by Dan Bloom
CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan -- I was born in America and I love America. But
living overseas for over 20 years has shown me that America does not
always get it right, in terms of international PR.
I watched President Barack Obama's "State of the Union" address on TV
CNN Internatjonal here in Taiwan the other day, like millions of other
viewers worldwide, and I found the speech well-written and
well-orated. President Obama has not lost his touch with the spoken
I was able to follow the speech along with the full text as printed
online, and it made the speech even more
intesting, using my iPhone screen for the text and looking up at the
TV screen as well.
But I have a small proposal to make and I hope someone somewhere is
listening. It's this: the State of the Union address is given every
four years with the American flag behind the president, in full view
of worldwide TV audience, which grows bigger each year with social
media and other platforms following the speech as well, including
"live" tweets as the speech unfolds in real time.
One problem for me, as an American living overseas for over 20 years:
the American flag is hung vertically behind the president -- yes,
vertically! -- in a way that viewers from foreign countries might not
understand. Why the flag is hung this way is a long story, and it's
partly due to the U.S. Flag Code and partly due to Congressional
But I feel that the American flag, on such a globally momentous
occasion, should be hung against the wall behind the president in a
horizontal position. This would be an important and positive
international "optic'' as they say in the PR business. Viewers in
China, Japan, France and Italy, among the other 140 or so nations that
get the SOTU speech via satellite and cable TV worldwide would "see"
the American flag -- "Old Glory" -- as she was designed to be seen:
So I am proposing with this quiet oped that in future years, the SOTU
address given inside the Congressional building position the American
flag horizontally on the wall behind the presidemt, whoever he or she
is after Obama's term is over.
I am proposing this mostly as a PR idea for the global viewership of
the SOTU address, with the thinking that a good optic of an easy to
see and easy to understand American flag for foreign viewers would end
up being a positive PR achievement for America on the international
Of course, to do this will take some doing, and it might take 20 years
to see this happen. But you read it here first.
Notice the Japan never hangs its national flag in its Diet in a
vertical way. Neither do Germany or Brazil or Sweden or India. So why
does America hang Old Glory vertically behind the president during the
It's lousy PR and lousy optics, and it's an easy to fix issue. So I am
typing these words and sending them to my editor in San Diego in the
hope that they will land someday on the right ears in Washington.
Put the flag right! Enough with this vertical thing. It does not show
America at its best. and we do have a lot of PR work to do in regards
to how we are "seen" by people in far away countries. My proposal is
one way to correct a bad optic.