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Flag Day and National Flag Week, 2005

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Posted: June 13, 2005 > Learn about our flag    

(AP/WWP Chitose Suzuki)
An American flag flies on the USS Constitution, while she sails the annual Fourth of July Turnaround Cruise in Boston harbor
For more than two centuries, the flag of the United States has been a symbol of hope and pride. The flag has inspired our citizens during times of conflict and comforted us during moments of sorrow and loss. On Flag Day and throughout National Flag Week, we celebrate the proud legacy of Old Glory and reflect on this enduring symbol of freedom.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating 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." As States have been added to the Union, the flag has been modified to reflect their addition to our Nation. Today, the appearance of our flag is based on President Eisenhower's Executive Order of August 21, 1959, to include a star for all 50 States together with 13 stripes representing the original 13 American colonies.

Generations of Americans in uniform have carried the Stars and Stripes into battle so that our citizens can live in freedom. Across the globe, a new generation of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen has stepped forward to serve under our flag, defending America from our enemies. We are grateful to them and their families for defending our flag and the values of our great Nation.

On this Flag Day, we recall the rich history of Old Glory, and we remember our duty to carry our heritage of freedom into the future.

To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by joint resolution approved August 3, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as "Flag Day" and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings. The Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, as amended (80 Stat. 194), that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as "National Flag Week" and calling upon all citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2005, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 12, 2005, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by flying the Stars and Stripes from their homes and other suitable places. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-ninth.

GEORGE W. BUSH

 

The Origins of Flag Day

The early history of the U.S. flag and Flag Day is a matter of debate. Both President Wilson, in 1916, and President Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn't until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman signed it into law.

"That the flag of the United States shall be of thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation."

This was the resolution adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The resolution was made following the report of a special committee which had been assigned to suggest the flag's design.

A flag of this design was first carried into battle on September 11, 1777, in the Battle of the Brandywine. The American flag was first saluted by foreign naval vessels on February 14, 1778, when the Ranger, bearing the Stars and Stripes and under the command of Captain Paul Jones, arrived in a French port.

Tradition dictates that the first flag of this design was made by Mrs. John Ross, better known as Betsy Ross, of Philadelphia. Although the original design called for six-point stars, when the final product appeared, the stars were five pointed. It is unclear whether the idea of the five-point stars came from Betsy Ross, who was said to have found this pattern easier to sew, or General George Washington, who preferred the five-point stars as more dignified.

Observance of the adoption of the flag was not soon in coming, however. Although there are many claims to the first official observance of Flag Day, all took place more than an entire century after the flag's adoption in 1777.

The most recognized claim comes from New York. On June 14, 1889, Professor George Bolch, principal of a free kindergarten for the poor of New York City, had his school hold patriotic ceremonies to observe the anniversary of the Flag Day resolution. This initiative attracted attention from the State Department of Education, which arranged to have the day observed in all public schools thereafter.

Soon the state legislature passed a law making it the responsibility of the state superintendent of public schools to ensure that schools hold observances for Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day and Flag Day. In 1897, the governor of New York ordered the displaying of the flag over all public buildings in the state, an observance considered by some to be the first official recognition of the anniversary of the adoption of the flag outside of schools.

Another claim comes from Philadelphia. In 1893, the Society of Colonial Dames succeeded in getting a resolution passed to have the flag displayed on all of the city's public buildings. Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin and the president of the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania, that same year tried to get the city to call June 14 Flag Day. Resolutions by women were not granted much notice, however, and it was not until May 7, 1937, that Pennsylvania became the first state to establish the June 14 Flag Day as a legal holiday.

Bernard J. Cigrand, a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, reportedly spent years trying to get Congress to declare June 14 as a national holiday. Although his attempts failed, the day was widely observed. "Father of Flag Day" honors have been given to William T. Kerr, who was credited with founding the American Flag Day Association in 1888 while still a schoolboy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Both President Wilson, in 1916, and President Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn't until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman signed it into law.

From Social Studies, May/June, 1996
(This article is in the Public Domain)

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