Star-Spangled Music Week: ‘Old Glory’ versus … a Panda?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Star-Spangled Music Week

Bao Bao the Panda at the National Zoo in Smithsonian videoIf you had to pick the most iconic symbol of America, what would it be?

Would it be ‘Old Glory,’ the Stars and Stripes that was raised at Fort McHenry in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem?

A portrait of George Washington, the father of our nation?

Something or someone else?

All summer long, the Smithsonian Institution has run its Summer Showdown, asking Americans to vote online for the most iconic symbols from among the Smithsonian’s collections. The contest has four categories—science, art, culture, and history—and six contenders in each one. More than 90,000 online votes were cast. After three rounds on voting, the finalists in each category are:

  • Science—Bao Bao, the giant panda cub born at the National Zoo.
  • Art—a portrait of George Washington.
  • Culture—A photo of Woody Gutherie.
  • History—Old Glory, the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814.

Of these four, the finalists were—Old Glory and Bao Bao. In the final throwdown, I predicted that Old Glory would win. After all, this September is the 200th anniversary of the birth of our national anthem.

But it’s hard to beat an adorable panda. When the Smithsonian announced its winner, it was Bao Bao. The cub was born in August 2013, and is one of fewer than 2,000 pandas in existence. Here’s a Smithsonian video about Bao Bao’s first year …

How would you rank the 4 finalists?
Do you agree with Bao Bao as the #1 iconic symbol?
Is there another symbol that stands out for you?

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Categories: Symbolic Patriotism