June 14, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Flag Day

On June 14, 1777, the Stars and Stripes officially became the flag of our great nation. It wasn't until the late 1800s, however, that the day started to become celebrated as a day specifically dedicated to our flag. At that time, schoolteacher BJ Cigrand and his pupils (in, appropriately, the "Fredonia" school district in Wisconsin) marked the day as "Flag Birthday." This occasion caught on in other schools over subsequent years, and eventually became recognized statewide in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Finally, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day, and in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day.

But just what does our flag stand for? What does it mean? Though the obvious answers might be "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the flag surely symbolizes different things to different people. To me, as a military veteran, it stands for pride: pride in my great country, pride in the great things that our Constitution makes possible, pride in the diversity and opportunity that is available to all Americans. To some immigrants, it might represent something more akin to what the flag meant to our country's founders: freedom from tyranny, freedom from oppression, freedom of self-determination. And, even to some, the flag might be viewed as kindling to ignite the fire of the First Amendment.

In light of the recent war in Iraq, and the liberation of the Iraqi people from a ruthless dictatorship, the ideals embodied by our flag seem to be larger than just our own country. Fang Jue, a visiting scholar at Harvard and an exile from China, perhaps summed it up best in an editorial in the Boston Globe yesterday. In describing what it felt like to celebrate his first Flag Day in America after being banished from his own country earlier this year, he said "it may no longer be enough to celebrate freedom in our part of the globe while ignoring its brutal suppression elsewhere."

Whatever the flag means to you, I hope you take a moment to reflect on it, and to appreciate the freedoms we all enjoy as American citizens.

 

©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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June Columns:

6/30: Halfway There
6/27: 28 Days Later
6/26: I Am a Racist
6/24: America the Obese
6/23: Reality TV Sells
6/20: June Gloom
6/18: Hatch's Hollywood Hacking
6/16: Qualcomm Stadium
6/15: Happy Father's Day
6/14: Flag Day
6/13: Friday the 13th
6/12: Extreme
6/9: Spammed
6/8: Lack of PLANning
6/7: When Grass Attacks
6/4: Culture Shock
6/1: The Baja 500
Previous months in The Archive

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