Pontifically Approved: The Flag of the United Nations

unflagThe coordinators of the original United Nations Conference that met in San Francisco immediately after the end of World War II (1945) sought an emblem that could be easily used to identify delegates as they arrived to attend the proceedings. United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. realized that this temporary design would very likely become the permanent insignia of the United Nations, so he astutely formed a committee headed by architect Oliver Lundquist specifically for the purpose of creating an appropriate logo that would endure in time. The actual design of the flag, which was approved on October 20, 1945, is a result of the creative talents of another architect, Donal McLaughlin – who very carefully thought out the symbolism behind the familiar image that is now known around the world.

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background
Photo credit: ¥§•ªˆ¨ˇ© LOVE © ˇ¨ˆª•§¥ / Foter.com / CC BY

McLaughlin, who passed away on September 27, 2009 at the age of 102, was the chief of the graphics presentation branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became known as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “It was my good fortune to be assigned the problem of designing a lapel pin for conference identification,” he later recalled in a 1995 publication entitled “Origin of the Emblem and Other Recollections of the 1945 U.N. Conference.” After his graduation from the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in 1937, he was able to acquire employment with the National Parks Service – but eventually established an architectural career in New Your City, designing things such as 2 pavilions at the New York City World’s Fair and the interior of Tiffany and Co.’s flagship store, which is now recorded as a building of prominence with the National Register of Historic Places. Following its establishment on June 13, 1942, McLaughlin took up employment with the OSS, helping to create wartime visual designs for the presentation of material that could be easily understood and implemented, including the courtroom that was used in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Working with a team of fellow designers, McLaughlin came up with a total of 9 different designs from which to choose, with the task of fitting the image on a circular pin measuring 1/6th of an inch in diameter. Having written a thesis on circular design while studying architecture, he fell back on that experience, drawing the planetary globe as an azimuthally equidistant projection with all the nations of the world fitting into a circle. “The hardest part of the project was fitting the design and copy onto the small, circular pin,” he recalled in July of 2008 – adding that the main intention “was to represent one world through this projection.” One year after the group submitted their final representation, “the map was turned a quarter to the left so the east and west were in balance” McLaughlin also remembered. Olive branches surround the tilted map, in an obvious visual reference to world peace and the unity of humankind. When applied to the adoption of the UN flag, the emblem created by McLaughlin was imbedded as a white design on a blue background. Although the exact shade of the color used in the flag has never been specified by the United Nations, the background is blue because it is considered to be the opposite of red, which is the color of war. The exact shade now used on UN flags that fly around the world is Pantone 279. It is considered to be a protective sign for all UN personnel on peace keeping missions, as dictated by the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which has now been ratified by 91 states around the world. Nevertheless, statistical records kept on UN peacekeeping efforts since 1948 demonstrate that over 3,000 UN personnel have given their lives in an attempt to bring peace to a variety of locations in the world.

The Secretary General of the UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI

The UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

One would think that a banner honored by the Pope should be held in high esteem by all nations of the world, but at times this reverence has been tarnished – even by the United States. While appearing at the UN General Assembly on April 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to touch and bless the UN flag – as he delivered very pointed words of warning to political leaders around the globe. “Countries that act unilaterally on the world stage undermine the authority of the United Nations and weaken the broad consensus needed to confront global problems,” he said. In some respects, the Pope’s words seemed leveled directly at the United States, which acted in disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1441 when it invaded Iraq in 2003. What would it take for this disrespect for the UN to disappear, and for the UN flag to be considered in the same light as Pope Benedict proposed that day? If

aliens from outer space were to attack the world, would humanity put down its violent differences and finally unite to confront a common enemy? Is it possible that terrorism would disappear from the earth long enough to ensure the defeat of this common enemy?  Such an occurrence would require a respect for the common things that bind us together as humans, rather than a violent obsession with the superficial qualities that make us different from each other – but the proponents of this web site believe it is possible. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI does too! Take a chance on humanity and light one candle in the midst of darkness, would you? Sign the petition you can reach by clicking the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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About jrcclark

On October 2, 2001, scarcely one month after the horrors of 911, Representative Jim Turner of Texas introduced H. R. 2982 to the House of Representatives, calling for “the establishment of a memorial to victims who died as a result of terrorist acts against the United States or its people, at home or abroad.” The resolution was amended by the Committee on Resources in June of 2002 and eventually approved on September 25, 2002 on a “motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill.” It was sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but it has languished there ever since – in effect dead and going nowhere. In 2008, this Senate Committee considered making Dark Elegy, the work of a New York sculptor who lost a son in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as the monument called for in H. R. 2982. However, the committee turned down the touching and thought-provoking sculptures of Suse Ellen Lowenstein – on the grounds that “…as compelling and impressive a proposal as has been made for the memorial in question, that we believe that, for the time being, that it relates to a very specific incident and should be treated as such rather than as a generic monument to victims of terrorism for all time.” Today the resolution seems forgotten, and it is the purpose of this website to promote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that H. R. 2982 be reconsidered and revisited.
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