In memory of the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States, the president proclaims June 14 as Flag Day every year. Americans respond by displaying the flag and holding other patriotic demonstrations.
The most widely known symbol of a nation is its flag – a piece of cloth with a picture or design that represents something special about that nation. In the United States, that flag, of course, is the Stars and Stripes.
Every part of the flag’s design represents an American ideal. The red, white, and blue colors are symbolic of the American spirit – red for hardiness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for perseverance and justice. The 13 red and white stripes stand for the original 13 colonies. And the stars represent the 50 states.
For more than 200 years, the Stars and Stripes has flown over the United States in good times and in bad. Created during the Revolutionary War, the flag has changed as the nation has changed, but the ideals for which it stands have not.
Honoring the Stars and Stripes
In 1942, Congress adopted the Flag Code – a set of rules governing the use and treatment of the U.S. flag. The code is based on the principle that the flag should be honored and respected as a symbol of the nation it represents. Here are just a few of the rules to give you an idea of how we are to treat our national flag:
The U.S. flag should be displayed every day except when weather conditions might damage it. It is customarily displayed from sunrise to sunset but can be flown 24 hours a day. It should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
When flown with a group of flags other than national flags on separate staffs, the U.S. flag must be in the center and higher than the others.
If there are other national flags being displayed, they should be flown on separate staffs of the same height and of the same size as the U.S. flag.
During times of mourning, raise the flag to its peak then lower it to half-mast. Raise it to peak again before lowering it at the end of the day.
When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
At no time should the U.S. flag touch the ground, the floor, or anything beneath it.
The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
Discarding the flag
When a flag is no longer usable, the most dignified way to destroy it is to burn it. But burning a flag that is still fit for display is considered a sign of political protest. It’s also the subject of much debate. Research the issue of flag-burning. Then write a newspaper opinion piece, editorial, letter to the editor, editorial cartoon, column that summarizes your thoughts about this issue.
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Information and activities are from KRP’s Ultimate Holiday Activity Guide and Patriotism tab distributed by the NIE Institute.