By James Wright
Jun 14, 2013

Celebrating Flag Day

At age 12, I was invited by a friend to join his Scout troop. It was an active troop, with lots of games, hikes and short adventure trips in Southern California. One of the things that has been retained in  my memory was the flag ceremony that was part of each troop meeting. There were usually three flag bearers. They would march to the flag pole, one carrying the flag, folded in a precise triangular pattern. At the pole, two Scouts would carefully unfold and fully open the flag, before attaching it to a rope on a pulley. A coronet would then sound while the flag was hoisted, and as we would all salute.

At the end of the evening, the process would be reversed, the flag lowered, folded carefully into its’ triangular shape and marched from the flagpole.

In High School, the ROTC followed the same pattern at the beginning and end of each school day. In the courts in California, court sessions would frequently begin with the Judge entering the courtroom, the audience rising and the bailiff intoning “In the presence of the flag of the United States of America, and recognizing the principles for which it stands, this court is now in session.”

The community service club of which I am a part begins each meeting with a patriotic song and recitation of the flag salute.

As this is written, a gentle breeze catches the folds in the Flag of the United States of America which waves from its pole on my front lawn.

Today is Flag Day.

The concept of stars and stripes has been a consistent theme in Flags first flown in the 1770’s. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” On June 14, 1781,  the Stars and Stripes was officially adopted as the U.S. Flag.

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’.  On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City picked up the idea, prompting the New York Schools to follow his lead.  On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration and on June 14, 1892, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day. Many other organizations soon followed their example.

Flag Day – the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 – was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916.  August 3rd, 1949,  President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

I was struck by the words of Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, who 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.”

It would be easy to become a bit cynical about what  many of our fellow citizens have made of our flag.  Legislative actions, court cases, and public demonstrations have both vilified and glorified the flag’s significance. I like  to think of it as a symbol of both the national will and a celebration of the diversity in our nation.  I am proud to be a part of Scouting, an organization that teaches respect for that great emblem.

You can learn of the official rules on the treatment of the US Flag at http://usscouts.org/scoutduty/sd2gc90.asp.

Author: James L. Wright | Judge (Retired), Los Angeles Superior Court

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