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Posts Tagged ‘The bald eagle’

Looking at the two blogs about the Bald Eagle as an American icon, they both manage to give a narrative of how the Bald Eagle became such a huge symbol of America as well as how it was not universally accepted when it was originally put forward to be the national emblem. However, in my view, the first blog focuses too much on the history and not enough on its iconic status. While the history of being made into an icon and its time as an endangered species is interesting, it would have been better to focus on its status and to have built upon what is mentioned in the final paragraph about it being a symbol to potential immigrants. The second blog mixes the Bald Eagle’s history and iconic status in a more balanced way. It feels more equal when reading through it and doesn’t feel necessarily focused on one aspect alone.

However, I feel that both blogs did not delve enough into analysis. In both there seems to be brief moments of analysis and then they jump back into the history. It would have perhaps been more interesting to build upon how Americans would rank the Bald Eagle as an icon as opposed to other things such as the Statue of Liberty. From my experience, although the Bald Eagle is featured a lot on the governmental level, it doesn’t exactly have a heavy emphasis in TV or movies unlike the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood, and American sport and I think it would have been interesting to delve more into that.

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The blogs about the American Bald Eagle contained a lot of interesting information about the bird and its place in American culture. Some of the connections would not be obvious to non-Americans, such as its presence on U.S. passports, which was very useful.

The blogs also offered a good analysis of dissent over adopting the Bald Eagle as a symbol of America. Remembering that history is not homogenous is incredibly important, and the writers did well to avoid this. They could have gone even further with this, and made some links between Benjamin Franklin’s opinions of the bird and some contemporary foreign sentiments about America as an aggressive and proud nation. Robert J. Lieber makes these connections explicit in his book Eagle Rules? Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the Twenty-First Century.

Although the writers discussed what the separate elements of the Seal symbolised in terms of America, they could have also looked at how the eagle, olive branch and fasces were also symbols of the Roman Empire, and perhaps commented on how the Founding Fathers appropriated classical myths and symbols when they established America’s own iconography.

The role of the eagle as a symbol of government is important in American iconography, but the writers could have also looked at what the birds mean to indigenous Americans. Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence points out that “for many American Indians, no being is more sacred than the eagle.” While there obviously was not room to cover everything, we should all keep in mind that the history and culture of America did not start with the Mayflower.

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The AmericanIconsTemple page is home to a wide variety of interesting and well written articles which highlight and explain how certain icons are representative of the U.S. Other than simply stating the icon and providing a brief history, many of the blogs manage to link this to U.S culture, also thinking about an overall global impact and how the U.S influences other countries. However it is important to mention that icons may not symbolise the American experience in the same way for everybody. A good example of this can be found within one of the Bald Eagle blogs, which mentions that Benjamin Franklin opposed the national emblem as he believed ‘it is a bird of bad character’. It is more interesting to read a blog that challenges the main ideas and concepts behind the chosen icon. As the Bald Eagle can ‘see everything, from high within the sky’, this could also be carefully tied into the recent issues with U.S national security, in particular allegations of misconduct concerning U.S surveillance on other countries.   

 The ‘American Dream’ seems to be a popular theme within many of the icon blogs. More criticism could maybe be incorporated into these, as the reality of this ideal is often questionable. Over a million people migrate to the U.S each year in hope of better opportunities, however it isn’t as easy as it seems – many struggle to find work and end up living in poverty.

On the whole, the blogs are successful in providing a detailed analysis of some of America’s most prominent and also obscure icons.    

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Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is used to represent the United States of America at a national level.  It has become synonymous with the ideas of American might and freedom.  The eagle is used on the lectern for whenever the President delivers an important address, and on the flags of the Vice-President and the Secretary of State (amongst many other cabinet-level flags).  In addition, the front of all American passports bear the eagle.

The eagle became especially prominent in American culture in 1782, when it was adopted by the United States government as part of the design for the Great Seal of the United States.  The newly formed United States needed an official symbol to use for signing international treaties.  In 1776, the Second Continental Congress started to assign committees to design the new emblem (on the same day that the thirteen colonies voted to declare independence from Great Britain).  The original committee consisted of the likes of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.  The final design, the basis of which was based off a drawing by Charles Thomson, featured the eagle in the centre of the seal, holding in one talon thirteen arrows (representing the thirteen colonies), and in the other talon an olive branch (symbolising American victory).  The phrase ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’ is featured above the eagle, which, translated from Latin, means ‘one from many.’

The bald eagle has come to be seen by most Americans as a fitting symbol for their country.  Benjamin Franklin, in retrospect, wished that ‘the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country,’ because ‘he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.’  Although Franklin would have preferred the turkey to become the emblem of America, it is the bald eagle’s majestic appearance, soaring in the sky, that has allowed it to be seen as a symbol of freedom.  One popular story describes a battle during the Revolutionary War, whereby the sounds of the battle had awoken some sleeping eagles.  The eagles then circled the battle below, shrieking as they did so – one of the patriots claimed the eagles were ‘shrieking for freedom,’ and in doing so creating the concept for the eagle as a symbol of America.

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