If you own a serviceable U.S. flag, Thursday is the day to fly it: It’s Flag Day.
The day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the Flag Resolution by the Continental Congress in 1777, with 13 stripes and 13 stars representing “a new constellation.”
It was made a national observance by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, but has been commemorated in Illinois as far back as 1894, when Chicago’s public schools held the first Flag Day celebration, with more than 300,000 children participating.
Of course, a lot of people will be flying the flag Thursday anyway because they do it all the time.
Few free countries in the world display their national symbol with the fervor Americans do. It flies outside homes, along highways and outside public and private buildings.
Few symbols have been better traveled and more revered than the star-spangled banner.
The U.S. flag has been the center of countless iconic images in history. George Washington carried it across the Delaware River. The Marines raised it at Iwo Jima. Six times, astronauts have raised it on the moon.
Those of us who lived through the difficult days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks remember well how our flag became a rallying point.
Thomas Franklin’s photo of three New York City firefighters raising the flag above the World Trade Center site is an iconic image of America’s resiliency and determination in the face of hardship.
Although many have fought and died to defend what the flag represents, it is not merely a martial symbol.
It’s a part of our popular culture, with patterns and imagery evoking it visible everywhere, from iconic movies such as “Easy Rider” to everyday items such as swimsuits and uniforms of sports teams.
The flag may symbolize different things to different people, but it is unique in that most Americans share positive thoughts and feelings about it.
While other countries might have a monarch, a thousand years of history or even a dictator to symbolize their country, our flag symbolizes our values and identity as Americans.
In a country where we often are divided on political matters, we can unite around the values that the flag symbolizes: of the basic rights of people as individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So fly the flag Thursday, and remember that although we tend to focus on our differences, it’s what we hold in common as Americans that matters most.