Every weekday morning of my life, from the age of 6 until I was 14, we fixed our eyes upon the flag of the United States of America. Our hands were placed on our hearts, "I pledge allegiance " and then extended toward the flag, "to the flag of the United States of America "
When did we stop extending the hand during that ritual?
There is something about that indoctrination that went deep into the soul of a person. In those days, teachers were not afraid to teach the values imbedded in the red, white and blue colors of the flag: sacrifice, purity and loyalty.
In this sense, Flag Day is of special interest for our times. It is not an official holiday, and that reminds us values are not something to be enforced by law, but must be taught until they become part of our inner beings.
The traditional low-keyed observance on June 14 of each year was begun in 1861 to commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as America's flag by the Continental Congress, June 14, 1777.
We don't hear much about this event except in times of crisis. It was in the late spring of 1861 that Flag Day was born in the face of the secession of the Southern states and the first engagement of the Civil War at Fort Sumter.
At a time when the values and traditions of America seemed to be falling apart, the flag became very important. After the Civil War, the special day faded from view until World War I aroused the need for loyalty. President Wilson issued a Flag Day proclamation in the middle of the war, and veteran's groups began promoting the development of a flag code. It was not until World War II that Congress adopted the flag code into law, and not until 1949, did Flag Day get congressional approval so that it would appear on our calendars.
In the 140 years since Flag Day was inaugurated, it is only in times of crisis that we pay much attention to it. Could it not be said we have come to a time of crisis in America, a moral crisis? There is a movement afoot in our land to reinstitute moral teachings in the schools. This is long overdue. Our fear of teaching values in the public schools has had a terrible effect upon our society.
Few of today's young people have been boldly taught in school what we would call the democratic values. I suggest these include respect for another person's property, honesty, appreciation for other cultures, loyalty to a political system that can be changed for the better from the inside, the idea of an ongoing revolution at the ballot box, an appreciation for hard work and sacrifice, and a true understanding of the word freedom. Now there's the rub! We need to recover the teaching that freedom means more than self-indulgence; it means social concern and community respect and personal responsibility.
It is time again to wave the flag, and shower one another with the values it symbolizes. Let the schools develop curriculums on the democratic values represented by that flag. Perhaps this lack of values in the curriculum, more than any other factor, has led to the crisis in public school education. Reinstitute a curriculum on values, and parents will feel better about supporting the public schools and sending their children there. June 14 is Flag Day. Let us give our civil religion of democratic values its due, as we praise God for such a land and such a flag.