June 14, 2012
It’s not an official federal holiday. No day off. No gifts. The Fourth of July gets the glamour, picnics and fireworks.
A schoolteacher had the idea first. BJ Cigrand, in the aptly named Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, threw an impromptu celebration June 14th (then, the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) for 'Flag Birthday.'
It seemed like a good idea at the time and Flag Day became a true grassroots movement, if not exactly a national holiday. By the turn of the 20th century, children in Philadelphia were gathering at Independence Square to celebrate the birth of the flag.
Flags few informally throughout the country on its birthday, and we finally got the hint. With President Truman, on Aug, 3 1949, formally designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.
Whether it was Betsy Ross or the unsung Frances Hopkinson or George Washington who designed the first flag, we’re still not sure. We do know that there was no prouder moment in our history than when it was raised to commemorate the birth of a new nation.
The flag, then with 14 stars, inspired Francis Scott Key to compose our national anthem, after his relief at seeing the banner flying at dawn over Fort McHenry, following the battle of Baltimore — during the almost forgotten War of 1812.
Then, adorned with 48 stars, a nation cheered when we saw the unforgettable picture of the flag raised by four Marines of Easy Company. Where almost a quarter of the 23,000 American troops died on a tiny island one-third the size of Manhattan, defending our way of life.
And following Sept. 11, 2001, when flags flew, all across America, we remembered again the principles for which we stand.
Thirteen horizontal stripes for the original 13 colonies, 50 Stars for each state of the Union. Red for valor, White for purity and innocence, and Blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice. Liberty and freedom.
Some, maybe, think it’s a bit corny to fly our flag. Even worse, hypocritical. Who can live up to those ideals?
We’ve seen the flag abused; used by too many people that wrap themselves in it and call themselves patriots.
Maybe in our quest to be right, we haven’t always been right.
But, also, June 14 is a day to remember that under this flag, we are free to express our thoughts; we can change and we can be better.
Woodrow Wilson said:
“This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us — speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it.”
The American flag represents the best in us; it’s for us to live up to it.