Letter: Response to flag redesign column

Dear editor,

This is in response to Mr. Scott Reeder’s editorial in the Rochelle News-Leader on March 19 disparaging the Illinois state flag as a reason to create a new design. Before criticizing the design of the state flag, it is important to understand how the design was chosen and what it represents.

In 1912, almost 100 years after Illinois had become a state in 1818, Ella Park Lawrence, the state regent of the Illinois Daughters of the American Revolution, recognized the need for Illinois to have a state flag. Although the state of Illinois did not adopt a flag design during her time as state regent, Mrs. Lawrence continued to lead the way in the efforts to establish a state flag. In 1914, she encouraged the existing Illinois DAR chapters to submit designs for a state flag, with the winner to receive a $25 award (paid for by the DAR, not the state of Illinois as claimed by Mr. Reeder). 35 chapters submitted designs that were judged by a panel headed by the 23rd Secretary of State of Illinois, Lewis Stephenson. Stephenson was the son of the 23rd Vice President of the United States Adlai Ewing Stephenson and the father of the 31st Illinois Governor Adlai Ewing Stephenson, II.  This panel chose the design of Lucy Derwent, a member of the Rockford Chapter of the DAR. The panel could have chosen any of the other designs or chosen not to accept any of the designs.

Mr. Reeder thinks the flag design is dull & boring. However, it is quite colorful and full of symbolism. The winning design, which became the official state banner on July 6, 1915, was based on the Illinois state seal that was designed by Mr. Sharon Tyndale and adopted in 1868. The seal shows our national symbol of a bald eagle (commonly found nesting along the Rock River north of Oregon), holding a shield with 13 white stars on a blue background and 13 stripes in red and white representing the original 13 colonies of the United States. The eagle holds a red banner with the words of the state motto “State Sovereignty, National Union,” an expression of the independence of all the states under the umbrella of the United States. The seal rests on a green bed of laurel leaves representing education and the achievements of the citizens of Illinois. The flag design has since been updated to include the fertile soil and rivers of Illinois, with the sun rising in the background, the word “Illinois” and the dates when Illinois became a state and when the state seal was adopted. Illinois is not the only state that uses its seal as part of the design of their flag. The states of Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming also do.

While I encourage a discussion on whether our state flag should be changed, disparaging the flag, the seal it is based on, the individuals and the organization that were instrumental in establishing the state flag is unwarranted.

-Lydia Roberts, Rochelle