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Op-Ed: Old Glory gets celebration of its own today

Service members salute the American flag during a retreat ceremony Oct. 2, 2014, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The four military members represented each branch of the U.S. military and assembled to show solidarity. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)
June 14, 2018
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You don’t have to wait to unfurl an American flag that’s ready for the annual July 4 celebration of our nation’s independence. You can bring it out today for the annual June 14 celebration of our nation’s flag itself.

Today is Flag Day — not a day to take off from work or school, but a notable one nonetheless. Its first celebration came before Washington gained both statehood and its status as the 42nd star in Old Glory’s field of blue.

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. Cigrand laid out a 38-star flag on the desk of his Fredonia, Wis., schoolroom and assigned students to write an essay on the flag and its meaning. The next year, Cigrand wrote his own essay in the now-defunct Chicago Argus newspaper titled “The Fourteenth of June.”

There is a reason for the particular date. On June 14, 1777, almost a year after the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate every July, the Continental Congress adopted a flag designed by Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey congressman and signer of the Declaration.

While the colonists sought to distance themselves from the mother country of England, they didn’t discard everything; Hopkinson took the red, white and blue from the British Union Jack. But America did declare its flag-design independence with the Stars and Stripes — stars representing states and stripes the 13 original colonies.

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The decades-long advocacy by the Wisconsin teacher eventually led to a 1916 proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson calling for a national flag day. Congress did act, but it took awhile — actually, about 30 years. It wasn’t until 1949 that President Harry Truman signed into law the designation of June 14 as National Flag Day.

Today is a day to unfurl Old Glory — now with 50 stars, of course — and fly it proudly as a symbol of the nation that it represents.

• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.

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© 2018 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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