In the early days of American independence, government leaders tried to identify an animal that would represent the new nation. They settled on the bald eagle, a proud raptor that fiercely defends its nest and its family. The eagle has been used to represent government power since the time of the Roman Empire. In 1787 the bald eagle was officially adopted as the emblem of the United States. The eagle is often shown holding an olive branch (representing peace) and arrows (representing war) in its talons. Today the bald eagle remains a living symbol of American strength and values.