Friday, July 4, 2008

You’re a Grand Old Flag—Or Are You?

July 4, America’s Independence Day, often brings out feelings of patriotism. Americans typically celebrate July 4 with family barbeques, along with watching parades, fireworks, and musical performances, which include such favorites as "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Yankee Doodle," and "You’re a Grand Old Flag."

Stanford University is blessed with lots of land. From its founding in 1891, the university has provided land on which its professors and high-level administrators could build homes and reside. The stock of housing has increased over the years, especially since the late 1950s, to some 860 homes, which consist largely of single family houses, a few duplexes, and several hundred condominiums. About 30 percent of the faculty and staff that is eligible to live on campus do so; the remainder live in the surrounding towns and cities.

During the early afternoon of July 4, my wife and I drove up and down all the campus streets housing Stanford faculty and staff. We counted thirteen flags in all, of which three were displayed in front of residences owned by Hoover Institution fellows (myself and two colleagues). Thirteen homes displaying the stars and stripes constitute 1.5 percent (halfway between one and two percent) of all campus faculty staff residences. Even neighboring Palo Alto has a higher percentage of homes displaying flags.

What is one to make of this minuscule display of affection for the national flag on Independence day among the faculty of one of the world’s greatest universities?

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