Beginning early in our Nation’s history, citizens have used songs, poems, and symbols to express the ideals and values of the United States. From solemn oaths, such as the Pledge of Allegiance and the Oath of Allegiance, which one must take to become a citizen, to the more informal tradition of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before sporting events, spoken expres­sions have always been an impor­tant part of American civic life. As you will learn in this section, these songs and poems often came from a writer’s personal interpretation of America’s ideals, as with the story of Emma Lazarus and “The New Colossus.”

The values and history of the United States are also expressed through visual symbols, such as the Great Seal of the United States and the Flag of the United States of America. Around the world, these two emblems are used to symbolize our solidarity as a nation. The following section will introduce you to the history and meaning behind some of our most important patriotic anthems and symbols.