On Thursday, June 14, Macon County veterans, community leaders, and citizens gathered at the Junaluskee Masonic Lodge to celebrate Flag Day. Although President Woodrow Wilson first declared June 14 as Flag Day in 1916 nearly a century ago with a proclamation, the holiday often gets overlooked in terms of significance to most Americans.
Flag Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Flag in 1777. Although it is not a national holiday and banks are still open, and businesses don't close their doors to honor the day, it is still a recognized holiday. All around the country, there may not have been fireworks or any time off from work, or in fact, there may not be have been any celebration at all, but in Macon County citizens stopped, if only for a moment, to recognize what a staple of our nation’s identity the American Flag has always been.
Congressional hopeful Hayden Rogers spoke at the event as one of two guest speakers. Instead of focusing on the history of the holiday, Rogers spoke to the importance of the symbolism of the American flag.
“The American flag is an enduring symbol of our country. Our flag embodies our history and conveys our future goals and ideals as a nation,” said Rogers. “The American flag tells the story of our 13 original colonies compromising to resolve their differences and coming together as one to achieve a more perfect union. Our flag symbolizes the core values that continue to make the United States the greatest country in the world. It also represents the sacrifices our troops are making today and generations of Americans before them have made to protect those values.”
In addition to highlighting the importance of the American Flag and what each star and stripe represents, Rogers noted that Flag Day is an important day in American history,
“Today, as we honor our flag and celebrate our independence and freedom, there are many lessons we can learn looking back at the history of our flag that can be applied to the state of our nation today,” said Rogers.
“America has always had its struggles, militarily, economically, and politically. But we have always had the resolve to triumph by standing together in the face of adversity. As a nation, we are experiencing many great challenges today. These challenges do not have simple or easy solutions. But I am confident that we will once again triumph, and we will work together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, to overcome these challenges and continue to preserve the greatness of our nation.”
County Commissioner Ronnie Beale was the second guest speaker at the Flag Day event, and after speaking to the history of the holiday, spoke to its importance. “Flag Day isn’t simply about honoring a particular design on a cloth. It is more about taking time to reflect on our freedoms and the principles of our great nation ... for which that flag stands,” said Beale. “The flag is a reminder of who we are.”
According to Beale, the flag is more than just a symbol of American heritage, it is a symbol of what the United States was founded on and what it was intended to offer all people.
“America is not only the land of the free; it is the land of opportunity. The flag represents all that America has to offer,” said Beale. “It is our hope. Thousands of Americans and many from Macon County have raised their right hand and sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. All Americans who put their right hand over their heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance take that same oath. Both the oath and the pledge are taken in the presence of Old Glory to emphasize that our flag is the symbol of our Constitution.”
Beale also charged citizens with continuing to protect the flag and what it means to America. “In America it is illegal to burn trash, but we can burn the flag. It is illegal to remove a label from a mattress, but we can literally rip the stars and stripes right off of our flag. It is illegal to damage a mailbox, but we can destroy our flag. A people that do not honor and respect their flag is a people that do not honor and respect their country nor their neighbor. Let us never forget that the flag belongs to “We, the People,” and the people want the Stars and Stripes protected.”
History of Flag Day
Although President Wilson officially proclaimed Flag Day as a holiday on May 30 1916, the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, 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.”
On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.
Following the suggestion of Colonel J. Granville Leach (at the time historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America on April 25, 1893 adopted a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14. Leach went on to recommend 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.
Two weeks later on May 8, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames. As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893, in Independence Square. School children 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. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14, 1894, under the auspices of this association, the first general public school children’s celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, 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 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
Former Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane in a 1914 Flag Day address thought that if the flag could talk, it would say:
“I am whatever you make me, nothing more.”
“I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become.”
“I live a changing life, a life of moods and passions, of heartbreaks and tired muscles.”
“Sometimes I am strong with pride, when people do an honest work, fitting the rails together truly.”
“Sometimes I droop, for then purpose has gone from me, and cynically I play the coward.”
“Sometimes I am loud, garrish and full of ego that blasts judgment.”
“But always, I am all that you hope to be, and have the courage to try for,”
“I am song and fear, struggle and panic, and eternal hope.”
“I am the day’s work of the weakest man and the largest dream of the most daring.”
“I am the Constitution and the courts, statutes, soldier, cook, counselor and clerk.”
“I am the battle of yesterday and the mistake of tomorrow.”
“I am the mystery of the men who do without knowing why.”
“I am the clutch of an idea and the reasoned purpose of resolution.”
“I am no more than what you believe me to be and I am all that you believe I can be.”
“I am what you make me; nothing more.”
“I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color a symbol of yourself, the pictured suggestion of that big thing which makes this nation. My stars and my stripes are your dreams and your labors, They are bright with cheer, brilliant with courage, firm with faith, because you have made them so out of your hearts; for you are the makers of the Flag, and it is well that you glory in the making.”