Presidents’ Day 2016: Fly your flag today

February 15, 2016

It’s Presidents’ Day on most calendars, though the official U.S. holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.”

Presidents’ Day, or Washington’s Birthday, is celebrated on the third Monday in February. In 2016 this will overlap the period of mourning for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.  President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown half staff to honor Justice Scalia; if your flag pole allows, you should fly your flag at half staff, even on Washington’s Birthday.

You’re already flying your flag today, right?  Let’s recapitulate from last year.

Dr. Bumsted reminds us we need to emphasize that the federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, not a day to honor presidents generically.  See the explanation from the U.S. National Archives.

Presidents Day is February 15, 2016 — fly your U.S. flag today.

National Park Service photo, Lincoln Memorial through flags at Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial, seen through flags posted at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; National Park Service Photo via About.com

Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents.  Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR?  Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off?  Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism?  About.com explains the history of the controversy:

Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition. [Take THAT you Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore fans!]

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.

In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.

More, Resources, and Related Articles:

English: Air Force One, the typical air transp...

President’s airplane, Air Force 1, flying over Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota – Image via Wikipedia; notice, contrary to Tea Party fears, the bust of Obama is not yet up on Rushmore (and also note there remains no room for another bust).

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  This event occurs every year.


Flags at half-staff to honor Justice Antonin Scalia

February 15, 2016

U.S. Flag flew at half staff outside the Supreme Court on Sunday, February 14, 2016, in honor of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13.

U.S. Flag flew at half staff outside the Supreme Court on Sunday, February 14, 2016, in honor of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13. VOA image.

President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown half-staff to honor Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13.  The half staff honor continues through the end of the day on which Justice Scalia is interred.

The order from the White House:

Presidential Proclamation: Death of Antonin Scalia

As a mark of respect for Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

# # #

The mourning period in which flags are to be flown half staff probably will include Presidents Day, February 15. Flags flown in honor of Presidents Day 2016 should be flown half staff. Where flags cannot be lowered, fly the flag as it is normally displayed.


February 12, Lincoln’s birthday: Fly your flag!

February 12, 2016

President’s Day is next week.  The U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly Old Glory on Lincoln’s birthday, on February 12, anyway.

That’s today!

Is your flag waving?

A flag used in 1860 during Lincoln's first campaign for the presidency. Under the modern flag code, such use of a flag is considered disrespectful -- and therefore not the flag to fly today. Granger Collection, New York City, via Britannica

A flag used in 1860 during Lincoln’s first campaign for the presidency. Under the modern flag code, such use of a flag is considered disrespectful — and therefore not the flag to fly today. Granger Collection, New York City, via Britannica

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 


February 6, Massachusetts Statehood Day

February 6, 2016

Flag etiquette guides and the U.S. Flag Code urge residents of Massachusetts to fly U.S. flags today, to honor Massachusetts’s joining the Union.

U.S. flag flies at Quincy Market in Boston (a 4th of July celebration is pictured) - WHDH Channel 7 image

U.S. flag flies at Quincy Market in Boston (a 4th of July celebration is pictured) – WHDH Channel 7 image

Massachusetts’s statehood is figured as the date the colony ratified the U.S. Constitution. A convention ratified the document on February 6, 1788. Massachusetts was the 6th colony to ratify.

The next flag-flying date is February 12, in honor of Lincoln’s birthday.


February 2016 Dates to fly the U.S. flag

February 2, 2016

Photo #: 80-G-K-21225 (color)

Caption from the U.S. Navy, via Wikipedia: Photo #: 80-G-K-21225 (color) “First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government,” 14 February 1778. Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. [A larger version is available for download at Wikipedia.]

You want to mark your calendar so you remember to put your U.S. flag up on those dates designated by law and tradition, right?

Which dates in February?

  • Massachusetts statehood, February 6 (6th state, 1788)
  • Lincoln’s birthday, February 12 (yes, it’s still designated in law as a date to fly the flag)
  • Oregon statehood, February 14 (33rd state, 1859)
  • Arizona statehood, February 14 (48th state, 1913)
  • Washington’s birthday, now designated President’s Day, the third Monday in February, February 16 in 2015

You may fly your flag on state holidays, too — which of those dates do we see in February?  Is there a good list?

Though we don’t mark it usually, February 14 is the anniversary of the first recognition of the Stars and Stripes by a foreign government, in 1778.  The French fleet recognized the ensign carried by Capt. John Paul Jones, at Quiberon Bay — painting of the event is at the top of this post.

February 23 is the anniversary of the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, in 1945 — 71 years ago.  We should probably watch for proclamations to fly the flag on that date, an anniversary made more important simply because so few survivors of from among the veterans of that war and that fight can be expected to live to see the 80th anniversary. Regardless any official, formal proclamation to fly the flag for the Iwo Jima events, you may always fly your flag.

Please visit earlier posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, on the death of Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who took the widely-released iconic photo; on the death of Charles Lindberg, pictured in the first flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi; on the death of Raymond Jacobs, the last-surviving veteran from the flag raisings; and on my visit to the Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima-themed U.S. Marine Memorial overlooking Washington, D.C.

A Youtube poster edited a part of the Army’s documentary, “To the Shores of Iwo Jima,” showing the flag raising on film, and added in some other images for a less-than-three-minute look.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Fly flags on January 29, Kansans! Happy Statehood Day 2016!

January 28, 2016

Kansas celebrates 155 years of statehood, though still mired in the worst budget situation of any state in quite a while.

Fitting, perhaps, for a state whose admission brought the nation to the brink of civil war — which the nation subsequently plunged into.

Regardless the circumstances of its statehood, the U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly the U.S. flag on the date their state was admitted into the Union. Kansans, unfurl those colors!

 

U.S. and Kansas flags flying together in Ashland, Kansas. Photo by courthouselover, flickr, via Pinterest

U.S. and Kansas flags flying together in Ashland, Kansas. Photo by courthouselover, flickr, via Pinterest

Teachers, take note: Historical records from the National Archives and Records Administration, on Kansas statehood.  Good DBQ material for AP history classes, maybe good material for projects:

Kansas Statehood, January 29, 1861

Located in the historical records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate at the Center for Legislative Archives are many documents that illustrate the important role Congress plays in the statehood process. On January 29, 1861 Kansas became the 34th state; 2011 marks its 150th anniversary. Here is a small sampling of the many congressional records that tell the story of Kansas’s tumultuous path to statehood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More:

Four-cent U.S. Postal Service stamp issued in 1961, honoring the centennial of Kansas's statehood with the state flower, the sunflower.

Four-cent U.S. Postal Service stamp issued in 1961, honoring the centennial of Kansas’s statehood with the state flower, the sunflower. Wikimedia image


Fly your flag January 18, 2016, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 18, 2016

As on every federal holiday, citizens and residents of the U.S. should fly their U.S. flags today, on the holiday marking the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. King, and the U.S. flag

Rev. King and the U.S. flag. (No information on place or time of photo; please feel free to lend light and facts.)

Fly the U.S. flag today for the holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

Many Americans will celebrate with a day of service.

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post for an annual event. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


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