Flag Day, June 14 – History, Facts, Inspiration, the Song

Every year on June 14, people across America celebrate Flag Day with red-white-and-blue decorated picnics and parades. Officially, the day is set aside to commemorate the adoption of the US national flag in 1777.  

To those who have fought to defend the nation represented by the stars and stripes, this patterned cloth holds immense significance. For many citizens our flag powerfully embodies the heritage and history of the United States. 

For millions of people across the globe, the U.S. flag is a symbol of hope, freedom, and security.


The red, white and blue of the USA flag are symbolic on a few levels and were chosen strategically to represent the United States of American. Interestingly, the significance behind the colors was not acknowledged when the American flag was adopted in 1777. Instead, the meaning was later explained by Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, when he presented the U.S. Seal of the same colors to Congress in the early 1780s.


The color red represents hardiness and valor, as well as courage and readiness to sacrifice. It is also sometimes said to represent the blood shed by those who have fought to protect our freedom and our country.


The color blue signifies justice for all, as well as vigilance and perseverance. A reminder that we must remain watchful and strong.


The color white stands for purity and innocence. Pure, because we are independent from other countries and hold true to our ideals.

The National Anthem

Attorney Francis Scott Key witnessed the twenty-five hour bombardment of Fort McHenry from a British troopship anchored some four miles away. He had boarded the ship on September 13, 1814, to negotiate the release of an American civilian imprisoned by the British, and was aboard as the bombardment began.

On September 14, as the dawn’s early light revealed the American flag flying over the fort, Key, an amateur poet, exultantly began writing. Francis Amazed and inspired by the sight of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry the morning after its bombardment, he scribbled the initial verse of his song on the back of a letter. Back in Baltimore, he completed three more verses, copying them onto a sheet of paper, probably making more than one copy.  Soon other copies were being made; a local printer issued the new song as a broadside.  Shortly afterward, two Baltimore newspapers published it, and by mid-October it had appeared in at least seventeen other papers in cities up and down the East Coast.

While we generally only sing the first verse at sports events, the other verses are also very powerful. My favorite verse is the fourth.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Brian Sussman

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