On Sunday, June 14th, we celebrate Flag Day. Sometimes it seems like a “forgotten” holiday, as children are not in school to learn about this day, and while we see it on the calendar or look at an ad from a store that is having a sale, many people do not know much about the history of Flag Day.
Throughout our nation’s history our Flag has meant so much. Frances Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star Spangled Banner” as he watched the 15 stars and 15 stripes fly over Fort McHenry. The flag has been carried into many battles throughout our Country’s history. We think of the statue of Iwo Jima and what it meant to those men during World War II. An exciting time that many of us remember was when it was placed on the moon. The Pledge is said by school children at the start of their day and at the beginning of many meetings. It flies proudly on poles in front of and on buildings all over our country. Many of you fly it in front of your homes. We see it in marching units in parades. Isn’t it only fitting that we have a special day dedicated to our flag?
In 1885 a teacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin thought an annual day specifically for the Flag of the United States would be appropriate. Teacher BJ Cigrand arranged for students to observe the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of our Stars and Stripes. This teacher continued to advocate the observance of June 14th as “Flag Day” or “Flag Birthday” the following years in numerous magazines, newspaper articles and in public addresses.
Around the same time (1889), George Balch, who was a kindergarten teacher in New York City planned ceremonies for the children at his school. Later his idea of celebrating Flag Day was adopted by the State Board of Education of New York.
By 1893 groups in Philadelphia were pushing for Flag Day to be observed by school children. So, on June 14th of that year school children were celebrating by carrying small flags, singing patriotic songs and listening to speeches.
The next year New York’s governor gave the directive that on June 14th our Flag was to be displayed on all public buildings. That year as well (1894), an Illinois organization called the American Flag Day Association was started with the purpose of promoting the holding of “Flag Day Exercises”. More than 300,000 children participated in five of Chicago’s Parks.
Adults started participating in patriotic programs as well. After three decades of state and local celebrations Flag Day, June 14th, the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 became official with a Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. However, even though Flag Day was celebrated across the nation in communities, it was not until August 3rd of 1949 that President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress which designated June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
As you go about your routines on June 14th, pause for a moment to think about what the flag means to you and to our Country. Think about those who have fought proudly and bravely to defend it. Take a moment to say the pledge, if only silently to yourself.
Happy Flag Day!