Old Glory. Stars and Stripes. The Star-Spangled Banner.
However you refer to it, the American flag—and respect for it—is an important part of the Girl Scout Movement and our nation’s history.
Our flag’s story begins in 1776 with “the Continental Colors,” often described as the first national flag. Its design was similar to our current flag, with 13 alternate red and white stripes, but with the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress resolved that our flag would include 13 alternating red and white stripes, with 13 white stars in a blue field. The colors have meaning: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
No one knows for sure who actually designed the first stars and stripes, or even who made it. Many historians credit New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson with the design—and the story of George Washington asking a Philadelphia upholsterer by the name of Betsy Ross to create a flag may be more legend than fact.
Nevertheless, that original, basic design endures to this day, with additional stars added to the field of blue through the years, representing each state’s admission to the Union.
In 1916, when patriotism after the Great War was high, President Woodrow Wilson introduced a national celebration honoring our flag. But it wasn’t until 1934 that President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress officially establishing June 14 as National Flag Day.
Fun fact: Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, herself a famous patriot and advocate for displaying and honoring our nation’s flag, developed a stars-and-stripes design for Girl Scout uniforms, though it was never implemented.
Today, as we celebrate Flag Day 2016, Girl Scouts everywhere are honoring, in many ways, this powerful symbol of our nation.
Thinking about how you might participate? Here are a few ideas:
1. Display the flag. This one’s super easy! Whether you station a small flag on your desk; wear a patch on your sash, backpack, or jacket; or fly a full-size version on a flagpole at home or school, show our nation’s colors proudly.
2. Learn about flag ceremonies. “Color guard, advance!” Refresh your flag etiquette before holding a special Flag Day ceremony. Flag ceremonies can take many forms, depending on location, audience, and type of event—though they should always include saying the Pledge of Allegiance and even the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
3. Retire flags with honor. Many Girl Scout troops host events to help the public “retire” old and/or damaged flags. While the official guidelines call for flags to be retired “with dignity,” many customs such as burning, cutting, and otherwise disposing of the flag have their roots in local traditions. Check with veterans groups near you to learn what’s acceptable in your area.
4. Brush up on flag etiquette. Do you know how to fold the flag? How to properly display it? How to participate on a color guard? Here are a few tips to help make sure you get it right. Remember: showing proper respect is a great way to show your love for the flag and all it represents.
5. Say the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a daily ritual in classrooms around the country, but adults and youngsters alike can reaffirm their commitment to the flag and “to the republic for which it stands” on Flag Day. Take pride in honoring a symbol that stands for “liberty and justice for all.”
Let’s make Flag Day 2016 a day when we remember, honor, and celebrate our flag. And let’s keep the spirit with us throughout the year—because Girl Scouts honor the flag every day, not just on Flag Day.
Old Glory, we salute you! Long may you wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave.