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Arden Y. Manson, keynote speaker

Wakefield School student Arden Y. Manson’s essay, reprinted here, was presented at Warrenton’s Memorial Day observance Monday, May 27. The essay was named best in the state for the middle school division of the Patriot’s Pen competition.

I honor the American flag because it helped me find my true potential.

You don’t have to be born in the U.S. to love the flag. You don’t have to look American or have an American background. You have to treat others equally and be treated equally.

It matters that you stay truthful to yourself through any battle in your life. At Fort McHenry, the flag stood through the War of 1812, clinging to the little piece of hope that lingered on through all the bloodshed and tears. I, too, have stood true to myself through conflict and tears. 

On Feb. 5, 2008, I was adopted from a country many American soldiers gave their lives to protect. I officially became a U.S. citizen, but I didn’t always feel like one.

When I first started school, I felt uncomfortable saying the Pledge of Allegiance, staring up at the flag, because kids always asked me questions about my parents, my adoption, and where I was from. It was as though they thought I was an alien. 

As I got older, I started caring less and less about what other kids thought. I kept saying to myself, “Let them look, let them think what they want, but this country is where I know who I am.” 

After that realization, I carried on through each day no matter what words or questions were thrown at me. The flag made me feel included, not unworthy. Now, I take pride in my American ancestry. 

My great-great-great grandfather fought at the Battles of Concord and Bunker Hill. The Stars and Stripes were there with him, the 13 stripes symbolizing the original colonies, including my family’s own ancestral state of Massachusetts. The red on the flag symbolizes valor, the courage of those who fought there, and my own courage in asserting myself here, too. The white stripes on the flag symbolize the purity of the motives for which my ancestors fought, and it also symbolizes the original goodness of every American citizen.

The blue on the flag symbolizes the justice of their cause and their perseverance in fighting for it, and it also symbolizes my own perseverance to serve my country in the best possible way I can. 

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