6-14 Flag Day
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- Flag Day, June 14, is the least celebrated of all national observances. One reason is that it never has been declared an official holiday.
As we headed into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson tried but failed to get Congress to recognize the observance and make it a holiday.
Flag Day was slow in getting started and only picked up steam in the late 1800s when Americans became concerned about the flood of immigrants coming to our shores during a period of generous immigration policies, prompted by the need of burgeoning industries for cheap labor.
Sound familiar? The idea was to Americanize the children in the schools. Since most schools aren't in session in June anymore, observances in the schools have dwindled. Americanizing the younger generation hasn't been much of a problem anyway. They learn much more quickly than adults.
Flag days began in scattered communities around the nation and that is the way they still are observed. A check of the first 200 Flag Day Web sites Google gave me indicates a real hodgepodge of observances, with each Web site having its own agenda.
Flag Day is little enough recognized that many other organizations have their own Flag Day for completely different purposes. The Armed Forces have a Flag Day on a different date to raise money for needy veterans and active duty personnel. Donors are given a flag sticker to wear.
I found Red Cross sites raising money on different dates. And Flag Day means something completely different to bloggers, who want a specific day to identify and flag objectionable blogs.
Since stores don't really observe Flag Day, there are plenty of sites that sell specific Flag Day items. Many sites also have teaching materials for Flag Day.
A major problem with community Flag Day observances is that the day falls halfway between Memorial Day and July 4th, our nation's two biggest patriotic observances.
No wonder Congress hasn't wanted to make it a holiday. Not even the flag wavers have suggested it. They prefer to advocate a constitutional amendment banning flag burning.
Putting together the information from many Web sites, here is the comprehensive story of Flag Day that I had hoped to find all on one convenient Web site.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution designating the flag's design. Most modern historians think it unlikely Betsy Ross either suggested the design or stitched the first flag.
In 1861, the city of Hartford, Conn. held a Flag Day observance to indicate its hope that the Union could be preserved as the nation entered into a Civil War.
In 1877, Congress asked that all public buildings fly the flag on June 14 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the flag. It wasn't until 20 years later that New York became the first state to require that all public buildings fly the flag.
In 1885, a Wisconsin school teacher began an energetic campaign to get Congress to declare June 14 a national holiday. In 1888, a Pittsburgh schoolboy founded the American Flag Day Association. In 1889, the principal of a kindergarten for the poor in New York City, held ceremonies that attracted the attention of New York authorities.
In 1893, the Philadelphia Society of Colonial Dames convinced the city to display the flag on all city buildings. In 1937, Pennsylvania became the first and only state to declare June 14 a legal holiday.
Finally in 1949, during the early days of the Cold War, Congress approved the national observance and President Harry Truman signed it. Presidents sometimes mention Flag Day and occasionally issue proclamations.
But celebrations remain a local matter. Not surprisingly, all the localities listed above celebrate Flag Day and claim to be its founders.
Maybe adoption of our flag isn't sufficiently momentous. How about celebrating the adoption of our Constitution?
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org