(HOST) Writer, historian, and commentator, Deborah Doyle-Schechtman, has re-discovered the meaning of Flag Day.
(DOYLE-SCHECHTMAN) Today is National Flag Day. It’s highlighted on every calendar printed, designed and or sold in the United States. Otherwise the day and it’s meaning might have slipped my attention. Instead, it piqued my curiosity. Why do we have Flag Day? And more importantly, why should any of us care?
The answer to the first question is fairly simple. Flag Day commemorates the First Flag Resolution adopted by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The event has been celebrated in one form or another ever since, but it wasn’t until 1885, under the leadership of Wisconsin schoolteacher, Bernard Cigrand, that the cause for national recognition began to take shape. Other teachers in other states picked up the banner as it were, and before long an organized movement was born – one that ultimately involved individuals, institutions, local officials, governors, and five United States Presidents. Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge issued proclamations during their administrations, but it took an Act of Congress, signed by Harry Truman in 1949, to make it official. The law states that the President, at his discretion, can issue a proclamation each year directing appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings, while at the same time urging every American to fly the Stars and Stripes from their homes and other fitting places. In 1966, National Flag Day became part of National Flag Week. National Flag Week soon became part of a 20-day period up to and including the 4th of July in which we, the people, are encouraged to express our pride and respect for the American way of life.
Who knew? And again, why care?
Well, as one very plain-spoken native Vermonter put it more than 70 years ago: "The stars and the red, white and blue colors have a significance of their own, but when combined and arranged into the flag of our nation they take on a new significance which no other form or color can convey… It represents our peace and security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see in it the great multitude of blessings, of rights and privileges that make up our country.
But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory we associate with it is the result of duty done. A yearly contemplation of the meaning of our flag strengthens and purifies our national conscience."
Calvin Coolidge wrote those words about Old Glory two years after he left the Oval Office. And although the design of the flag itself underwent 28 revisions between the time it was adopted in 1777 and the day the former President’s sentiments appeared in his syndicated news column, "Calvin Coolidge Says," on June 12th, 1931, the meaning behind both remains unaltered. Not bad for a fully sanctioned but unofficial holiday, eh?
Happy Flag Day!