VIDEO: Young Salutes Hoosier Alice Sanger in Flag Day Remarks
**Click here or above to watch Senator Young’s floor speech.**
WASHINGTON – On Flag Day, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) spoke on the Senate floor today about the legacy of Hoosier Alice Sanger. The Indiana native was the first woman to serve on a president’s staff and helped establish the celebration of Flag Day.
“Our flag represents the promise of freedom and self-government, that any man or woman can live their life in pursuit of happiness,” said Young. “But it is also a reminder that the work of honoring those ideals goes on. It is fitting then, that on Flag Day, we remember Indiana’s Alice Sanger. This Hoosier served her country so faithfully in an era where pathways for women to do so were few.”
To watch the full floor speech, click here.
Senator Young’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
I often speak of Hoosiers whose service, patriotism, and sacrifice capture the spirit we celebrate on civic holidays.
For Flag Day, however, I rise to share the story of a Hoosier who did not merely embody the occasion – she helped establish it.
And she made history too.
Alice Sanger played such an important part in Benjamin Harrison’s presidential campaign in 1888 as a stenographer that he made her part of his presidential staff.
So, Alice left her Indianapolis home for Washington D.C. to become the first woman ever to serve on a President’s staff.
The historic distinction doesn’t quite capture the breadth of Alice’s service to the president and the nation.
Neither did her title of “clerk” or contemporary reporters’ descriptions of her, which often dwelled on her looks and clothes.
Let me share with you what this “clerk” did in the White House.
A renaissance woman who was skilled with a paintbrush and had an ear for music, Alice could take dictation at 200 words a minute without a single misspelling.
She had a discretion seldom seen in Washington and was known as a “jewel of secrecy” in the White House.
Not only did she type President Harrison’s annual address to Congress, but she was given sole responsibility of safekeeping it until it was sent here to the Capitol.
She personally read through all of the President’s and First Lady Caroline Harrison’s correspondence and answered much of it in her own hand.
During the late 19th Century, no woman’s signature was better known in America.
In 1893, after losing his bid for reelection, Harrison left the White House. But Alice remained.
She was so essential to the Executive Branch’s function, that the new president, from a different political party, Grover Cleveland, asked her to stay.
In 1894, she moved over to the Post Office Department, which was then a cabinet level agency. She was she no less indispensable there.
For decades, she managed budgets and advertising, kept track of regulations and postal laws, and assembled the 700-page directive that guided the operations of every post office in the country.
A masterful organizer, she planned war bond drives, donations to the Red Cross, and holiday celebrations – including the one we mark today.
Now, the idea of commemorating the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress created our national banner was not her own. Celebrations of the American flag were staged periodically around the country dating back to the 1860s.
But in 1908, Alice, as part of her responsibilities at the Post Office, planned and staged a grand celebration for Flag Day.
The sound of bands and distinguished speakers lifted out of the Old Post Office building’s courtyard, where a giant American flag hung.
In the years that followed, other government departments joined in the celebration with their own Flag Day festivities, in large part due to Alice’s efforts.
States followed suit, many with input from Alice who advised local Post Offices on appropriate celebrations.
Presidents Wilson and Coolidge recognized Flag Day with proclamations, and in 1949, the 81st Congress passed and Harry Truman signed legislation formally establishing its observance.
There is some harmony between Alice’s career and her work to promote Flag Day.
When we look up at the Stars and Stripes, we catch America’s reflection.
It is a symbol of our ideals, after all.
Wherever it waves – on battlefields where we have defended it, alongside the graves of those who have died for it.
In front of the places where its democracy lives – courthouses in our towns, statehouses in our cities, the dome under which we meet, and from the homes across the Republic for which it stands.
Our flag represents the promise of freedom and self-government, that any man or woman can live their life in pursuit of happiness.
But it is also a reminder that the work of honoring those ideals goes on.
It is fitting then, that on Flag Day, we remember Indiana’s Alice Sanger.
This Hoosier served her country so faithfully in an era where pathways for women to do so were few.
So, on Flag Day, we raise a pair of salutes –
One to Old Glory. Forever may she fly.
And a second to the trailblazing spirit of Americans like Alice. Long may it live.
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