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Opinion: We took the Utah flag redesign to students — thousands responded

Utah’s flag expressed the desire to be American and join the Union. It’s time for a new flag to celebrate our Utah identity

SHARE Opinion: We took the Utah flag redesign to students — thousands responded
The Utah flag flies in the sky against a white, cloudy background.

The Utah flag flies over the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, is proposing that the current flag be redesigned. Submissions for new flag redesigns have closed, but we can weigh in on the designs in August.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A big idea: That’s a description of what the More Than A Flag initiative is about.

As part of this effort, the Utah State Flag Task Force and scores of volunteers blanketed the state talking to anyone who would listen. As we visited schools talking about a flag that might better represent Utah, we got great feedback. You should see some of the impressive flag designs students came up with, and it’s heartwarming to hear them explain what their design — and Utah — means to them. 

As we celebrated Old Glory on Flag Day this June 14, it’s a perfect time to talk about how a new flag could better represent our distinctive state and its people. Our youth are engaged in this conversation, and excited about the historic opportunity to help create a new flag.

Our current state flag highlights our seal and the word “Industry,” highlighted on a royal blue background. It’s beautiful, though it looks like a lot of other state flags with seals set on blue backgrounds. 

When the flag was originally designed by the Utah State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1903, we were still a young state. After nearly five decades of petitioning the country to become part of the union, Utahns wanted the country to know we were proud to be Americans. That’s why the Utah flag includes two American flags and a large bald eagle, the country’s national bird.

It’s time to recognize that Utahns have come a long way since then. Symbols on a flag aren’t what make us Americans. With a new flag, we can define ourselves by telling the rest of our state’s distinctive story.

While we will continue to celebrate the history of the flag that has flown over the state Capitol since 1913, it’s also time to remember how it was designed and adopted. Quickly, by the governor, in a rush before an event. 

Back then, leaders of our young state didn’t take time to have a conversation about what should represent Utah. They had too many other things to organize and accomplish. Back then, leaders didn’t have time or resources to ask students and other residents what should represent them on the flag.

In addition, for nearly nine decades, the state flew flags out of compliance with the official design, until historian Ron Fox found an original 1903 Utah flag in state archives that had been misfiled. The Utah Legislature corrected the design mistake in 2011. 

Along with the students, we’re excited about how this initiative has brought people together from different backgrounds, geographies, ages and different sides of the aisle — to talk about Utah. We’re proud of this nonpartisan effort that launched the conversation, which is a chance to celebrate Utah now.

In four months, as part of the More Than A Flag initiative, we’ve received more than 5,000 digital design submissions from all 29 counties in the state. We’ve also received more than a thousand designs in the mail and more than 1,500 responses to a survey. Think about that: Thousands and thousands and thousands of Utahns have joined this conversation!

In the next phase of the process, volunteers on the Design Review Subcommittee will look at all the submissions and select a handful of top candidates. Those designs will be refined by professional artists and vexillographers to create “flag ready” designs to be considered by the Utah Legislature and by Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox.

When finalists are posted on the Flag.Utah.gov website in August, we’ll ask you to weigh in. We’ll keep asking what Utahns think — at the same time we realize no one flag design will ever be the top choice of everyone.

As we’ve talked to people across the state, we’re reminded that the flag initiative is about the conversation, the big ideas that unite us. We invite you to stay engaged with this process by visiting Flag.Utah.gov

While the formal submission process has ended, the conversation continues. There will be more opportunities for us to come together and share thoughts about a new flag. Taking the opportunity to talk about who we are now — and our identity — is a great way for Utahns to celebrate this week of Flag Day. 

Sen. Dan McCay, an attorney and real estate manager, chairs the Utah State Flag Task Force, which was established during the 2020 legislative session via SB48. McCay represents Bluffdale, Draper, Herriman, Lehi, Riverton and Sandy in District 11.