Pete's Article from the June 2000 "Eagle Hills Word"

"A Day for Old Glory "

On June 14th let us all stand up and take our hats off to the symbol of our great nation, the American flag! With a history and tradition that is unparalleled anywhere, "Old Glory", as she has become to be known as, still stands there and waves to remind us of our liberty and freedom. No other symbol in the world is as recognizable as our flag.

Ever wonder how all this came about. It surely didn't happen overnight. How then did a red white an blue rectangular piece of cloth become so respected and honored throughout the free world?

Flags are old, they have been used for more than 5,000 years to represent families, tribes, cities, monarchs or religions. One of the oldest flags ever found is a small metallic flag from the ancient city of Khabis in eastern Iran dated to 3000 B.C. One of the earliest historical mentions of flags is of a Chinese emperor in 1122 B.C. who had a white banner carried before him wherever he went. Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations marched to war under flag-like emblems, often bearing representations of their gods such as eagles, owls, bulls, tortoises or the legendary Pegasus.

Yet, flags as a national symbol are relatively new. They first started appearing around the 17th century, with one of the earliest being the flag of Great Britain created in 1606. Many of today's flags-including our Old Glory came out of nationalist movements and revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.  After July 4, 1776, the people of the colonies felt the need of a national flag to symbolize their new spirit of unity and independence: "Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field.  The significance of the colors was defined thus: "White signifies Purity and Innocence; Red, Hardiness and Valor; Blue. Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice."

Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Continental Congress is credited with having designed the American flag. Betsy Ross, a flag maker of Philadelphia is credited by some historians with having made the first flag and with having suggested that the stars be five pointed. The home of Betsy Ross at 239 Arch Street, Philadelphia, is a National Shrine and the flag flies on a staff from her third floor window. Thousands of people of all nations visit this house, which is known as the "Birthplace of Old Glory" Betsy Ross had a grandson. William J. Canby who wrote in 1857 that he was told the story as a boy of eleven by his eighty-four-year old grandmother, Betsy Ross.

It is true that Betsy Ross was known as a flag maker and that there is in the archives of the Navy an order to Elizabeth Ross "for making Ships Colors for 14 pounds 12 shillings and 2 pence, paid to her exactly two weeks before the Marine Committee's resolution of June 14th, 1777, which adopted the theme of the red and white striped Union Flag of Holland to the flag of the 13 United States of America."

The Congress has substituted a new Constellation of 13 stars (instead of the union) in the Continental Colors. On May 1st. 1795, our flag was changed to 15 stripes and 15 stars with the inclusion of Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792) into the Union. It was this flag that was "so gallantly streaming" over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner". The 15 striped, 15 starred flag was flying from 1795 to 1818. On April 4th, 1818, Congress enacted the following law which is still in effect: "That the Flag of the United States be 13 horizontal stripes, alternate red and white, and that on the admission of every State into the Union, one star to be added on the Fourth of July next succeeding admission.  On August 3rd, 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day. This year, Flag Day is on a Wednesday, so don't forget to get Old Glory out of the closet and let her wave!

Now Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, "Looking Backward" (1888) and "Equality" (1897).

Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex.

I must admit that each time I stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, I always think of comedian Red Skelton's explanation of the pledge that he performed on TV so often. It follows below with its introduction:

As a schoolboy, one of Red Skelton's teachers explained the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. Skelton later wrote down, and eventually recorded, his recollection of this lecture. It is followed by an observation of his own.

I-Me; An individual; a committee of one.

Pledge- Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance- My love and my devotion.

To the Flag- Our standard; Old Glory, a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job. United - That means that we have all come together.

States of America- Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the Republic - Republic - a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands.. -

One Nation - meaning so blessed by God.

Indivisible- Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty - Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice - The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.

For All - For All - which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine. And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God.

Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?

Red Skelton

See you next month when we once again get "Old Glory" out to celebrate our Independence Day! God Bless.

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