Features: Students spark patriotic movement

Imagine an American flag large enough to span a soccer field, made out of 3-by-3 foot panels of cloth decorated by Foggy Bottom community members and GW student groups and academic departments. Imagine having the chance to take part in campus history.

The chance is now possible because of the efforts of three freshmen living on the Mount Vernon Campus. Ari Mittleman, Taryn Schaberg and Christy Odom collectively founded Freedom Quilt, a unique new project that aims to sew together an American flag out of 320 panels of cloth. If all goes well, the flag will be 91 feet wide and 48 feet long.

“Everyone who wants a panel will get one,” Scaberg said, in regard to the many student groups on campus.

The idea for the Freedom Quilt came when Mittleman and Schaberg were walking home from a visit with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who advised them to keep their thoughts on the country and patriotism. The freshmen said they hope to revive the ideals of patriotism and unification on campus that were so strong after the devastating events of Sept. 11.

“We see this as a way to unify all the diverse aspects of GW,” Mittleman said. Driving the point home, the cofounders created a slogan for Freedom Quilt: “Exemplify how we unify.”

Last Sunday, Freedom Quilt held its first meeting in the lobby of the Hillel. Every group that participates will get one panel of cloth of either red, white or blue to decorate.

“I think it is going to be interesting to see what people come up with,” Schaberg said. She is currently a member of the College Republicans, Delta Gamma and president of Merriweather Hall.

Freedom Quilt, sponsored by newly arrived Director of Student Activities Laura Taddeucci was created in conjunction with the GW Blitz and the Student Association.

Mittleman, who is involved with Free the Planet and works with Hillel, said he hopes to bring attention to the Mount Vernon campus in addition to including every student organization on campus.

“People can lend their input – they need to get involved,” Mittleman said. “We’re really looking for diversity.”

Freedom Quilt currently operates out of Somers Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus, where both Mittleman and Odom live. Christy Odom, the third founder of the group, is in charge of the Web site, freedomquilt.net, and publicity.

The three freshmen are hoping that their idea will spread nationwide and anticipate that the local press will cover the quilt’s unveiling on the new soccer field at the Mount Vernon Campus. They hope to unveil the quilt in April.

“We are hoping that other communities and schools will pick up the idea,” Schaberg said. “I think it would be a good way for people to see what we are doing.”

Organizers said they still need money for a sewing machine and fabric. The founders have applied for co-sponsorship with the Student Association. SA Sen. Dan Moss (U-SBPM) said the group will receive $150, the standard amount for groups that start mid-year. Group members said the interior design program at GW, which is based at Mount Vernon, has offered expertise to help with the production.

The next meeting of Freedom Quilt will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. in the Marvin Center.

“I hope by the end of the day that the GW community will be smiling about it,” Mittleman said.

-Joe Gidjunis contributed to this report.

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