From Presidential debates to football fields, America is having a discussion about injustice. We are an imperfect country. There is no doubt America has a checkered history with how we have treated individuals of various races and ethnicities. And there is no doubt social injustice and bigotry still exist.
However, America is a nation founded on high ideals which are enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The notion that our flag represents the imperfections of a flawed country rather than the high ideals of equality and liberty is misguided.
I am encouraged to see young people expressing their opinions on the issues facing our nation and exercising their First Amendment rights. While I respect their right to protest, by choosing not to stand during our national anthem they caused pain to the families of veterans who fought and died to ensure they enjoy that right.
In our 240-year history, America has defended our freedoms and maintained the ideal that “all men are created equal.” Our flag represents equality and liberty, not bigotry and injustice. More importantly, it represents the supreme sacrifice of countless Americans who gave their lives to defend those ideals.
As a private citizen and now as Nebraska’s Governor, I have participated in honor flights for combat veterans who fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. This summer when I attended an event with the wives of Vietnam Combat Veterans, I acknowledged that many of their husbands didn’t experience the appreciation they deserved for fighting for our country. I expressed our collective debt of gratitude to those who dedicate themselves to military service.
I regularly express our collective debt of gratitude at send-off ceremonies for the Nebraska National Guard where our troops are being deployed overseas. For many of them, it is not their first deployment.
Our troops go around the world under the banner of the American Flag to protect our freedoms and relieve suffering and oppression. For this reason, I believe that just because the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to protest our flag, it doesn’t mean they ought to do so.
In 1799 in his last public speech before his death Patrick Henry said, "Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs."
In this spirit, I suggest that there is an opportunity for us to stand together against injustice and bigotry in a manner that doesn’t divide us, and doesn’t dishonor the sacrifices of others.