By Zoe Harris
As President’s Day has just passed, most of us have thought about the flag in the past few weeks. The iconic symbol has long stood as a beacon of hope and freedom for many. Those seeking freedom from war ravaged countries, political refugees, as well as those who want to start a new life.
Our flag has stood as a symbol of prosperity and has given countless numbers the ability to dream, to believe that they can be more. But do we really know where we got our flag? In Elementary school everyone has probably learned about how Betsy Ross sewed the first flag. But there is more to the story than that.
The first documented use of the flag was in 1792, sixteen years after the 13 colonies severed their political connections to Great Britain. America sought their independence, and once gained, became The United States of America. The Declaration of Independence was written on July 4, 1776 and signed by 56 delegates. George Washington was elected as the first president on February 4, 1789. In 1792, George Washington was elected once again on the same day, 3 years later.
As the story goes, in June 1776, a small committee, including George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, visited Betsy, an accomplished seamstress, and discussed the need for a new American flag. Betsy agreed to sew them one. She altered the committees design and replaced the original six pointed stars with five pointed stars. George Ross is said to have been the uncle of Betsy’s deceased husband, which may have been a reason Betsy agreed to sew the flag for them. Betsy Ross has been promoted as a patriotic role model for young girls and a symbol of women’s contributions to America’s history. The first original flag had thirteen white stars arranged in a circle on a field of blue, seven red stripes and six white stripes. Each of the colors used stand for something. The six white stripes stand for purity and innocence. The seven red stripes signify hardiness and valour, and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. Blue is also recognized as the color of a Chief.
Our flag has inspired songs. Perhaps the most famous of all is our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner”. Written by John Stafford Smith, a 35 year old lawyer, and Francis Scott Mckey, an amateur poet. The idea for the poem came after witnessing bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British ships during the war of 1812. It began as a poem with four stanzas entitled: “The Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Key was inspired by the large flag flying through the battle. The poem was set to the tune of a popular song called “To Anacreon In Heaven”. It became popular as it had a range of 19 semitones and was considered hard to sing. The Star Spangled Banner was recognized for official use in 1889 by the United States Navy as well as by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It was made the national anthem by congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. Many of us think that our national anthem has been around for a long time. But in all reality, it’s only been about 87 years since it officially became our national anthem. Now for the younger ones among us, it may seem like a long time. The Star Spangled Banner has been around for roughly a third of the time that the United States Of America has been a free nation. The flag has been known by many names, including: Old Glory, The Star Spangled Banner, Stars and Stripes and Red, White and Blue.
There currently are 325,960,361 people residing in our great nation, about 80 million persons have been born in places other than the US, and then have come as immigrants. The very first immigrants were the pilgrims, seeking freedom of religion. Somewhere in almost all of our families, there has been an immigrant. Whether from Europe, China, France, Mexico, the Middle East, or anywhere else, America has been accepting immigrants since before the beginning of our nation. Immigration has contributed profoundly to our population. But, regardless of our individual background, we all live in America. It is our duty to respect our flag and country, to defend it and if the need arises, give our lives for it.
On President’s Day, we honor the leaders of our great nation who have given part of their lives to insure that our country will be lead properly and uphold the laws so that we can remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.
By Zoe Harris. February 23, 2018