American Truth: the United States flag

PADUCAH — Thirteen stripes and 50 stars make for a powerful symbol. The American flag is something all Americans will celebrate on June 14. That’s the day we commemorate as a country the flag that represents freedom all over the world.

Bob Drake of Paducah proudly displays the U.S. flag in front of his home.

Paducah’s Bob Drake has proudly flown the American flag in front of his house on South Friendship Road since he returned to the area, but also flew it when he lived outside of Paducah.

“Since we moved back to Paducah, we found this place and we had perfect place to put it. So, I said ‘that’s the first thing I’ve got to do is put the flag pole up!'”

He’s made it a tradition and part of his family’s life for decades.

“My kids were always grown up with a flag. In fact, at one time we took it down at night. So, they would take turns putting it up and taking it down.”

Drake said he like flying the flag be cause of what it represents and to honor our nation and the shared pride, principles and commitment of its people.

“I’m thankful for all the people that have given their lives, their talent and their means so we can be standing here. We’re such a diversified country, and even with all that stuff going on at the border, I mean, people have come from all different places on the globe to be here. And, they’ve accepted the flag and even been a part of it. It’s got such a rich heritage — goes back to how this country was formed,” Drake said.

Library of Congress

The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution on June 14, 1777, to adopt the flag of the United States, and it reflected the 13 original colonies. “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

 

Most historians believe New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson designed the flag. Legend says it was sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross. In 1958 the flag featuring 50 stars and 13 stripes was designed by a 17-year-old high school student. President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose it out of 1,500 entries.

Our flag has a rich history that plays a big part in the lives of Americans and American culture. We fly it proudly from our porches and plant it firmly in the ground on holidays. It’s the right of every American to burn the flag in protest if they choose, because of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

To this day, a reminder of America’s ingenuity and space exploration remains on the moon landing, when American astronauts planted the flag there. The flag’s strength and meaning intensifies in times of trouble — from the battlefields of Iwo Jima to the rubble of the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11. We drape it over the coffins of our fellow men and women who’ve died in combat.

But, like anything quintessentially American, the flag can spark debate. For example, the 1989 art display “What Is The Proper Way To Display A U.S. Flag?” by Dread Scott.

Randy Simmons is a professor with the Paducah School of Art and Design

Professor at the Paducah School of Art & Design, Randy Simmons, says art like that challenges us.

 

“(Scott) had put a shelf on the wall with a book for people to sign and write into it what is the proper way to display an American flag, but in order to get to that book you had to stand on the American flag,” Simmons said.

 

The display quickly became the center of controversy. Then President George H.W. Bush called it disgraceful. Congress denounced the work and passed legislation to protect the flag.

Artist Dread Scott’s 1989 display “What Is The Proper Way To Display A US Flag” (Credit: dreadscott.net)

“And so people were given a choice: Do they want to stand on the flag and write what they wanted to say or was their respect for the flag way too much that they would give up their freedom of speech?” Simmons said.

“And I think that’s a very fascinating piece of artwork. Really made you think about things,” Simmons added.

More often than not the U.S. flag does unite us, whether it be at ball games, parades or picnics. It unites us, because hopefully we’re all striving to live the virtues the flag represents. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor. White symbolizes purity and innocence. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

If a flag is tattered or torn and can no longer be used, it is ideally destroyed in a respectful manner. Protocol is that the flag is burned.

If you want to learn more about the history of the United States flag or brush up on the proper way to display it visit usa.gov/flag.