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It’s a Gray Area:

Join me in celebrating our country’s flag

June 13, 2009|By James P. Gray

Our country’s flag is the symbol of our country and our freedoms, and in many ways it is a large part of our daily lives. On June 14, 1777, Congress passed an act adopting a flag with 13 horizontal stripes, alternating red and white, with red on the top and bottom, and 13 white stars on a field of blue, to be our country’s standard. And so every year on June 14, which happens to be today, we celebrate Flag Day.

Our “Stars and Stripes” is one of the oldest national flags in the world, even older than the Union Jack of Great Britain or the Tricolor of France. It was designed by a committee chaired by Ben Franklin, after consultations with George Washington as the head of the Army, and first unfurled publicly by Washington himself Jan. 2, 1776.

The colors of the flag are frequently seen as representing the very character of our nation. The white in the flag is said to be a living symbol of our country being the “land of liberty.” The red signifies the courage and sacrifices of the nation’s defenders, and the blue represents the loyalty and unity of our citizens.

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As new states were added to the union, the number of both the stars and the stripes was increased accordingly. But in April 1818, Congress passed an act providing that the flag should revert to the original 13 stripes, but that a star should be added the next July 4 after the admittance of any new state into the Union.

The guidelines about how to display and use the flag were haphazard all the way until July 7, 1976, when Congress passed the Federal Flag Code. This contains eight sections and multiple subsections describing how, when, and where the flag should be displayed, honored, handled and eventually disposed.

Some of the most interesting regulations for the flag are that it can only be displayed between sunrise and sunset, unless it is properly illuminated during all of hours of darkness, and not displayed at all during inclement weather unless it is an all-weather flag. It should also be raised briskly, but lowered ceremoniously, and should be displayed on the main administration building of every public institution, and on every schoolhouse.

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