Our flag is a powerful image of our national strength and American principles. The flag has stood on the Moon. Determined American soldiers raised our flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima. It was flown on buildings after the September 11 attacks. The coffins of our best and bravest, who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms, are draped with the flag. Our flag flies in communities across our nation as a faithful witness to our national struggles and accomplishments.
In a past column, I shared past Interior Secretary Franklin Lane’s 1914 address entitled “The Flag Maker” in which he relayed a “conversation” he had with the American flag in his office. This Flag Day, excerpts of Lane’s remarks are a reminder of our individual roles as Americans in continuing to give Old Glory meaning:
‘I know you well. You are the man who worked in the swelter of yesterday, straightening out the tangle of that farmer’s homestead in Idaho . . . or helped to clear that patent for a hopeful inventor in New York, or pushed the opening of that new ditch in Colorado, or made that mine in Illinois more safe, or brought relief to the old soldier in Wyoming . . .’
‘Yesterday the Congress spoke a word which will open the door of Alaska; but a mother in Michigan worked from sunrise until far into the night, to give her boy an education. She, too, is making the Flag. . . .
‘But,’ I said impatiently, ‘these people were only working!’
Then came a great shout from the Flag:
‘The work that we do is the making of the Flag. ‘I am not the Flag; not at all. I am but its shadow.’
‘I am whatever you make me, nothing more.’
‘I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become.’
‘I live a changing life, a life of moods and passions, of heartbreaks and tired muscles.’
‘Sometimes I am strong with pride, when men do an honest work, fitting the rails together truly.’
‘Sometimes I droop, for then purpose has gone from me, and cynically I play the coward.’
‘But always, I am all that you hope to be, and have the courage to try for.’
‘I am song and fear, struggle and panic, and ennobling hope.’
‘I am the Constitution and the courts, statutes and state-maker, soldier and dreadnaught, drayman and sweep, cook, counselor and clerk.’
‘I am the battle of yesterday and the mistake of tomorrow.’
‘I am the clutch of an idea and the reasoned purpose of resolution.’
‘I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself, the pictured suggestion of that big thing which makes this nation. My stars and my stripes . . . are bright with cheer, brilliant with courage, firm with faith, because you have made them so out of your hearts; for you are the makers of the Flag, and it is well that you glory in the making.’
The daily work, hopes and dreams of all Americans give meaning to our flag’s stripes and stars. In the 242 years since the Second Continental Congress adopted our national flag, our flag has been an emblem of freedom and opportunity. We all continue to be “Flag Makers,” shaping and strengthening our great nation.