American Symbols: Why is THIS Flag Day so special?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series American Symbols
American flag on the Moon from United America gallery

INSPIRED by this classic photo? CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to check out Dr. Wayne Baker’s Gallery of American Images, part of the “United America” project.

Flag Day is this Saturday, June 14. It’s an annual celebration of the day the American flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

Today, I hope you’ll think about this question: What makes this Flag Day so special?

The American flag and the national anthem are both potent symbols. Together, they represent what’s called “symbolic patriotism”—an emotional attachment to country expressed through love of American symbols. Symbolic patriotism is one of the 10 core values I document in United America.

Foreign observers are always amazed at the near-reverence with which Americans embrace their symbols. But if you are American, you understand completely. Seeing the flag fly or hearing the national anthem makes just about any American feel good.

Hearing the anthem this year should make you feel especially good because it marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of what became our national anthem. On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key espied the “broad stripes and bright stars” at the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. It inspired him to write the poem that became our national anthem.

Almost any American can sing the first stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner, though the range of the song makes it difficult for many.

Did you know that the way it is sung now is quite different from the way it was sung in Key’s day?

Care to know how it was originally sung? University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague, an authority on Key and the Star-Spangled Banner, arranged to reproduce the original tune. You can hear how it was sung in Key’s day in the video clip below. Listen—and tell us what you think!

Mark Clague’s web site—Star Spangled Music—is a treasure trove of facts, history, recordings, and more—all about the 1814 event that figures so prominently in the American consciousness.

What does the national anthem mean to you?

Do you like—or dislike—the say the tune was sung in Key’s day?

Do you care about Flag Day?

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