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Celebrate Our Nation’s Flag on Flag Day

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto urges residents to remember what he calls “America’s most unique holiday,” Flag Day, June 14, and to take the occasion to celebrate our nation’s most glorious symbol.

“To my knowledge, the United States is still the only country that has a special day set aside to celebrate its flag,” Supervisor Venditto said. “Unfortunately, many Americans don’t know that we have a special day, designated to celebrate our nation’s flag. Being a history buff, I always like sharing the genesis of Flag Day because it brings the occasion into focus.

 

“B.J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin school teacher, is generally credited with originating the idea of a specific day to celebrate our flag,” Supervisor Venditto said. “In 1885, he arranged for the students in his school district to observe June 14th, the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes, as ‘Flag Birthday.’ Following that observance, Cigrand continued to promote ‘Flag Birthday’ or ‘Flag Day’ in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and public speeches.

“One of the people who was moved by Cigrand’s idea was George Balch, a New York City kindergarten teacher. On April 25, 1889, he led a Flag Day ceremony for students at his school. Subsequently, the New York City Board of Education incorporated the observance of Flag Day into the school calendar. One by one, other organizations and institutions in New York State and Pennsylvania also began observing Flag Day.

“Another important milestone in the development of Flag Day took place in Philadelphia. At the suggestion of Colonel J. Granville Leach, the then historian of the Pennsylvania Sons of the Revolution, the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America adopted a resolution on April 25, 1893, requesting the Mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority, as well as private citizens, to display the flag on June 14,” Supervisor Venditto said. “Leach also recommended that, thereafter, the day be known as ‘Flag Day’ and that school children be assembled for appropriate ceremonies with each child given a small flag. On May 8, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Sons of the Revolution endorsed the action of the Colonial Dames, which prompted Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edward Brooks to direct that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14 in Independence Square. School children, each carrying a small flag, were assembled, patriotic songs were sung and speeches were delivered.

“In 1894, the Governor of New York, Roswell P. Flower, directed that on June 14, the flag be displayed on all public buildings. With B.J. Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, an Illinois organization known as the American Flag Day Association was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. Under the auspices of this organization, the Chicago School District held the first general public school celebration of Flag Day on June 14, 1898, with more than 300,000 children participating.”

The supervisor went on to say that in the ensuing years, the observance of Flag Day remained informal, although more public officials began encouraging Flag Day activities. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Flag Day proclamation, but it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, that President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day.

“I doubt our forefathers ever dreamed that the flag they approved would become not only our nation’s defining symbol, but one recognized around the world,” Supervisor Venditto stated. “It is the true standard that represents the highest ideals of American democracy. In the words of President Woodrow Wilson, “”The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.”