Our Official National Emblem

By Melissa Wynn

While visiting your favorite lake in Northern California this 4th of July, keep an eye toward the sky and you are sure to catch a glimpse of our national emblem, the regal and majestic bald eagle.

“It is said the bald eagle was used as a national emblem because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution (which occurred early in the morning) the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. They are shrieking for Freedom,” said the patriots.    

“Thus the eagle, full of the boundless spirit of freedom, living above the valleys, strong and powerful in his might, has become the national emblem of a country that offers freedom in word and thought and an opportunity for a full and free expansion into the boundless space of the future.” –Maude M. Grant

The look of tenacity in the eye of the bald eagle as it swoops from above to claim its unsuspecting prey makes this amazing raptor the perfect characterization of the unyielding American spirit. Chosen as the emblem of our great country in 1782 at the Second Continental Congress, the eagle has since graced the Official Great Seal of The United States of America.

The proud Bald Eagle of the Great Seal has wings and legs spread wide and clutches an olive branch, a symbol of the power of peace, in the right talons. The left talons tightly grip a bundle of thirteen arrows, symbolizing “strength in unity” of the thirteen colonies that had just declared their independence from Great Britain and become the good old USA. The shield across the eagles chest was designed  to suggest the 13 vertical stripes (states) supporting a chief (federal government). It was ordered to contain “thirteen pieces Argent and Gules: A Chief Azure.” This meant the shield was to have the seven white (argent) stripes, six red (gules) stripes, and the blue (azure) top section (Chief) that we see on the seal today. Note: the American flag has seven red and six white stripes. In the fierce beak of our patriotic Bald Eagle upon the Great Seal flutters a banner that reads “E Pluribus Unum.”  This quote describes an action: Many uniting into one. An accurate translation of the motto is “From Many, One” or “Out of Many, One” – a phrase that also captures the symbolism of the shield and arrows. All for one and one for all, thats the American way.

The 4th of July is the day we celebrate our independence and blessed American freedoms. Watch for one or more bald eagles perching or soaring near the shore of your favorite Northern California lake, river or stream, where these majestic birds celebrate their freedom with your own. Few sights are more majestic than our own national emblem on the wing, reminding us all how lucky we are to be free.

Find more at www.baldeagleinfo.com and greatseal.com.