The 4th of July is celebrated in many ways such as picnics, a day at the beach, parades, fireworks displays, and the flying of the American flag by many of our citizens. With all of these and more we celebrate the birth of our nation with the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Last Thursday through the weekend was one big party for many Americans even if they just stayed home and had a bar-b-q in their back yard.
The center of most of these events is our red white and blue flag. It is emblazoned on clothing, decorations, and even beer cans. There have been controversies over the use of the flag, whether or not it is a racist symbol, and if it is legal to burn the flag in protest. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the origin and history of our nation’s symbol.
I have mentioned before that I am a member of the Eugene Downtown Lions Club and one of the club’s programs that I work on in the category of patriotism is called “Flags For First Graders.” I recently submitted a story to the “Oregon Lion” which is the state Lions publication. I’ll use part of that article show you how this works.
“Giving American flags to first grade students is a very rewarding Lions Club program. This year I visited three schools – Awbrey Park Elementary School, Howard Elementary School, and O’Hara Catholic School. I always start off by introducing myself and and explaining, in simple terms, what out Lions Club does.Then I explain the origin of of out flag and tell them about the part Betsy Ross played in the history of our flag. The one fact that seems to surprise them the most is is that originally a stripe was added for each state that joined the union. When they got to 15 states they realized the flag would be too cumbersome with that many stripes, so they decided to add only stars when a new state was admitted into the union. Two of the three schools have me do the presentation separately for each of their three first grade classes.
I have been privileged to participate in this program for many years representing the Eugene Downtown Lions Club. Actually it has been over 15 years now. It is heartwarming having contact with first graders who are excited to learn more about the origin of ‘Old Glory’ and to discuss the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. When I stand in front of these eager youngsters it is great to see their faces light up when they realize they will be taking home their own American flag, wooden block stand, and the booklet discussing the Pledge and the history of the flag.
I explain the words in the Pledge of Allegiance referring back to my childhood and what we thought the words meant. Passing out the flags is a real thrill when you see there excitement when they say a polite ‘Thank you’ and take their flag sets back to their desks. In this day-and-age of political correctness and the ‘world view’ it is good to instill some pride for our country and the flag that represents it into the upcoming generation that will eventually be the leaders of this great nation.” My presentation is non-political centering on the simple historical information.
Some other flag facts are a little too detailed for the first grade presentations. The Smithsonian Institution website lists the timeline for the particulars involving the flag. Here is a brief summary of their facts. This first one really surprised me. There were no official rules concerning the dimensions of the flag or the arrangement of the stars until the Executive Order of June 24, 1912. The Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 stated and I quote “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Here is where the stripe problem arose. The Act of January 13, 1794 provided for fifteen stripes and fifteen stars after May of 1775. That wasn’t fixed until the Act of April 4, 1818 which Provided for thirteen stripes and one star for each state to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state. The rest of the changes were Presidential Executive Orders ruling on the arrangement of the stars as more states were added.
As flawed as our nation can be we have one of the only forms of government that has stood the test of time. This is my only political comment and that is we really need to get our branches of government to work together and stop the fighting over who is right. Both houses of Congress need to find a way to at least begin to compromise and get the work of “the people” done properly. As Abraham Lincoln said ” A house divided cannot stand.”
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected]