Edwin Meese: In most countries, you have a monarch or some other principal person to whom its officers and its military swear their allegiance. Our officials in this country and our military swear allegiance to the Constitution. We say that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Do you know what today is? If you live in Pennsylvania, you have the day off from work today and your mail won’t be delivered. Flag Day is a legal holiday in only the Keystone State and, at least for today, don’t we all wish we lived there?
What do we know about the American flag? We all remember that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag, but she didn’t get credit for it until 1776, almost 40 years after her death. The colors were intentionally chosen: red for valor, white for purity, and blue for justice.
Many Americans are now celebrating Flag Day year-round. For proof, just check out all the paraphernalia online imprinted with the Stars and Stripes: hats, towels, bumper stickers, household goods. Recently, a teen in Omaha made headlines when we created a flag using more than 680,000 plastic red, white and blue bricks.
Time magazine states that this hasn’t always been the case. Most Americans used to see the flag as little more than a marker for government buildings and military installations. After the United States approved its flag design in 1777, it took nearly a century for civilians to get excited about the idea.
When the Civil War began in 1861, the flag suddenly gained a new level of importance. Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography, states: “It has been said that when the flag came down in Fort Sumter, it went up everywhere in the north–almost like magic.” When the war ended, the flag became a symbol of the effort to reconcile both sides.
With advances in printing and mass production, the flag began appearing on national products and advertisements. The support for the Stars and Stripes was bolstered by the 1931 selection of “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem and the 1970s adoption of the flag lapel pin by politicians.