The Stars and the Stripes


I’d like to share a speech that I gave today at my school’s 9/11 memorial assembly. It is an introduction to the National Anthem.

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When I woke up on September 10th, 2001, there were a lot of things that I could do that a second grader in North Korea, Iran, Venezuela couldn’t do. I could get angry at my teacher for making me do math. I could write a letter to my president and tell him what I thought he’d done wrong that day. I could find two different prices for a new pair of shoes, and buy the cheaper ones.

Freedom is what differentiates this society from much of the world. It is a quality that captures the essence of what it is to be an American, a concept that’s summed up by two basic symbols that are also uniquely ours: the stars and stripes.

Without the stars and the stripes, it wouldn’t be Obama and McCain, Democrat and Republican. There would be no voting. There would be no question. There would be no choice.

Without the stars and the stripes, there would be no Fox News, just as there would be no MSNBC.

Without the stars and the stripes, there would have been no Woodstock.

Without the stars and the stripes, the Black Eyed Peas couldn’t say that “A war’s goin’ on but the reason’s undercover.”

Without the stars and the stripes I couldn’t stand up here and say, in a strong, confident, hopeful voice, “Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad (Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one).

It’s the stars and the stripes — and the moral compass that they embody – that keep us grounded, that keep us who we are, and allow us to invent and reinvent, modify, and interpret the world.

And when evil flew two planes into the real-life representation of all that America stood for, when our two pillars of faith and optimism crumbled into a heartbroken mountain of ash, it was those gleaming white stars and those scarlet red stripes that gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. That America was still there. That our values had not collapsed with the towers. That our freedom was sill there

When I woke up on September 12th, 2001, I could still do all of those things.

Our determination is unbreakable. Our freedom will always outshine catastrophe. The stars and stripes are eternal, and that Star Spangled Banner will never cease to wave.

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