Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Flag Day is fast approaching on June 14, and in a day when some people treat saying the Pledge of the Allegiance to the flag as a grave controversy, I’d like to raise a voice of celebration for the red, white and blue, and for the day set aside to honor it.

Next year, America will mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812, culminating in 2014with the bicentennial of our National Anthem and the flag that inspired it. Sadly, unless you live in a War of 1812 historic zone, you may have heard little hoopla over this anniversary, a sobering thing considering that most historians agree that this is the moment America became united—the United States of America.

I live in Maryland, surrounded by War of 1812 history—-the Chesapeake Campaign and Commodore Joshua Barney’s audacious Chesapeake Flotilla; the dark days surrounding burning of Washington; the critical Battle of Baltimore; its star-shaped guardian--Fort McHenry; and the most famous and beloved of all flags, the Star Spangled Banner. The Smithsonian has gone to extensive efforts to preserve and study this American icon. The exhibit is beautiful and a must-see for anyone coming to Washington D.C.

There are fables and myths that abound over America’s banner. Though Flag Day celebrants visiting Philadelphia will still see Betsy Ross’s house front and center that day, most historians shy away from her fabled place as the sewer of the first American flag. Two highly respected historians each told me to avoid her story with a ten-foot pole while researching material for FREE MEN and DREAMERS, attributing her story to a grandson who took a few threads of truth and aggrandized his grandmother’s place in history to get the needed funds to pay the mortgage on the family home. Search the Internet and you’ll still see tributes to Betsy Ross as Washington’s go-to seamstress, but this article most closely illustrates the reasons why Betsy Ross’s involvement is becoming more fable than fact.

The Flag House Museum in Baltimore celebrates the Pickersgill women who sewed the famed and beloved, Star-Spangled Banner. The Flag House will be hosting its observance of the holiday beginning on Saturday, June 11, but a trip here is a spectacular treat anytime. Learn about how the flag was sewn at night on the floor of the malthouse, (brewery), the only floor large enough to lay it out.

Visitors to the Baltimore area should place Fort McHenry on their must-see list as well. This is the famed star-shaped fort that survived the British assault September 13-14, 1814, and was memorialized in Key’s National Anthem. Here’s a link to the fort’s summer newsletter of activities.

So whether you visit the Smithsonian, Baltimore's plethora of flag sites, or others in your own community, there are lots of patriotic things for families to enjoy while teaching critical American history and instilling the crucial values of honor, gratitude, and patriotism.

Whatever you do, try to include this national observance of the day--at 7:00 p.m. Americans a on June 14, Americans are asked to pause and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance wherever they are.

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