the principles which I represent.
Yes, I represent the Nation, and these are the things that I am. I was conceived in Freedom and, God willing, in Freedom I will spend the rest of my days with the support of the flags and mottoes of each state and territory.
May we possess always the integrity, the courage and the strength to keep ourselves unshackled, to remain a citadel of freedom and a beacon of hope to the world. This is my wish, my goal, my prayer in this year of 1988–212 years after I was born.
By an Act of Congress, I fly constantly over the Temple of Liberty, the Capitol–I will fly in perpetuity if we are worthy successors to those who fought and gave us Freedom.
FEBRUARY 4, 1988