The flag’s meaning to our forefathers

Usually I would find the minutes of a long-adjourned meeting about as exciting as a Swedish furniture-assembly manual. Not so with minutes from the National Flag Conference, which The American Legion led in Washington in 1923. The 323-page transcript reveals a spirit of patriotism that fully captured the reason we honor and respect the meaning of Old Glory.

Appropriately convened on Flag Day, the conference was – to paraphrase our vice president – “a big deal.” Representatives of the Legion and 68 other patriotic, fraternal, civic and military organizations gathered at Memorial Continental Hall to draft a code of flag etiquette. 

President Warren G. Harding gave the opening address. “I hope you succeed in formulating a code that will be welcomed by all Americans, and that every patriotic and educational society in the republic will commit itself to the endorsement and observance and purpose of the code that you adopt here today,” he told the group.

Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, described his union members’ feelings: “To us, the American flag means more than even its colors ... It means the leadership of the democratic and humane struggle that has been carried on throughout all the ages. It means a higher development, higher understanding and concept of human lives and progress, and stands as it should stand for everyone, creating a devotion to carry that banner on and on and on and upward to the highest peak of human relationship and democratic institutions.”

The consensus among delegates was that most breaches of flag
etiquette were unintentional mistakes made by well-meaning patriots. Today, it is more difficult to explain the boneheaded decisions of some individuals regarding our flag. School administrators, backed by a recent court decision, have prohibited students at a California high school from wearing images of the U.S. flag on T-shirts during Cinco de Mayo. While the shirts are not actual flags and do not fall under U.S. Flag Code, the administrators went overboard to avoid offending supporters of the Mexican holiday.

Spinning in his grave over such thinking must be John J. Tigert, the U.S. commissioner of education who spoke at the 1923 conference. “I do not believe that the American people would ridicule other nations as the Germans did when, before this last war, they called us a nation of shopkeepers and the French a nation of degenerates and the English a nation of perfidious people,” said Tigert, a World War I veteran. “Of course if you go that far, that kind of nationalism, and if that is what the American flag stands for, then I am not in favor of respecting the American flag. But the American flag never stood for that kind of a thing, and never will ... I do not believe that there is a single thing in our flag that does not stand for honor, justice and righteousness, and there will never come a time when there are not some people in America who will not be willing to stand by the flag ... and to sacrifice for the great principles of righteousness for which the flag stands.”

For the majority of us, that is why we pause every June 14 and stand respectfully by this flag of ours, and all it means.


  1. Mr. Monger: Sounds like you would be a great candidate to teach all those kids on this subject. But include this from me........... We don't dip our Flag to any nation because we are the greatest and strongest nation in the world. Its a shame academia no longer feels it is necessary to share that with our children. Peace brother.

  2. Your comment that Flag images on an article of clothing are not subject to the US Flag Code is incorrect. The Flag Code reads:

    The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

    It is disrepectful to our Flag to imprint its image on a T-Shirt. A T-Shirt is something which will be placed into a laundry hamper next to soiled underwear and all manner of filth.

    In addition, the Cinco de Mayo Festival is an AMERICAN holiday that honors the sacrifice of Mexican soldiers (much like the D-Day memorials honor foreign soldiers who died in WWII). Without the Battle of the Pueblo, and the defeat of the Napoleon's forces, this country might very well not exist. The lapse in funding of rebel forces by the French due to that defeat provided a vital break in the power of the rebels and allowed the Union army to retain the integrity of our Nation. The Students wearing those flag t-shirts were trying to bully the students celebrating an important American holiday. The teachers and school administrators must be given the latitude to curtail this type of hate speech or any speech which might disrupt the educational institution - that's what the Court found and you, sir, are a "bonehead" to bring up such a false story - especially to directly contradict our US Flag Code and encourage disrespect for our Flag!

  3. I believe that you are the Bonehead, Bailey! Cinco De Mayo is not nor has it ever been an "American Holiday". You must have been educated in the U. S. Public School System to be that dumb! Why are schools celebrating Cinco De Mayo in the first place? We do not celebrate any other nationality's holidays except this Cinco De Mayo. I believe it is "HATE SPEECH" when illegal aliens are allowed to march in our streets "DEMANDING" the same rights and privileges of American Citizens. Any person who enters this Country illegally is a CRIMINAL and should be deported immediately and made to get in line with the immigrants who are trying to legally gain entrance to our Country. Just because Mexico and other central and south american countries are third-world countries with corrupt governments and happens to lie on our southern border, does not mean that their citizens should be given special "get out of jail free" cards that our current administration is handing out to illegals. What makes anyone believe that a person who enters our Country illegally, would not also find it easy to break any other law they desire to not abide by? We have quotas on immigration because with our current socialist benefit system we know that a flood of illegal aliens will overwhelm our social services. Bailey, if you are so intent upon rewarding illegal behavior, why don't you let a few dozen of the illegals move in with you and you can pay for it instead of having the rest of the American citizens pay for it.

  4. You are right that the flag code rules out anyone wearing the flag. This rule has became archaic. If police officers and firefighters can wear it as a uniform or jacket patch, then everyone should be allowed the same liberty. Your view of history seems to be stilted to your want.

    The battle had little effect on the French army, just a temporary set back as they later captured Mexico City. It was the Union blockade that stifled France's Confederate support.

    Name calling while debating generally shows an argument is weak. If you can't deliberate without adding jibes you further belittle the point.

    I can't disagree strongly enough..... Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday. You won't find any documentation which the federal government endorses such. The only reason it has the popularity it has is the drinking and party. You will find few who can accurately express Cinco de Mayo's purpose.

    The students' free speech was impinged. They didn't like the school's participation and tried to show pride in THEIR COUNTRY. In my opinion, calling their action hate speech is unpatriotic.

    If you want to celebrate, go south, preferably Puebla. Otherwise wait till our Independence Day.

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