The seizure of the embassy and fifty two American hostages in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 marked a different time in our history. The public wanted to show their support for the hostages and their families. Yellow ribbons became the symbol of hope for their safe return.
Yellow Ribon Became National Symbol
Not unlike the start of a book that I read as a child....
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
In 1976 when Jimmy Carter ran for president , he promised hope. In the summer of 1979, he gave a speech which was later dubbed the "malaise speech," even though Carter never used that word. The country was in the worst of times. Inflation, unemployement, energy crisis. The President tried to push the energy crisis on to a kind of moral and civic plane, and the speech was used to unify around a sense of civic sacrifice, according to author Kevin Mattson.
Jimmy Carter was at Camp David, at the time that the Iranian embassy takeover took place. The nation viewed Carter as brainstorming with his staff, as to figure out what else was wrong with the people of the United States. I think with the Iran crisis, people began to say, “No more, this is it.”
In an interview with Penne Laingen, wife of Bruce Laingen, a State Department foreign service officer, who was the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, she was asked what the American people should do to help. There was a concern that people would turn to violence.
“Tell them to do something constructive, because we need a great deal of patience. Just tell them to tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.”
The movement around the country, of tying Yellow Ribbons around trees was born and spread. It began with the other hostages’ families, becoming a national symbol. Penne Laingen was even asked to tie a yellow ribbon around the National Christmas Tree outside of the White House.
Looking at the situation today with the American hostages abandoned by our country in Afghanistan, there is no concern of violence for our American civilians. There is no desire by anyone for a national symbol. There is no movement and anger because our citizens are being held in another country against their will.
The times were bad, back in 1979, with the economy and the hostage situation, yet, the American people were united in their feelings for the hostages , making it also the best of times.
We soon transitioned from Blame the American People First days of Jimmy Carter to the times of optimism with Ronald Reagan. Reagan believed that politicans that spoke about the country's limitations were talking about their own limitations. He believed in American greatness.
People want to use the term "nationlism" . A more appropriate term would be "optimistic" . They were optimistic about their future.
During the Trump era, people believed that America could have the greatest economy in history. He bragged that we lived in the best times in American History till the Pandemic came along.
With the start of the Biden adminstration , we hear terms like America has never been a great country. We even wonder if we need to be embarressed to say that we live in this evil country. There is a wonder if China will overtake the USA as the world's superpower. Countries are wondering if the USA still belongs as a leader on the world stage.
Only 39% of Americans are proud of their country. We are back in an era in American history akin to the Carter days, where each day, we expect to hear from our adminstration on what is wrong with America and it's people. We can only hope for a leader to bring hope, optimism and pride back to America.