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20-40-60 Etiquette---Hand over heart!


By Calllie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I have had the pleasure of attending my son's middle school sporting events and have noticed with increasing regularity at the beginning of each game when the national anthem is played, many people continue to talk on their cellphones and/or madly text away, giving no deference to this sacred tradition. Am I the only one offended by these chatters?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Speak up if this is offending you. I doubt you are the only one.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: I would imagine you are not the only one offended by this. After all, pausing for the national anthem together is a longtime way of showing respect to the ideals that unite us as a country, even if it is difficult to sing.

However, as hard as it is to believe, maybe the people doing this have never been taught that respect, or perhaps they forgot that lesson long ago or want to ignore it.

These days, unfortunately, our phones are very alluring, to the point of removing us mentally from the scene that is right in front of us. It's even worse a temptation for many teens and preteens who feel the need to be connected to friends at all times. Maybe it's time for a clever campaign led by the principal, coaches, announcers or student leaders to remind people of what to do during the national anthem - hand over their hearts and all -- and why they should do it. It would be an interesting history lesson, for starters. Lay the groundwork to turn your offense into a learning experience by mentioning it to people who can help teach it.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Appropriate behavior during the national anthem should be that people who are present stop what they are doing and stand quietly until the song is over.

They can sing along if they want to. They should not be engaged in other activities even if it is a middle school sports event.

They can put their hand over their heart during the song.

And you are right. It is offensive to watch others continue their activities with no regard to the flag and country.

The announcer at the game should call attention to the fact that people should respect the ceremony, turn off cellphones and stand up. Tell the announcer, or appropriate personnel, to request this conduct from people if this behavior continues.

It is possible that the offenders do not know the proper etiquette concerning the national anthem.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Matthew Price, Features Editor:

It's possible people aren't aware of the rules, and the announcer should remind them. In case people don't know the rules regarding the national anthem, they are actually listed in the U.S. Code.

You can find the U.S. Code online at, and the part regarding the national anthem is in section 36. I've summarized the relevant text here.

During a rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed:

Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note.

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.

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.

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.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›