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The Meaning of the Stars and Stripes

“What are you doing to celebrate Flag Day?”

It’s a question you probably won’t hear in the checkout line at the grocery store or around the dinner table with friends this week.

That’s because, unlike other hallmark holidays of summertime—Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day—Flag Day isn’t always celebrated with grand gestures, gatherings, or parades. More often it passes by with perfunctory commemorations at best. At worst, it is all but forgotten.

Yet it wasn’t meant to be that way. When Congress approved and President Harry Truman signed the national observance of Flag Day into law on June 14, 1949, it was for an important reason: “It is our custom to observe June 14 each year with ceremonies designed not only to commemorate the birth of our flag,” Truman said, “but also to rededicate ourselves to the ideals for which it stands. This beloved emblem, which flies above all our people of whatever creed or race, signalizes our respect for human rights and the protection such rights are afforded under our form of government.”

Truman’s words cut right to the heart of this holiday. Our flag is far more than fabric stitched together in stars and stripes. She is a tangible symbol of our national identity, reminding us of who we are, and how far we’ve come.

I wrote a salute to “Old Glory,” which hangs on the wall in my office in Washington, D.C. In part, it reads:

Today, as we pledge our loyalty to this flag,
Think about what she has stood for, think about where she has been.

From the home of Betsy Ross, to the streets of Concord, to the fields of Gettysburg.
From the rocks of Iwo Jima, to the Tundra of Korea, to the jungles of Vietnam,
And the deserts of the Middle East.

She has stood in your front yards, and she has stood on the moon.
She has been sadly placed over coffins, and proudly raised at the Olympics.

This is our flag—a symbol revered and cheered for. Battled and bled for. Both an embodiment of the collective struggles and triumphs of a nation over centuries and a symbol of the individual sacrifice of each man or woman who has fought and died beneath her stripes and stars.

See the full story here.

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