The Banner We Wave

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We watched our local Memorial Day parade and stayed for a memorial service at the cemetery. Sometimes I feel the people of today (myself included) have forgotten aspects of social protocol that give us the polish that makes it more pleasant for us to get along. I was pleased to see most everyone in the crowd that day show respect for our flag, with hand over heart standing when one passed by.

When we returned home for a picnic in our yard, we didn’t put out the flag pole with our big flag. I stuck three small flags into three potted plants, used them as centerpieces on our tables, and let that suffice as our patriotism for the day.

The idea of an annual day specifically celebrating our flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. B. J. Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wis., public school to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes) as ‘Flag Birthday’. In numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as ‘Flag Birthday’, or ‘Flag Day’.

In 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration. In 1893, a resolution was adopted, requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the flag on June 14. It was recommended that thereafter the day be known as ‘Flag Day’, and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small flag.

As a result of the resolution, Flag Day exercises were held on June 14, 1893, in Independence Square. Schoolchildren were assembled, each carrying a small flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.

In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the flag be displayed on all public buildings. An American Flag Day Association was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. The first general public school celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in that year, with more than 300,000 children participating.

Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: “I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself.”

Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day — the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 — was officially established by the proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until Aug. 3, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.

I left my three little flags in the potted plants ready for Flag Day, which falls on a Saturday this year. Maybe we’ll celebrate with another picnic. I’ll wave my little flags right on up through the 4th of July.

Don’t forget to fly your own flag!

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