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National Anthem

  1. Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music known as the
    Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
  2. Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national anthem–
    1. when the flag is displayed–
      1. all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the
        flag with the right hand over the heart;
      2. men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and
        hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
      3. individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of
        the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and
    2. when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and
      act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263.)

Sec. 302. National motto

“In God we trust” is the national motto.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 107-293,

Sec. 303. National floral emblem

The flower commonly known as the rose is the national floral emblem.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263.)

Sec. 304. National march

The composition by John Philip Sousa entitled “The Stars and Stripes
Forever” is the national march.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263.)

95 Responses to “National Anthem”

  1. RJ Briggs says:

    Hello, Thank you for maintaining this wonderful website. I know that US Code does not directly address this, though I wish it did and would love to spearhead a campaign to get it inserted, but there is one thing that just gets under my skin. That is when a pop star, or anyone that sings the Star Spangled Banner, makes it into a personal solo by changing the melodic rhythm and even notes of the melody. I was wondering if you might have ever heard of anyone trying to get the code ammended to simply state that the Star Spangled Banner is the National Anthem and as such should be performed with the original melody as written.

  2. I have not heard of anyone trying to get the National Anthem Code amended (to be performed as written), but if Congress won’t pass legislation that prohibits destroying the flag as a form of political protest (i.e. free speech), I doubt very much that they would do anything to protect the National Anthem. Artistic expression is a form of free speech, and that’s a very American concept that most people are unwilling to change—including me.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I do share your your distaste for singers who turn the National Anthem into a personal showcase for their particular talent. I look forward to the day when an American singer of incandescent glory will stand before a large crowd (the Super Bowl for example) and invite all those assembled to stand and sing the National Anthem together, and then conduct the song. What a performance that will be!

    RJ Briggs, you are not alone though, if that is any comfort. Thank you for writing.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  3. ROMAN WRIGHT says:

    SHOULDN’T PAYERS AND COACHES STAND AT ATTENTION AND SALUTE THE AMERICAN FLAG WHEN THE NATION ANTHEM PLAYERS BEFORE H.S SPORTING EVENTS, AND NOT JUST STAND AT PARADE REST.

  4. Yes, they should. Many do—stand and salute—but just as many don’t. There are many reasons, chief of which is ignorance. I also think that much of time, the players are in such deep concentration about the game that they are oblivious to what’s going on around them. I think they simply tune out the announcer’s voice, the crowds, the music, et cetera. Thank you for writing. Best wishes, Deborah

  5. Jose M. Raposo says:

    Hello Deborah

    Some time ago I asked you a question about the proper way of playing the Portuguese and American anthems at a festival and here in the US and you answered my promptly which I thanked you very much. I forgot to ask another question which is.
    According to the rules the Portuguese anthem should be played first then the US anthem. Since we want to raise both flags and according to the of the flags raising wen you have flags of two countries on separate staffs they should be raised simultaneously. In view of the fact is it correct to play the Portuguese anthem while both flags are being raised and then play the US anthem? I would think so but would like your opinion and advice.
    Thanks

    Jose Raposo

  6. Oh Jose—I am so sorry. I did not see your question until today. I hope it’s not too late.
    It only takes a moment to raise the flags. Veterans will want to salute the U.S. flag as it goes up, but it’s not appropriate for them to salute during the Portuguese national anthem. When both flags are secured, then the anthems can be played.
    Thank you for writing, Jose. Best wishes, Deborah

  7. Sara Mac says:

    My question is simple. How can Non-Americans be allowed to sing the national anthem at sporting events, etc. Are there requirements such as temp citizenship, applied citizenship, etc, or is it just that we allow anyone to sing OUR Anthem at OUR events?

  8. Sara Mac, I am glad that you found The Daily Flag. I am not quite sure what you meant to say with your note, but it sounds like a non-U.S. citizen “performed” the National Anthem at an event, and you are unhappy about it. I get so many letters from people who are not American citizens, and they sincerely want to know what the proper etiquette and protocol is for them regarding the National Anthem and/or the Pledge of Allegiance.

    There are no instructions whatsoever in the National Anthem Code ( http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt ) regarding non-U.S. citizens. In The Flag Code, Section 9 it says,
    Sec. 9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

    -STATUTE-
    During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the
    flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in
    uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed
    Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render
    the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag
    and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if
    applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold
    it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of
    other countries present should stand at attention.
    All such conduct
    toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment
    the flag passes. (I added the bold print.)

    We can extrapolate from this and conclude that non-U.S. citizens are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, nor salute our flag (with a heart salute or a military salute), or sing the National Anthem. But it doesn’t mean they can’t do it if they want to.

    It is certainly uncommon for someone who is not a U.S. citizen to sing (as in a performance) the National Anthem, but I personally find no insult it it. Quite the contrary actually—I find it most honorable that this person would want to sing the American National Anthem. He or she must love this country very much. But the most American thing about Americans is that we don’t have to agree on everything.

    For your convenience, the entire U.S. Flag Code may be downloaded here:
    http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt

    Thank you for writing, and best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  9. Brian Sides says:

    I am police officer who has been requested to sing the Star Spangled Banner at professional indoor sports event. I will be in uniform and there will be a color guard. What is the protocol for wearing the uniform cover as I perform the National Anthem?

  10. Hi Brian. Thank you for writing. Performers (singers, musicians, bands, orchestras) are permitted considerable latitude when singing or playing the National Anthem. They do not have to stand, and they do not have to remove their covers. So you can leave your cover on, or take it off—your choice. In some of these huge sporting venues, it feels like “outside” even when it’s not. But since you will be in full uniform otherwise, I suggest keeping your cover on.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  11. SrA Smith says:

    As an active duty military member I’m always in uniform whenever I’m asked to sing the national anthem at our ceremonies. I know I’m not required to salute while I sing, but should I still be at attention with my free hand (non-microphone) down at my side? Or if both hands are free should I stand at attention normally? I’ve been singing the anthem for several years now and never really bothered to ask anyone what’s the proper etiquette for the singer.

  12. Larry Hendrick says:

    While performers of the National Anthem are given considerable latitude, because you are in uniform, you must adhere to a higher standard (and I wish ALL performers did, because I am not a fan of highly stylized anthems where the singer wanders off the page). But I don’t think you have to stand rigidly at attention. I think you are allowed to use your hands and body/posture expressively as you perform. (If you were ever inappropriate, the feedback would be immediate and you will know.) Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  13. Kathryn says:

    Hi, our church is conducting a special themed activity day centered around Canada and Canadian games/customs/refreshments. We will be playing the Canadian national anthem during this event (asking people to stand at attention during). Two questions: 1) should we play the Canadian national anthem at the beginning or the end of the activities; and 2) do we need to follow up with the American national anthem, since we are in the U.S.?
    Thanks!

  14. An Oh Canada Day! I like it. The national anthems of guest nations in the U.S. are played before the American national anthem, which is the protocol described by the U.S. State Department. A church’s “Canada Day” is certainly a cultural event and I suggest that you stick to the protocol. At the beginning of the event, play Oh Canada (everyone stands at attention, but only Canadians salute the anthem/flag, if any are present). Everyone remains standing and then the American national anthem is played, during which all salute as permitted.

    Thank you for writing, Kathryn, and I hope you all have a wonderful day.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  15. Eric says:

    Couple questions regarding foreign flags in a Color Guard detail. We will be performing a military ceremony with 3 foreign national flags in the Color Guard. Do these flags dip during the playing of the National Anthem? Are we required to also play the anthems of those foreign countries since they are apart of the Color Guard? Thanks for your help!

  16. Hi Eric. Thank you for writing, although I am probably not the right person to ask these questions. Your protocol officer might advise you differently. But here goes. Because you are carrying the flags of four sovereign nations, none of them are dipped but hold them all equally abreast and same height. Adjust the holders as necessary because it would be an extreme breach of protocol for the four flags to be displayed at different heights. The U.S. flag will still have the right-most position, and the other flags will line up along side in alphabetical order by nation (in English). Yes, play the national anthems of the other nations—in alphabetical order, but the U.S. national anthem is performed last because the other flags represent those nations as guests in our country. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  17. Eric says:

    This is what I was looking for and confirmed it with our protocol office! Thank you so much!

  18. Chevallie Vinkwolk says:

    In a previous reply it was stated that As a courtesy in the United States, the national anthems of other countries are always played before the American national anthem.

    Does this also apply in Suriname
    So basically what i’m asking is do we sing the Suriname National athem first and then the U.S. National anthem

  19. Chevallie Vinkwolk says:

    Hi

    In a previous reply you mentioned
    As a courtesy in the United States, the national anthems of other countries are always played before the American national anthem.
    Does this also apply in Suriname

    What I’m basically asking is if we sign the Suriname National anthem before the U.S. National anthem

  20. Hello Chevallie,
    I don’t know what the correct protocol would be for singing the two national anthems if you were in the country of Suriname. But as a general rule in most countries, the anthem of the “guest” nation is usually performed first, and the home nation’s anthem is performed last. If you were in the United States, then the Suriname National Anthem would definitely be performed first, and the American National Anthem would be performed last.
    Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  21. Rich says:

    In the Army I was always told that during rehearsals for ceremonies and such the National
    anthem should not be partially played. If it’s begun, it should play through.
    I say this because Fox News did a story today on US flags and the story’s lead in they played the National Anthem. They played maybe 10 seconds of it and then faded out. I don’t think that’s proper respect.
    What say you?

  22. Hi Rich, Thank you for writing. The portion of the U.S. Code that contains the rules for the National Anthem (what I like to call the “National Anthem Code”) is very brief, and I have included it below, along with a link to the official government website where it is found (with more details). Much of what we say and do with the National Anthem is based on tradition. It is generally accepted by all (a tradition) that the National Anthem is performed as a whole piece and not abbreviated in any way. The Anthem is not to be combined with other patriotic musical compositions, and it is not performed while the flag is in motion.

    In a news piece about US flag(s), the National Anthem would seem to be the first, most logical music to use since the Anthem is about the very flag itself (the USA is unique in that respect). But I do agree with you, and I think it was improper and in poor judgement. FOX could have used any number of patriotic tunes instead to set up the news piece—Sousa’s famous march comes to mind.

    I could reduce you to tears with my collection of bad Anthem stories (and bad Pledge of Allegiance stories, and bad flag stories), but we must recognize the delicate tension that lies between what is actually written in the National Anthem Code, and what is traditional and customary. If, for example, a soloist chose to sing the last verse of the National Anthem instead of the first, we would be surprised, but there would be nothing wrong with it. And we have to remember that while the flag and National Anthem are inextricably linked, the National Anthem Code and the Flag Code are two distinct documents (and found in separate locations in the U.S. Code). And finally, we have to acknowledge that civilians have greater latitude than the military.

    Thank you for writing. I hope this helps. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

    http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36c3.txt

    -HEAD-
    Sec. 301. National anthem

    -STATUTE-
    (a) Designation. – The composition consisting of the words and
    music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
    (b) Conduct During Playing. – During a rendition of the national
    anthem –
    (1) when the flag is displayed –
    (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at
    the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
    the last note;
    (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present
    but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner
    provided for individuals in uniform; and
    (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand
    at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not
    in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with
    their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand
    being over the heart; and

    (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
    toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the
    flag were displayed.

  23. DBarr says:

    The CORRECT protocol, of course – including the Pledge of Allegiance – is, if it involves coercion or lack of choice – it is the duty of EVERY American NOT to stand or show recognition of either the Pledge or the Anthem. If it’s not voluntary, it’s not American. If you fought to have a child’s arm grabbed and slapped over its chest, or a person who may be sitting because of religious belief being yelled at or threatened, or soldiers dragged out of a theater by the MP’s (all witnessed incidents) – then you’ve got the concept backwards. It needs to be absolutely voluntary, or not at all.

  24. Wayne Barron says:

    I am a JROTC instructor and have been asked to provide a color guard for a ceremony. The hosts wants the color guard to come out and then have someone in the audience lead the audience in the Pledge of Alligence, then have a moment of silence and then have a group sing the National Anthem. Is this the correct sequence of events. Shouldn’t we sing the National Anthem first, have the moment of silence and then do the pledge?

  25. Hi Wayne. The Flag Code and the National Anthem Code are both silent regarding when and where these honors are performed, or who goes first. We are given instructions for personal comportment only. We do a lot of things by tradition, according to the present circumstances. At my high school (for example), during first period we recited the Pledge every day in our various classrooms, but we only sang the National Anthem when we were gathered together in the auditorium for an assembly or similar. Moreover, the Pledge is only recited when the flag is present (or can be seen), but the National Anthem can be performed without a flag being present (“turn in the direction of the music”). The two events are independent of each other.

    There is no dishonor to the flag or to the National Anthem by reciting the Pledge first. Depending on the kind of event, or if there are a lot of senior citizens who perhaps should not stand for too long, I encourage the Pledge first, post the flags, and let every one sit down. All the important people make all their appropriate remarks. Then someone can introduce those who will perform the National Anthem and invite everyone to stand again. But this might not be a good order of events for your particular occasion. But each “honor” deserves full honor.

    I have often thought that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of a meeting or function would be a lovely way to bring the proceedings to an end. A closing prayer might be awkward, but the Pledge strikes me as a kind of patriotic benediction, as we part and go our separate ways. I don’t know that anyone has every taken me up on this suggestion, but I keep making it.

    Thank you for writing Wayne. I am crazy about Junior ROTC, and I am always encouraged by the young people who want to participate.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  26. The reporter says:

    Our tennis courts are at the end of a high school football,soccer,hockey field.
    We’re not part of the audience, but should we stop our match every time the national anthem plays?
    If so where’s the limit, should people at the baseball field behind us stop and face the flag, etc. etc.

  27. This is just my opinion, because the National Anthem Code does not provide any guidance. If you can plainly, clearly hear the Anthem being performed then yes, stop and wait. It takes less than two minutes for the National Anthem to be played. Turn in the direction of the music, stand at attention, and salute as appropriate. I would recommend doing this at all the sporting fields around the school property. It is a small but very polite demonstration of etiquette.
    Thank you for writing, and best wishes.
    Deborah Hendrick.

  28. Anne says:

    I am a retired police officer & was an honor guard member for many years, singing the Star Spangled Banner at a variety of events on behalf of the city. I have now been asked to sing at conference openings. What is the proper attire? I plan to wear a suit in this upcoming instance, but have the option of obtaining a police uniform with a retired shoulder patch designation for possible future events. Also, what is proper attire when singing at sporting events? It seems like people dress very casually when singing before games.

  29. Anne—what an interesting question. Unfortunately, there aren’t any guidelines for a situation like this. No doubt that wearing a uniform gives you higher visibility, but a beautiful suit is a kind of uniform, too. I’m sure there is considerable expense involved in obtaining a police uniform, but I think you will want both. I suspect that very soon you will just know which outfit is the right one for the occasion. And wearing a suit will give you a good excuse to buy flag pins, which is one of my favorite things to do. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  30. William says:

    Is it disrespecful to cheer during the national anthem?

  31. Hi William—I do believe it is disrespectful to cheer during the National Anthem, since we should all be saluting in one way or another (with a military salute or a hand-over-the-heart salute). And it is disrespectful to whomever may be performing the National Anthem. I am certainly in favor of cheering afterward, but not during. I have included a link to the National Anthem Code below, which you may find useful. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick
    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title36/subtitle1/partA/chapter3&edition=prelim

  32. dj says:

    Does our military salute when the Canadian anthem is played? Is it only if dressed in uniform or should it be not at all? Just saw it on the hockey game that they saluted during the Canadian anthem and just caught our eye and never really noticed before thank you

  33. IF in uniform, and IF the American National Anthem is also performed, then it is ordered that American military personnel render honors (salute) during the national anthem(s) of another country. Civilians, and American military personnel NOT in uniform should stand at attention and not salute.

    Thank you for writing, dj. This was a good question.
    Best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  34. Mary says:

    I was taught to stand at attention during the anthem and to put my hand over my heart for the pledge. Is this not correct?

  35. Larry Hendrick says:

    Hi Mary. During the singing of the National Anthem, we are supposed to stand at attention and salute as appropriate (with a military salute or by placing the right hand over the heart). During the Pledge of Allegiance, we do the very same thing. Here is what is says in the National Anthem Code found in U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 301:
    §301. National anthem
    (a) Designation.—The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
    (b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—
    (1) when the flag is displayed—
    (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
    (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
    (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

    (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

    The rules for the Pledge of Allegiance are linked here.

    I think the reason most people don’t know that we are supposed to salute during the National Anthem is because the rules are found in a different place in the U.S. Code, not in the same portion of the code that we call the Flag Code.

    I’m glad that you took the time to search and the answers.
    Best wishes, Mary,
    Deborah Hendrick

  36. DeAnna Stephens says:

    Are sports teams required to be present during the playing of the National Anthem?

  37. Hello DeAnna. Short answer: No. The National Anthem Code makes no provision whatsoever about where or when the National Anthem should be performed. The Code addresses individual personal comportment only. Sporting teams from PeeWee level to Pro (football, basketball, et cetera) may have league rules about teams and players, and behavior during the National Anthem, but I personally don’t know what they are. Here is a link to the National Anthem Code:
    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=National+Anthem&f=treesort&fq=true&num=2&hl=true&edition=prelim&granuleId=USC-prelim-title36-section301

    Thank you for writing, DeAnna. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  38. Tom says:

    I had a question regarding the number of times the national anthem should be played. I was under the impression that the national anthem should only be played once during a particular session of a sporting event, but I cannot find any documentation on that. For instance if you have a basketball doubleheader with two games included on one ticket, should the anthem be played one time or prior to both games.

  39. Hi Tom. Thank you for writing. There are no particular rules (and thus no documentation) regarding the National Anthem except for those that address personal comportment (stand at attention, salute as permitted, et cetera). We are not advised on when, or where, or how many times the Anthem should be performed. In my personal opinion, I believe one “opening” and performance of the National Anthem is sufficient for the entire event, regardless of how many games are scheduled.

    Here is a link to the National Anthem Code if you need it for reference. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick
    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=National+Anthem&f=treesort&fq=true&num=2&hl=true&edition=prelim&granuleId=USC-prelim-title36-section301

  40. Neal says:

    On a graduation program, should it say National Anthem or Star Spangled Banner?

  41. Hi Neal. It would not matter at all. But if it were my choice, I’d use the Star-Spangled Banner. Note that the U.S. Code uses a hyphen: Star-Spangled Banner.
    http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=National+Anthem&f=treesort&fq=true&num=2&hl=true&edition=prelim&granuleId=USC-prelim-title36-section301

    Best wishes, Deborah

  42. Jaime says:

    Are there any consequences for individuals not removing headdress? This was a spectator wearing a cap who did not face flag but looked at players through binoculars and never removed his hat.

  43. Jaime, those who wrote and codified the statute for the National Anthem believed that Americans of honor and goodwill would willingly follow the guidelines, but they purposely did not include penalties in the National Anthem Code or the Flag Code because we Americans believe strongly in personal liberty and freedom. And we must always remember that there are religious denominations that do not salute the flag or the National Anthem (although in my observance these people are always respectful). The person you noticed could have been a foreigner, or perhaps just a clod.

    Thank you for taking the time to find The Daily Flag, and writing, Jaime.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  44. Kyle says:

    What should the conduct of US Military personnel be during the flag raising/national anthem of NATO allies at a NATO ceremony be? Would the position of attention suffice, or should they salute because of the unified command structure?

  45. I am going to reverse myself on an earlier opinion. Because you are in a unified command structure, and you would ordinarily salute officers of other nations as appropriate, then in my opinion is would be correct to salute during the raising of other command national flags and those national anthems. But I encourage you to clarified this through your protocol officer.

    This YouTube video from Norfolk VA’s annual NATO flag ceremony shows a lot of officers, and some are saluting during the parade of flags, and some are standing at attention only. In the absence of conformity there, I don’t see how you can go wrong by saluting the flag and anthem of another NATO country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MevH7TnqOo

    Kyle, thank you for writing, and best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

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