Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the “Stars and Stripes” as the official flag of the United States of America on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress, making it the third oldest of all national standards of the world(1). Its 13 stripes represent the original colonies, the 50 stars each state. The three colors, (strictly defined), originating from the Great Seal, also represent certain virtues. Dark red signifies zeal and valor or courage; white, hope, purity and innocence; navy blue, loyalty, perseverance and justice.
Regarding the symbolism of the flag, it has been said that George Washington remarked: “We take the stars from Heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing Liberty.” These words would prove prophetic.
To Americans, and to the world really, the flag is a symbol of national sovereignty, self-governance and individual liberty – the ideals and principles on which this country was founded:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”(2)
The flag conveys not only this country’s past history, but its optimism for the future, as well as its goals. It epitomizes American idealism and has remained a shining beacon of hope to those oppressed. The flag was designed with consideration and purpose to convey the principles for which Americans have stood for, fought for, sacrificed for and died for.
It is worthy to honor this symbol of America and all that it represents. At the same time, it would also do us well to thank God for His blessings on this country and for the bountiful gifts America has to offer, and pray these blessings and gifts are not foolishly squandered.
Some interesting facts about the American flag:
- “Old Glory” is a nickname bestowed by American sea captain William Driver in the 1820s; the name became widespread by the 1830s. It also refers to an actual flag (24 stars, 13 stripes) owned by Driver, given to him by his mother. It measures 10 ft. x 17 ft., is constructed of heavy material designed to be flown from a ship’s mast. The original Old Glory is on display at the Smithsonian.
- The current 50-star flag has been in use for the longest duration – 55 years, since July 4, 1960. To date, the flag has been changed 27 times as more states joined the Union.
- When folded properly, the U.S. flag is shaped like a triangle with only the stars showing and usually takes 13 folds.
- France was the first foreign nation to officially recognize the new American flag in 1777.
- On the first U.S. flag, the stars were displayed in a circle so that no one state would be above another.
- On Memorial Day, the official/appropriate flag flying protocol is to fly the flag at half-staff until noon.
- The flag’s official colors are: Old Glory Red, White and Old Glory Blue (per the U.S. Department of State). Their HTML codes and Pantone equivalents can be found on the State Department’s style guide.
- Prior to 1912, when strict guidelines were implemented on the correct creation of the American flag, the size and placement of the stars in the union was left up to the flag maker to determine.
- The current version of the American flag was designed by 18-year old high school student, Robert Heft in 1958 as a school project. He received a “B-” for his efforts. Unhappy with this grade, he and his teacher agreed that if his design was adopted by the U.S. Congress, the grade would be reconsidered. Heft’s design was chosen and adopted by proclamation of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1959. Heft’s grade for his school project was changed to an “A”.
- And for those who are curious: the oldest national standard in the world is the flag of Denmark, adopted in 1370 (possibly earlier); the second oldest is the flag of the Netherlands, adopted in 1572.
1History of the Flag, http://www.usacitylink.com/usa/history-of-the-flag/
2Declaration of Independence