Friday, June 15, 2012

Stars and Stripes Forever

Today, June 14, is recognized as Flag Day by the government of the United States of America. Most people have no idea what Flag Day is or why it matters. I mean, c'mon... we have the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and other patriotic holidays. Why should we stop and celebrate Flag Day?

Commemorating the June 14, 1777, adoption of the flag of the United States, Flag Day became a holiday when President Woodrow Wilson declared it as such in 1916. It wasn't until 1949 that it was made national by an act of Congress. Interestingly enough, the only state to celebrate Flag Day as an official holiday is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The largest Flag Day celebration occurs in Troy, NY, and is capped off with a parade that regularly draws 50,000 spectators.

Pennsylvania has played a major part in the observance of Flag Day since it's very beginning. Mr. William T. Kerr founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888 and would remain its Chairman for more than 50 years. When President Truman signed the congressional act making Flag Day a holiday, Mr. Kerr was one of the people asked to witness the historic event.

Another, albeit legendary, tie of Flag Day to Pennsylvania occurred in 1908 when Theodore Roosevelt was dining near Philadelphia. A man at a neighboring table appeared to be blowing his nose with the flag. Upon seeing this, Roosevelt flew into a fit of anger and began to hit the man with a stick. Upon realizing it was just a star speckled handkerchief, and not the flag of our country, he hit the man once more for "riling him (Roosevelt) up with national pride."

Fraternal organizations have also played a major role in Flag Day. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, which is somewhat similar to Freemasonry but entirely unrelated, petitioned President Wilson to proclaim such a holiday. They had been celebrating the holiday on June 14 since 1907 and wanted it to become a more recognized observance. President Wilson cited their involvement as a major factor in making his decision to publicly proclaim June 14 as the official Flag Day of the United States. To this day, all Elks Lodges are required to have an official observance of Flag Day.

So, just what are you supposed to do on Flag Day? Each year the President makes a proclamation declaring  the week of June 14 as Flag Week. Americans are encouraged to fly the flag during this time period. Parades are also another popular way to celebrate. In Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia holds a ceremony at the house of Betsy Ross, the creator of the first American flag.

It is too late for 2012, but what is your Chapter going to do for Flag Day next year?

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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