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Each symbol and color in the FBI seal has special significance. The dominant blue field of the seal and the scales on the shield represent justice. The endless circle of 13 stars denotes unity of purpose as exemplified by the original 13 states. The laurel leaf has, since early civilization, symbolized academic honors, distinction and fame. There are exactly 46 leaves in the two branches, since there were 46 states in the Union when the FBI was founded in 1908. The significance of the red and white parallel stripes lies in their colors. Red traditionally stands for courage, valor, strength, while white conveys cleanliness, light, truth, and peace. As in the American Flag, the red bars exceed the white by one. The motto, " Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity," succinctly describes the motivating force behind the men and women of the FBI. The peaked bevelled edge which circumscribes the seal symbolizes the severe challenges confronting the FBI and the ruggedness of the organization. The gold color in the seal conveys its over-all value.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity—The FBI Motto
The origins of the FBI's motto may be traced to a brief comment by Inspector W. H. Drane Lester, the editor of the employee magazine, The Investigator, in September 1935:
"F B I"
At last we have a name that lends itself to dignified abbreviation the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which quite naturally becomes "F B I". In the past our nicknames, which the public are so prone to give us, have been many and varied. "Justice Agents", "D. J. Men", "Government Men" are but a few of them, with the Bureau itself incorrectly referred to as "Crime Bureau", "Identification Bureau" and "Crime Prevention Bureau". The latest appellation, and perhaps the one which has become most widespread, is "G-Men', an abbreviation itself for "Government Men".
But "F B I" is the best and one from which we might well choose our motto, for those initials also represent the three things for which the Bureau and its representatives always stand: "Fidelity - Bravery - Integrity".
When questioned about this by many years later, Miss Helen Gandy, J. Edgar Hoover's long-time secretary, confirmed that the Lester was author of the FBI motto.