Obama Proclaims Flag Day 2015

As every president since Harry S Truman has done each year, at the request of Congress, yesterday Barack Obama proclaimed June 14 to be Flag Day.

For more than 200 years, the American flag has been a proud symbol of the people of our Nation and the values for which we stand. In hues of red, white, and blue, it reflects centuries of struggle and sacrifice — a constant reminder of our journey from 13 colonies to a Nation united in freedom and liberty, and of the patriots and pioneers who fought for these ideals at home and abroad. On Flag Day and during National Flag Week, we pay tribute to this banner of hope and opportunity, and we celebrate the story of progress it represents.

With broad stripes and bright stars, our flag has connected Americans across our country, around the globe, and throughout the chapters of our history. In a new world, it stood as a beacon of promise and possibility; in the dawn’s early light, it offered a glimmer of hope as the fate of our young Nation was decided; and after a civil war that divided our Union, the Star Spangled Banner once again united our people. As courageous women and men marched and protested to broaden our democracy’s reach and secure their civil rights, they carried the American flag, understanding the enormous potential it embodied — even as the Nation it represented denied them their fundamental rights. Today, it is because of an unbroken chain of heroes, who have served in our Armed Forces and worn the flag they defend, that Old Glory still waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

From storefronts and homes, atop monuments, and over the institutions that sustain our Nation at home and abroad, the American flag stands watch as we strive to perfect our Union. As we place our hand over our heart or as we salute this symbol of the country we love, let us pause to reflect on the legacy of our Nation and embrace the common threads that bind us together as Americans.

To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by joint resolution approved August 3, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as “Flag Day” and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings. The Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, as amended (80 Stat. 194), that the President annually issue a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as “National Flag Week” and call upon citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2015, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 14, 2015, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by displaying the flag. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.


The texts of all the Flag Day proclamations, all variations on a common theme, can be found at UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project (www.presidency.ucsb.edu).  Though these proclamations, like Flag Day (and now Flag Week, and Honor America Days), are often ignored, it is interesting to see how each year the president has put their own stamp on this Congressionally-mandated rhetoric.

Flag Day in the Portland Metro Area

Vancouver (WA) Mayor wearing handmade entry for last year's Clark County Mayors' Patriotic Tie Contest. Photo by Steve Dipaola for The Columbian.
Vancouver (WA) Mayor Timothy Leavitt wearing handmade entry for last year’s Clark County Mayors’ Patriotic Tie Contest. Photo by Steve Dipaola for The Columbian.

Like the 4th of July, Fort Vancouver across the Columbia River from Portland in Vancouver, Washington hosts the biggest celebration — though biggest in this case means a few hundred people, not tens of thousands.  Here is a list of this and other local Flag Day events, most on the day itself, Sunday, June 14th.

  • Milwaukie – Noon flag raising and flag disposal ceremony at City Hall, featuring Mayor Wilda Parks and the Milwaukie American Legion Color Guard .
  • Portland – Belligerante Flag Day Ride, 1:00 leaving 1:45 from Yorgos Bar & Grill. “Come celebrate our nations iconic symbol in all its glory and Majesty. Dress up your self and your bike in red while & blue regalia as we tour N and N.E Portland.”
  • Portland – 4th Annual Battle of the Belgians, 5:00-9:00 at Bazi Bierbrasserie. “It’s Flag Day so what an appropriate day to have a friendly US versus Belgium beer competition.”
  • Portland – Flag Day Nondenomenational “Choir-a-thon”, noon-3:30 at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.  A number of small choirs (fewer than 25 singers) will perform. “The event will cultimate in an all-choir patriotic jam session.”
  • Tigard – Flag Day Walk on June 13, 10:00 from Metzger Elementary School.  “Participants will receive a special tchotchke in honor of the day.”
  • Vancouver, WA – 3:30 event for all ages at Fort Vancover includes the Clark County Mayors’ Patriotic Tie Competition. The American Flag Foundation’s annual National Pause for the Pledge of Allegiance will be observed at 4:00. Sponsored by Veolia Water, 350-500 attendees expected.
Yacolt (WA) Mayor Jeff Carothers wearing his tie-contest entry at 2014 Flag Day at Fort Vancouver.  Carothers ties with Leavitt for first place.  Photo by Steve Dipaola for The Columbian.
Yacolt (WA) Mayor Jeff Carothers wearing his tie-contest entry at 2014 Flag Day at Fort Vancouver. Carothers ties with Leavitt for first place. Photo by Steve Dipaola for The Columbian.

Flag Day, *DC* Flag Day

This Sunday is Flag Day in the United States, celebrating the official adoption of the national flag on 14 June 1777 as the Second Continental Congress decreed: “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.”

In Washington, DC — taxation without representation, anyone? — Flag Day has become an opportunity not just to celebrate the national flag, but the DC flag as well.  For example, Josh Burch’s Neighbors United for DC Statehood since 2013 has held a photo contest for Washingtonians posing with the flag.

Great images of people embracing a great flag:









For more on DC Flag Day, check out this Washington Post blog posting from 2013.

Bastille Day and the Drapeau Francaise

By Patrick Genna

In 1991, I took my first trip to Paris. Before leaving, I had memorized 25 key French phrases. But once there I rarely used any of them as I was too intimidated to ask: “ou est le toilette?” Say something in French and you get a reply with comments that you can’t answer.

One of my goals in Paris was to visit the infamous prison fortress, the Bastille — only to be embarrassed by the fact it was not there. There is no trace of any of the original structure. Today, where the prison stood is a public square, Place de la Bastille.

To get to Place de la Bastille, I had asked a particular Paris gendarme (police officer) for directions to a certain Metro Station. He replied in English to my French question, saying that many police officers in Paris speak at least two other languages.

July 14, 1789

The events of July 14, 1789 that were to become commemorated as Bastille Day were predecessors to the French Revolution that descended into the Reign of Terror by 1790. Unlike our Independence Day, July 4, Bastille Day marks the start of a civil war — French against other French — whereas ours was a revolution or rebellion by 13 colonies against their owners to create a new nation, the United States. We did not march British loyalists or military to a place of public execution. When the Reign of Terror became known, both the Americans and the British were horrified by the senseless violence of the guillotine.

Today, like July Fourth, Bastille Day is celebrated with much national pride, with military parades and fireworks. But most Americans barely know of it and that it is celebrated 10 days later after our July 4th.

La Marseillaise

Bastille Day has always fascinated me with its war-horse-like national anthem: “La Marseillaise” (de Lisle). The words are not known to us as much as the tune is.

Some of us know this anthem’s tune from the 1943 film, “Casablanca”, where the character Viktor Lazlo instructs the café orchestra to play it so that it will drown out the strains of a group of German officers singing a kind of Nazi “Horst Wessel”.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution begins when an armed mob of Parisians stormed the unpopular Bastille prison and released its prisoners, a dramatic action that came to symbolize the end of the ancien régime. The Bastille was subsequently demolished by the Revolutionary government and Bastille Day (July 14) has been a French national holiday since 1880.

Following this event, the Reign of Terror would become its most visible symbol of political murder, paranoia, and power struggle. In the beginning, the royal family, most of the nobility, and the higher clergy would lose their heads.
Toward the end, the bourgeois revolutionaries themselves would suffer the same fate. No doubt the French Revolution consumed its victims without distinction.

How did it all start? Under the old regime, King Louis 16th was the State. Indeed, he actually declared this: “I am the State”! Everyone else was a subject of the King within three orders: clergy, nobility, and others (the Third Estate). There was no national citizenship!

Le Drapeau (The flag)

The French call their flag “the tri-color”.

In the beginning, the colors were represented by a cockade. The flag of the First Republic between 1789 and 1815 was a variation of blue, white, and red.

After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Restoration of 1815-1830 would end the First Republic and restore the Kingdom of France. The return of the very unpopular royal flag created public scorn and resentment. Napoleonic reforms provided new legal codes and public institutions had made the French people all too aware of the Rights of ordinary citizens.

The tricolor was not restored until the Second Republic in 1848.

The colors are symbolic. The white has been always been identified with the royal colors of the monarchy. The many variations of the familiar gold fleur-de-lis (lily flower) pattern has alternated between white and blue fields. The colors blue and red are identified with the Cite de Paris.

The Tricolor and the Red Flag

The red flag appears to have its origins in political radicalism and perhaps in the violence and blood of revolution.

From FOTW (Flags of the World website):

It is well-known that the French Tricolore flag was challenged by the red flag after the fall of King Louis-Philippe in 1848 and the proclamation of the Second Republic. Most history books say that the Tricolore flag was “saved” by Lamartine. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) was a poet and politician known for his Romantic works and his complicated love life.
. . .
On 24 February 1848, King Louis-Philippe left and Lamartine, member of the Provisory Government, proclaimed the Republic at the town hall of Paris and spoke at the Chamber. The next day, he convinced the mob to support the Tricolore flag.

The flag has changed very little since 1830.

Happy Flag Day!

Oregon City Bridge, 9/11/2004 - photo by Ken Dale

PFA member Ken Dale took this striking image from the Oregon City Bridge on September 11, 2004. It seems an appropriate image for Flag Day (June 14th).

According to former West Lynn major Alice Norris:

The photo is from our annual 9/11 ceremony, a silent remembrance of the September 11 attacks. The City of West Linn originally initiated and planned the event and Oregon City co-hosted it until last year when we held no ceremony since the bridge was under construction. The City of West Linn bought the flag and ODOT placed the hardware on the bridge that holds that flag, and ODOT workers unfurl and remove the flag each year. It hangs for about a week. … The short ceremony usually involved a bagpiper playing ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bridge as traffic was stopped at 9 am; the two communities meeting in the middle of the bridge; the unfurling of the flag; the mayors of the two cities throwing wreaths into the river, and community members, students and others tossing flowers into the river….all wordless, a silent tribute. I always found it very moving and beautiful. One year (it might have been 2004), someone stole the flag, and a students from a charter school in West Linn raised money to purchase a new flag.

What flag should I fly today?

Flags want to be flown, and John Hood knows when to fly them, according to history and customs.   In the new issue of PFA’s newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid, he draws from his extensive database of flag flying days to suggest a flag a day for the next two months. Also in this issue, Michael Orelove writes about flag retirement ceremonies and his visit to Willamette National Cemetery last Flag Day to attend such an event.  And as always you’ll find notes from the most recent PFA meeting, John Hood’s “What’s That Flag?” quiz, and Flags in the News.

Click here for the current issue (PDF, 2.8MB), and see portlandflag.org/vexilloid-tabloid for access to all back issues.

And to answer the title question for today, August 1st:   John suggests Switzerland, as today is the Swiss National Day.