A History of “Respect” for the American Flag

Flag pins, pledges, thin blue lines, and more

George Dillard
Bouncin’ and Behavin’ Blogs


Tony Webster, CC 2.0

Remember flag pins?

The first president to wear a flag pin on his lapel was Richard Nixon. True to Nixon’s brawling instincts as a politician, his flag pin was as much a political cudgel as a genuine expression of patriotism. Nixon likely picked up the practice from fellow Republicans who had started wearing the pins to signal their opposition to antiwar protestors. The pin was a symbol — I’m a patriot, unlike those filthy hippies.

Nixon heightened the issue by publicly praising a New York policeman who had been declared out of uniform for wearing one of these pins. When the man won his case, Nixon wrote him a note:

I was very pleased to see that your firm stand to honor our flag won a reversal of the ruling under Chapter 25, Paragraph 62.1 of Police Rules and Regulations. We need to encourage Americans in pride of country. Now New York’s ‘Finest’ have another proud badge to wear. Congratulations!

But then Nixon fell into disgrace, and the flag pin he wore while giving his resignation speech in 1974 was the last time a president wore such a pin — until 9/11, that is.

After 9/11, politicians started wearing little metal American flag pins on their lapels again as a…