Today is Flag Day, a relatively minor holiday that seems to have fallen off the radar of most Americans, still hot and dazed from Memorial Day and looking ahead to the Fourth of July.
But an amazing thing happened on the campus of Louisiana State University in 2011, worth taking note.
“A student’s plans to burn an American flag on the LSU campus were cut short Wednesday when thousands of combative counter demonstrators arrived on scene, prompting police to escort the student to safety,” Fox News reported. “Crowds wearing red, white and blue and chanting ‘U-S-A’ threw water balloons … at Benjamin Haas, a communication studies graduate student, while he tried to read a prepared statement in front of an estimated crowd of 1,500 to 2,500 students and community members.”
He was protesting what happened to another protester.
“Haas organized the protest in response to the arrest of fellow LSU student Isaac Eslava, who was charged last week for taking the American flag at the Baton Rouge campus’ historic War Memorial and burning it hours after news of Osama bin Laden’s killing by U.S. Navy Seals,” Fox News explained. “The 10-by-15 flag burned by Eslava flew atop a 102-foot pole 24 hours a day at the campus and honors all the war dead from LSU. Police said there was about $7,530 worth of damage at the memorial and called it very ‘coincidental’ that the event took place so soon after bin Laden’s death.”
This event said important things about the state of our nation, and its regard for our flag.
First, it confirmed there’s still a spark of American Exceptionalism left in many of our hearts, no matter how unfashionable the idea has become at times.
President Obama himself, in his recent D-Day memorial speech at the Normandy beaches, affirmed this.
“What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they’d never met?” he asked.
Those men wore the American flag as a symbol of that commitment.
Second, the incident shows the flag itself still means something to most Americans.
“Haas’ protest was followed by a separate peaceful assembly led by LSU student government president Cody Wells,” Fox News added. “In front of a crowd gathered around the campus’ flagpole, Wells read the history behind the American flag and led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem.”
That history is worth repeating.
Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag.
The first “Flag Birthday” celebrations were held in 1885 in Wisconsin and in 1889 in New York City. Two years later, the Betsy Ross House held a Flag Day celebration.
But it wasn’t until Aug. 3, 1949 that President Harry Truman declared June 14 as National Flag day.
In 1966, Congress, wishing to extend the honor, asked the president to declare the week of June 14 as “National Flag Week.”