Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation. – June 14, 1777, Continental Congress
Today is Flag Day, the Google logo is quick to not remind you. Each June 14th we remember and honor the official adoption of our flag in 1777 by the Continental Congress. Legend has it the flag was commissioned by George Washington himself, and created by Betsy Ross.
The annual traditional June observance originated in a classroom in Wisconsin over 100 years later, in 1885. Bernard J. Cigrand, then a 19 year old teacher, “placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance.” After many years of lobbying on Cigrand’s part, President Woodrow Wilson eventually issued a proclamation in 1916, calling for national observance of the holiday. In 1949, President Truman signed into law Congressional legislation designating June 14th as National Flag Day. The law also called for an annual Presidential proclamation.
This year, President Obama, like President Bush before him, when issuing the traditional proclamation designated the entire week as National Flag Week.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2010, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 13, 2010, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by displaying the flag. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eleventh day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
Inmates wave a handmade American flag to greet 7th Army troops upon their arrival at the Allach concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau, April 30, 1945. – USHMM, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD
Today is the day when every American should raise the flag and take a moment to consider all that it symbolizes: The liberation of millions around the world; The sacrifices of men and women on the battlefield; The ideals of the Revolution … The idea of freedom itself. So much is represented and evoked by the cloth of the flag. So many ideas, so much history, so many lives symbolized and embodied by 13 stripes of white and red, a field of blue and 50 stars.
And that is the purpose of a symbol is it not? That all who see it may know what it is about. That it be a light in a world of darkness. That those who suffer, those oppressed, those huddled masses yearning to be free, may see it and in it find hope.
Flag day is a low-key observance. It’s not marked by the spectacles of the Fourth of July or the solemn ceremonies of Memorial Day. For some, it’s scarcely recognizable as a National day at all. But it is an important day, and something that is important to remember.
The flag is raised in both remembrance and promise. It is the symbol of all we have been, and all we have yet to be. It has been carried into battle by countless warriors, raised in victory on foreign soil, and flown at half-mast at the passing of our heroes and leaders. It told those in prisoner and concentration camps that freedom had come at last. It is the picture of us, in red, white and blue.
Today, and this week, don’t simply fly your flag. Remember why it is there, and how much has been sacrificed on its, and our, behalf.
God Bless America.
“The Birth of Old Glory”, Courtesy of the Library of Congress