Each year on June 14, Americans celebrate one of the most iconic symbols of freedom the world has ever known: the American flag. We didn’t pick this date by accident. On the same day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Act, which read, “Resolved: That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
George Washington described this design as taking “the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity, representing our liberty.”
The American flag shines a beacon of hope for liberty-loving people around the world. Wherever Americans have gone, our flag has followed, from Iwo Jima to the liberation of Nazi camps to the surface of the Moon.
Along with liberty, our flag represents unity. The original 13 colonies didn’t think of themselves as one country at first – Benjamin Franklin famously drew a political cartoon showing the colonies as separate parts of a snake, with the caption, “Join, or die.” According to the historian James McPherson, even after we joined together to win our independence from Great Britain, Americans still said things like, “The United States are a republic.” It wasn’t until after the Civil War that we began to say, “The United States is.”
As Nebraskans, we understand both of these things well. Our pioneer ancestors loved liberty so much they were willing to risk everything to make better lives for themselves on the untamed, and sometimes harsh, prairie. And like all of the states who have joined the union since the Revolutionary War, we chose unity with the rest of the country because we know we are stronger when we are united.
Many of the American flags that fly on Flag Day were made right here in Nebraska. MSA Brand Products in Fairbury uses only American-made materials in their flags, and individual employees proudly sew the stars and stripes together in-house. I was honored to see them in action when I had the opportunity to visit their headquarters.
Not coincidentally, Fairbury is also home to an annual Flag Day celebration that is hosted by the local Elks Lodge. Each year, they recall the history of our flag and honor the first responders, members of law enforcement, and active duty soldiers and veterans who put their lives on the line to protect all that the flag stands for.
Flag Day celebrations in Nebraska aren’t just organized by adults. In Elkhorn, five boys between the ages of 12 and 14 have started a small business called Flying Old Glory. Elkhorn residents can hire them to set up an American flag at the end of their driveways on Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Patriot Day, and Veterans Day. One of these patriotic and entrepreneurial young men, Mason Miller, told WOWT 6 News in Omaha that he was inspired to start Flying Old Glory after hearing his dad talk about a group of Boy Scouts who had started a similar project in their community.
This Flag Day, keep in mind the liberty and unity that the American flag represents. And when you look at our flag, I hope you will feel one more emotion: gratitude.
We are so fortunate to live in the greatest country on Earth, where the new constellation of states that was born nearly 250 years ago still stands strong today. I hope you will join me in celebrating Flag Day.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.