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Delafield Neighbors

I Pledge USA – Fostering the Patriotic Spirit

Apr 23, 2014 02:44PM ● By Laura Ustanovska

Rip Maclay with his bike, Liberty

I Pledge USA, an organization created to promote patriotism, aims to have younger patriots and veterans participate in the creation of artwork that resembles our national symbol – the American flag. Rip Maclay, a resident of River Hills, founded I Pledge USA after a motorcycle trip he took originating on the West Coast as part of Harley-Davidson's 100th anniversary celebration in 2003. “I had just taken delivery of a new bike – affectionately known as Liberty – painted to resemble Captain America's red, white and blue motorcycle in the movie Easy Rider,” recalls Rip. “At each stop along the trip back to Milwaukee, crowds gathered to look at the bike and discuss memories of the cult movie classic. Local TV stations would be attracted to the bike and conduct interviews. Often, veterans would gather to talk about stories from their military experiences and children would wave and cheer from street corners as Liberty roared by. Clearly, the patriotic spirit was working, based on the flag-themed paint job.”

Thus, when Rip, a hobbyist photographer, decided to enter Artprize, one of the world's largest art competitions, the US flag seemed like a natural way to go – it was familiar territory. I Pledge USA was born at the same time Rip was developing his piece of artwork for the contest. “We felt a need to brand the effort,” he explains, “and it made sense to tie the effort to something everyone could relate to – the US flag and the pledge of allegiance.” Patty Best, an artist in her own right, became involved with the original piece, as she handpaints many of the tiles used to create the artwork. Patty now serves as I Pledge USA's executive director.

Rip's piece, entitled “I Pledge Allegiance,” depicted the US flag and was a crowd favorite – especially with younger, school age children, who were drawn to the artwork's familiar red, white and blue scheme, as well as veterans, who appreciated its patriotic remembrances.

Rip says, “My sense of patriotism comes from a variety of sources, including a genuine fondness for the superhero character Captain America; a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, whose ranks are dwindling by the day and whose actions have helped preserve our way of life; and a recognition that we must do everything possible to promote patriotism among the youngest citizens of this country and for those yet to come.”

In 2012, Rip entered the contest again with a similar piece, “Liberty,” which used many images taken during the previous year's event. The crowd's response was even more enthusiastic than during the preceding year and inspired I Pledge USA to create a strategy to take its mission of promoting patriotism to various school communities and veterans groups.

The flag of the United States holds a special place in the hearts of Americans. Therefore, I Pledge USA assists schools and their students in the creation of customized artwork based on this powerful symbol and source of inspiration. When a school partners with I Pledge USA, it receives, at no cost, 312 four-inch, square painted tiles (128 red, 114 white, 70 blue). Typically, each student is given his own tile(s), which he takes ownership of in the creative process. The completed tiles are returned to I Pledge USA, where they are arranged, framed and sealed. The finished artwork, an image of the US flag, is returned to the school for installation, providing a source of inspiration and pride to all who see it.

Locally, I Pledge USA has worked with students at Donges Bay Elementary School in Mequon and University School of Milwaukee. It is currently working with the Girl Scouts on a piece at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee and on another piece for All Saints Assisted Living and Memory Care in Madison. “We are also working on a new initiative – StarSpangledUSA – aimed at commemorating the bicentennial of the writing of our national anthem (September 14, 2014). This initiative involved a crowdfunding event held in Jacksonville, Florida, in April to raise money to support our commitment,” concludes Rip.

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