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In 2004, a bill, led by Virginian Congressman Bob Goodlatte and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, was passed designating the oak as the United States’ national tree. The process of choosing this tree was facilitated by The National Arbor Day Association. Dogwood, maple, pine and redwood trees all made the top five. The Oak, with 101,000 votes, took the title. Although it is a recent decision, the oak tree is a perfect choice to represent the fortitude of the American people. 

There are more than 90 different species of the oak tree in the United States, making it the country’s most widespread hardwood tree. As early as 65 million years ago, a tiny seed sprouted into a towering colossus of a tree. Since then, it has watched the dawn of humanity, been worshipped in connection with the Greek god of thunder, Zeus and provided lumber for Viking ships. Now, it stands and watches as our nation evolves. 

Often called the “Mighty Oak,” this tree is a living representation of strength and stability; a perfect symbol for a growing nation. This national strength is not hard to find: look only to the kids leaving school every Friday to fight for climate justice with Greta Thunberg, those marching for an end to gun violence with Emma Gonzalez, or more recently, protestors rioting for a full month to demand an end to police brutality and systemic racism. 

The oak tree is characterized by slow, but massive growth. While the foundations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain at the heart of American values, we’re now seeing growth in the way that we view human rights (whether this is reflected in our politicians’ choices or not). This fourth of July stands for the strength of the people. Our nation was born from revolution and through these moments of extreme change, it stands strong as the oak tree.