LEGISLATIVE COLUMN By State Representative C.B. Embry, Jr.
Flag Day: Celebrating an Important Symbol of Freedom, Democracy: "Our flag says, ‘I am what you make me, nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself.” – Franklin K. Lang, Secretary of the Interior speaking at a Flag Day Ceremony, 1914.
On June 14th we will mark a holiday that is sometimes overlooked: Flag Day. It was on that date in 1777 the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States of America. The flag began as an important symbol of our forefathers’ desire for a country that was free from the tyranny of England, and to establish a government for the people by the people.
Roughly 140 years later, in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing June 14th as Flag Day and in 1949 Congress passed legislation establishing a National Flag Day. But before it was established as a holiday, many Americans led celebrations of the flag and also in its defense as a representation of our country.
The earliest recorded celebration of a Flag Day was in 1861, when George Morris suggested that the city of Hartford, Connecticut on June 14th in honor of the flag’s adoption for our country. That event was important for not only celebrating the flag but also for those praying for the preservation of the Union in the face of the upcoming Civil War.
History also records that in 1908, former President Theodore Roosevelt was in Philadelphia when he saw what he thought was a man wiping his nose on an American flag. Legend has it that Roosevelt became so angry he took a small wooden rod and began whipping the man for quote “defacing the symbol of America.” After hitting the man a few times, supposedly Roosevelt noticed that the man had been wiping his nose on a blue handkerchief with white stars. The former President apologized, but allegedly hit the man one more time for riling up Roosevelt’s national pride.
Like us, the world sometimes associates our flag with the idea of freedom and the fight against suppression of them by their leaders. In places like Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Normandy, and Iraq the flag has flown proudly over troops who fought and died to bring the freedom we enjoy to those who desire it for themselves. No better picture of our flag’s symbol of freedom can be given then in Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner,” which he wrote after witnessing the all-night bombardment of Fort McHenry by British forces in 1812, and then awoke the next morning to see the American flag still flying over the fort.
While we celebrate Flag Day on June 14th, the entire week is observed as National Flag Week which encourages all Americans to fly the flag outside their homes for the duration of the week. I ask that you join me in flying the American flag proudly this week, and to remember what it symbolizes for us and those around the world who desire nothing more than freedom.