During his first State of the Union, President Trump recognized one especially patriotic 12-year old. Preston Sharp was visiting his grandfather’s grave on Veterans Day when he noticed there were a number of veteran graves that weren’t being honored. He started the Flag and Flower Challenge to encourage people in all 50 states to place flags and flowers on veterans’ graves to honor their service. President Trump said with accuracy that “Preston’s reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.” Preston is the perfect example of why we stand.
On the verge of Super Bowl LII, I want to reiterate why we stand for our national anthem to those who will be watching or playing. Some U.S. professional athletes have decided to protest our national anthem during National Football League (NFL) games. The once politically neutral football games that stood as a rallying point for Americans are now politically divisive for teams, owners, coaches, television networks and fans. There have been a variety of responses, from television networks choosing not to air the national anthem, to football teams avoiding the choice by keeping players in the locker room while the national anthem is played.
People with opposing points of view argue that it is their right to kneel during the national anthem. As a constitutionally aware citizen of the United States, I agree. They do have that right. But just as it is their right to kneel, it is my right to speak out against that choice. As a patriotic American, I am ashamed of their actions. Taking a knee during our country’s national anthem is a disgrace to our nation, our democracy, and the men and women in uniform who protect our right to do so. What seems to be lost on these protesters is that despite their shining, yet fleeting, moment in the spotlight, what good has come of their actions? What difference have their protests made in their community or in our nation?
This month, another world renowned and highly anticipated sporting event begins. American athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea will compete against more than 90 other countries under the American flag. Our flag stands for more than just the colors our athletes will wear or the flag they will hoist marching into the Olympic stadium. Our flag symbolizes to the entire world what our country stands for: fifty states, united under God, with citizens who are born with the God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I encourage the Olympic athletes competing on the world’s stage to represent our country admirably.
Our president said it best at his State of the Union: “It is the people who are making America great again.” I couldn’t agree more. What makes our Union so strong are the people of this great nation. But as the saying goes, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” I am proud to stand with President Trump as he continues to work in a bipartisan way to unite Americans under the ideals that bring our country together—starting with the American flag.