Gov. Rick Scott signs 'All American Flag Act' in Central Florida
Ceremony held at Viera High School
MELBOURNE, Fla. – What started as an idea sparked from curiosity among local students came to fruition Monday as Gov. Rick Scott signed the All American Flag Act at Viera High School.
Beginning Jan. 1, all U.S. or state flags bought by state, county or city agencies are to be made in the United States.
News 6 partner Florida Today reported that three years ago, Andres Matos, then a student at Eau Gallie High School, said he was watching the news for a class assignment and started to think about all the products made in other countries that Americans consume. He brought the idea to a discussion in history teacher Matt Susin's class where he said he learned something very alarming -- even American flags aren't made in the United States.
"One day in class we were just talking about everything is made in China, so I asked Mr. Susin ‘Is our flag made in China?' And he said ‘Sadly, but yes.' So I was kind of enraged about it," said Matos, 20, who is now a student at Eastern Florida State College.
It was an idea so simple, so logical, said Susin, that it ignited a lesson in civics that would unfold as reality before the class. The class was charged with pursuing the issue. Students petitioned local government to take action.
The group called for the state to enact a policy to which all public entities purchase American-made flags.
When Susin switched schools to Viera High, he again prompted students to take action. The Jefferson Club, a community service organization at the school, jumped on board and reached out to local veterans organizations to join forces in support. 17-year-old Tim Lancaster, a member of the club, gave speeches throughout the county urging others to support the bill alongside fellow students like Josh Henderson and Tyla Gelman who spoke passionately about the issue.
"You'd think something like that would just be common sense, honestly," said Henderson, 17. "It's an American flag, why isn't it made in America?"
"Especially government buildings, that's the place where it should be made in America," Gelman, 17, added. "That's a slap in the face, having an American flag flying on a government building that's made in China."
Although the bill failed once in the Florida Legislature, the group kept on going. Students who had moved on to college at Florida State University showed up in Tallahassee to lobby for the bill. Members of the Jefferson Club met with local officials to push the issue forward. State Representative Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, sponsored the bill on its second go-around. This time, the legislature passed the bill.
"This was the idea of a high school student who asked the same thing we all did when we heard it: Why aren't our flags made in America?" Cortes said. "We are flying flags that are made in China, Mexico. The whole concept is we are spending public dollars on flags and they ought to made in the United States."
Scott originally signed the bill in Panama City back in July, disappointing Brevard students and their allies who pushed the bill.
So the governor came to Viera High to hold another ceremonial signing of the bill.
Scott was joined by government officials, school officials, veterans and students. The room was packed with Junior ROTC cadets alongside the students who made the act happen — some of whom are now in college.
"Why wouldn't every flag be made in the United States of American?" Scott asked the crowd. "It's the most logical thing we're doing."
Scott went on to describe Susin's leadership as a "sign of patriotism" and praised the students and local leaders who pursued the issue.
The bill was originally sponsored by State Representative Ritch Workman. Cortes picked up the bill after it failed. Workman, Cortes and Scott were joined on stage at the event by military personnel, veterans, students and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn.
Susin praised all involved and said that the bill really sends a message that students can prompt a change in government.
"It took a group of students at other schools that then became believers in idealism opposed to realism. They believe that they can accomplish anything," said Susin. " ... It has so many implications. Instead of just a kid proposing a bill, it united an entire county around one issue."
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