June 14 – Flag Day in the USA

Americans celebrate Flag Day on June 14. On this day they honor the ideas that their nation’s flag stand for – freedom, liberty, and justice for all. On June 14, 1777, the United States adopted its first flag. Today Americans honor the U.S. flag each year on June 14. Flag Day is a national commemorative day.  It is not a holiday from work. Many people fly the flag outside their homes and business on this day.

The American flag has different names.  One name is “The Red, White and Blue”.  This name is for colors of the flag.  Another name is “The Stars and Stripes”.  This name is for the 50 stars and 13 stripes.

The flag did not always have 50 stars and 13 stripes.  In 1777, the original flag had 13 stars and 13 stripes for 13 colonies.  The 13 colonies became the first 13 states.  Then more states joined the United States.  In 1794, the flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes. Then more states joined.  This created a problem for the flag makers.  The flag was getting too big!  So in 1818, Congress decided to have only 13 stripes on the flag.  They decided to add one star for each new state. The number of stars changed many times.  From 1912 to 1959, there were 48 stars.  Then in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii joined the United States.  So now there are 50 stars on the flag.

The national anthem of the United States is about the flag.  It is “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  Francis Scott Key wrote this song in 1814.  People sing it at baseball games and other public events.

There are many rules about how to fly the flag.  But the rules don’t say anything about the size of the flag. In 1923, a store in Detroit, Michigan, made a huge U.S. flag.  It was 270 feet wide and 90 feet high (about 82 meters wide and 27 meters high).

Task 1. Fill in the blanks with words:

homes   Philadelphia    adopted    official     legend     organizations     parades     government        anniversary    observed     design   legal    fly   country     flag    Pennsylvania   displayed      holiday

In 1777, the Continental Congress (1) ____________ the Stars and Stripes as the (2) ____________ flag of the United States.  Flag Day was first officially (3) ____________ on June 14, 1877 on the 100th (4) ____________ of the selection of the flag.  Congress requested that all (5) ____________ buildings (6) ____________ the (7) ____________ on this day.

Flag Day is not a (8) ____________ holiday in any state except (9) ____________ (10)____________ says that Betsy Ross of (11) ____________ made the first flag according to the (12) ____________ adopted by the Continental Congress.

Although not a legal (13) ____________, special Flag Day observances are held throughout the (14)____________.  Flags are (15) ____________ on public buildings, businesses and (16)____________.  Some patriotic (17) ____________ hold


American Flag

National flags are not merely symbols of a country.  Their colors and designs convey past history and future goals.  Flags have powerful connotations.  They speak to the people and politicians. People of one country will burn the flag of another with whose politics they do not agree.  To show their anger, students display their own nation’s flags with the design altered or cut out completely.  Dictators fly flags; dissidents rip them down.  In every country of the world, the treatment of a flag displays an opinion or statement.

Americans take the treatment of their flag seriously, and in the 20th century this has become an important issue.  Included in the code of ethics are such rules as the national flag cannot be used for advertising.  It cannot cover a monument or any ceilings.  It must not be folded while being displayed.  No one should write on an American flag.  Ships can lower their flags slightly in greeting each other, but otherwise should not be dipped for any other object or person.

In the late 1960s, American students wore small flags sewn to the back of their jeans, symbolically insulting the American government and protesting its involvement in the Vietnam War.  They burned the American flag in front of the Capitol building in Washington as a statement of protest.  In the 1990s, senators suggested an amendment to the Constitution that would make this treatment of the flag illegal.  The proposition was opposed because many others felt that this change would be a violation of Americans’ constitutional rights to express their opinions freely. For all the controversy, it is interesting to point out that the United States did not even have a standardized flag until 1912! Called the “Stars and Stripes”, or “Old Glory”, the flag is one of the most complicated in the world.  No other flag needs 64 pieces of fabric to make.  The current flag has thirteen red and white alternating stripes (representing the original 13 states) and fifty stars (each star represents one of the states of the Union) on a blue background.

The American flag has also changed designs more than any other flag in the world.  The first flag, called the Grand Union was flown at the headquarters of the Continental Army on January 1, 1776.  Betsy Ross, a seamstress, is said to have contributed to this design. She had an upholstery business which made flags for navy ships in Pennsylvania.  A legend still persists that she showed George Washington how to make a five-pointed star, and suggested thirteen stars in a circle for the first flag.  Her descendants claimed that she offered the design.  Actually, she and George Washington never met!  George Washington did design the Grand Union, but an often-quoted remark might not be true: “We take the stars from the heaven, the red from our mother country, separate it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her…”

On June, 14, 1777, Congress proposed that the United States have a national flag instead of the British Union Jack.  The thirteen stars of the flag represented the thirteen new states.       There were few public ceremonies honoring the Stars and Stripes until 1877, when on June 14, it was flown from every government building in honor of the centennial of the adoption of a national flag.  Schools had unfurled American flags over their doors or outside the buildings long before this; but in 1890, North Dakota and New Jersey made a law that required their schools to fly the flag daily.

The first official Flag Day was observed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1893.  New York also proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day.  Other states were slow to follow.  Some people thought that the day was too close to Memorial Day and Independence Day. In August 1949, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day.  Since then, the President proclaims the commemoration yearly, and encourages all Americans in the country to display the  Stars and Stripes outside their homes and businesses.  Individual states determine how they will observe the day. Usually the flag is flown from all public buildings, speeches are made in public places, and ceremonies take place in towns and cities.

During the War of 1812 between the British and Americans, lawyer Francis Scott Key was escorting a prisoner to freedom by ship when he saw an American flag surviving a battle in Baltimore Harbor. The flag inspired him to write the poem which provides the words for the national anthem.  The actual flag now hangs in the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  Today the “Star-Spangled Banner” is sung at large public gatherings such as sport events.  Many television stations play the anthem before the station closes down for the night.

The Pledge of Allegiance

In 1890 James Upham, a man who lived in Boston, felt people were not respectful of the flag.  He asked schoolchildren all over the country to earn money to buy a flag to fly over their school.  The children worked hard at their task.  Within a year 30,000 schools in America had “Old Glory” on display! When the country announced that they would observe the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America, Mr.  Upham felt they should have a special pledge to the nation and flag honoring the occasion.  He hoped it would last longer than just the day of celebration. He went to his friend Francis Bellamy and asked him to help write a pledge.  After working for a long time the two men completed the pledge in August of 1892.  They waited until Columbus Day of that year to recite it in public.  Everybody liked it! Fifty years later, on 1942, when America was at war, it was adopted by Congress as the official pledge.  At that time they also adopted the proper courtesy toward the flag; standing respectfully with the right hand over the heart while repeating the pledge.

Elementary schoolchildren across the nation make The Pledge of Allegiance in front of the flag every weekday morning:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God.
Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

Sing a Song!  “America the Beautiful”

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plain.

America, America, God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

O beautiful for patriot dream,
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears.

America, America, God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress,
A thoroughfare for freedom beat,
Across the wilderness.

America, America, God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.