Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

November 11, 1918: The Armistice

World War I is often called "the Great War". It is the war that was supposed to be the last war. On November 11 at 11 a.m. in 1918, there is an armistice – a cease fire. It is the first step toward peace.

Arlington National Cemetery, the traditional Veterans Day stick flags.
Armistice Day was made a federal holiday in 1926. Each year, the President was required to issue a proclamation declaring November 11 as a federal holiday. 

That tradition continues today even though Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day in 1954. 

The new holiday, created by Congress under President Eisenhower, was given a new name as well as a new emphasis: Veterans Day is a day to recognize all our soldiers from all of our wars.

Milford, CT 2013 Veterans Day parade. (Photo: Brian Pounds)

The Veterans Day Proclamation, 2013

On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation's uniforms. Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense. Each time our freedoms have come under assault, they have responded with resolve. Through the generations, their courage and sacrifice have allowed our Republic to flourish. And today, a Nation acknowledges its profound debt of gratitude to the patriots who have kept it whole.
As we pay tribute to our veterans, we are mindful that no ceremony or parade can fully repay that debt. We remember that our obligations endure long after the battle ends, and we make it our mission to give them the respect and care they have earned. When America's veterans return home, they continue to serve our country in new ways, bringing tremendous skills to their communities and to the workforce -- leadership honed while guiding platoons through unbelievable danger, the talent to master cutting-edge technologies, the ability to adapt to unpredictable situations. These men and women should have the chance to power our economic engine, both because their talents demand it and because no one who fights for our country should ever have to fight for a job.
This year, in marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, we resolved that in the United States of America, no war should be forgotten, and no veteran should be overlooked. Let us always remember our wounded, our missing, our fallen, and their families. And as we continue our responsible drawdown from the war in Afghanistan, let us welcome our returning heroes with the support and opportunities they deserve.
Under the most demanding of circumstances and in the most dangerous corners of the earth, America's veterans have served with distinction. With courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion to our Nation and to one another, they represent the American character at its best. On Veterans Day and every day, we celebrate their immeasurable contributions, draw inspiration from their example, and renew our commitment to showing them the fullest support of a grateful Nation.
With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation's veterans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2013, as Veterans Day. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

 Let it fly!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Declaration of Independence: Would You Have Signed It?

They were 26 to 70 years old.

Amongst them were former farmers, lawyers, printers, tax collectors, and county sheriffs. They were, in many ways, quite ordinary.

In one particular way, however, they were extra ordinary. That was in their dedication to something as ephemeral as an idea, a principle – a cause. The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence chose to risk everything – their lives, their fortunes, their family's safety – for an idea, an idea whose worthiness was shaped by a series of events – continual abuses of power, they claimed – and patiently born by some 13 colonies for over a decade.

Stamp Act cartoon by 
King George III considered the various and wide ranging actions of his government to be acceptable simply because they were the actions of his government.

The colonists disagreed through meetings with the King's local representatives, through letters to Parliament, and through civil protest of both modest and extravagant means. To avoid taxes on sugar, they made do without sweet tea or sugar cakes. To avoid taxes on stamps, they did without things like diplomas or tins of foodstuffs, or letters to family.

Finally, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to move forward with a letter to the King and his Parliament, citing their decision to separate and their reasons why. The members of this Congress would call this a declaration of independence. When it was received across the ocean, however, it would be called an act of treason and a declaration of war.

On July 4, 1776 there were not 56 signatures on the document, but there was one very large and prominent signature, that of the President of Congress, John Hancock. It is generally considered that the remaining signatures were added on August 2, 1776 – except for one. Matthew Thornton, the representative of New Hampshire, signed the Declaration on November 4, 1776.

From the first signing on July 4, the document was taken to a Philadelphia printer (not Franklin). Prints ("broadsides" or posters) were made to be distributed and read all across the colonies. They were read aloud in public squares, in front of troops, and posted on public buildings. Was there confusion about the colonies being under a state of rebellion? Probably, although one must remember that the shots heard round the world in Lexington and at the bridge in Concord had already happened earlier that spring.

Washington reading the Declaration to his troops, c. July 9, 1776.
Sometimes, I think about what I would have done during those times. Would I have been willing to pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to fight a kingdom in order to birth a new nation? Or would I have chosen to play it safe for my family's security?

Here is a hand-written, draft of 
the Declaration of Independence, 
including cross outs and corrections.

Our founding mothers and fathers were children of the Enlightenment, forward thinkers who were able to have faith in a present that envisioned as being shaped only by the possibility of a particular future, a rough compromise that left slavery unresolved, a rough compromise that left room for the rights of women while simultaneously precluding them. It was, at once, an awkward and an eloquent claim on the rights of man.

It also was a well-reasoned explanation as to why a people would rebel against their government. Should argument not be persuasive enough, they specified their grievances. Taxation without representation was only a piece of the fabric. The overall weave was continually about government's responsibility to care for its citizens' well being.

If you have never read the entire Declaration, you should. As I think about what I would have done at the time, I always come to the same conclusion: I do not know if I would have been as brave as they were – but I always hope so.

Let it fly!

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Minnesota: The Northern Star

The 1983 Minnesota state flag

The original 1893 Minnesota state flag was uncommon for many reasons, not least is the fact that its design, an embroidered version, won a gold medal at the 1893 Columbia Exposition, otherwise known as the Chicago World's Fair.

The 1957 Minnesota flag
The flag's design was simplified and corrected in 1957. Originally, the flag was white on one side and blue on the other. In 1957, the flag's background was changed to a blue field on both sides. This had the result of being easier to manufacture and, thus, was less expensive. 

The flag's central shield design was refined a little further in 1983 but as the changes are largely decorative (blue, not white water, etc.) they were made without a bill. Though this version of the flag is the most recent, technically, the 1983 flag is not "official".
The real lady slipper!
The flowers that are part of the original design are a version of a red and white wild orchid, a lady slipper, but of a variety that is not native to Minnesota. To correct this, the flower was replaced with the native pink and white version in 1957. (See illustration.)

The flag consists of a medium blue field with the state seal in the center of the flag surrounded by a white ring encircled in gold. Inside the white ring are 5 groupings of stars which total 19 for Minnesota being the 19th state. The state's name is in red at the bottom of the white ring.

Inside the white and gold rings is a leafy garland of lady slippers and a shield with the legend, L'Etoile Nord or North Star, in French across the shield's sky. The interior of the shield depicts a farmer and a Native American, plus fields, forests, water and distant hills.

Also inside this inner circle are three dates: 1819, 1858 and 1893. They represent, respectively, the settling of the territory with Fort Snelling, the date of statehood, and the date the state flag was adopted.
The Minnesota state flag: Let it fly!
Let it fly! 
sources used:
The Origin of the Minnesota State Flag (Becker)


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lincoln: In His Own Words

Lincoln, c. 1860 (Library of Congress)
President Abraham Lincoln remains known for his wit – his homespun, common sense, laconic wit – as well as one of greatest orators. Like Washington before him, Lincoln was known for taking the hard stand and seeing it through. Considered a master politician – or an unpredictable procrastinator, by some – Lincoln believed in a Union, undivided, and also free.

January 1, 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. What a fitting anniversary for celebrating the words of the 16th president as well as the courage of the man himself. 

Some homespun wisdom from Lincoln:
It's about character...
* Whatever you are, be a good one.

* Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
* Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.
* Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.
* I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.
* And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.

Power, freedom, slavery ...
Lincoln with the Union flag.
* To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men. 
* Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
* You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
* Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. 
* Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

Politics all around ...
* A house divided against itself cannot stand.
* America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
* Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?

The Union flag

At the start of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, there were 34 states, hence the Union flag had 34 stars (one star for every state). Despite the secession of Southern states, Lincoln believed it was important that the flag of the United States continue to reflect "the Union" of all the states. When Virginia was divided into the two states of Virginia and West Virginia (June 20, 1863), there were 35 states and Union flags with 35 stars. With Nevada's entry as the 36th state (October 31, 1864), some Union flags were made with 36 stars. By the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865, Nevada had not been a state that long which is why it is less common to find Union flags with 36 stripes.

Given the history of the war and the dates and number of states, any Union flag could, correctly, have 34-36 stars. It is tradition that you generally find the reproductions of the Union flag with 35 stars, the most common version of the Union flag at that time.

The Union Civil War flag –  a star for every state.
Let it fly!


Monday, February 4, 2013

George Washington: In His Own Words

The official, first US flag.
 Our nation's first president did not believe in swearing, nor did he find it acceptable that soldiers felt a right to steal during a time of war – even if (especially if?) it was livestock to feed them.  

George Washington believed in personal discipline, good judgement, and moral accountability. Perhaps it makes him sound like a bit of a bore or, perhaps, it helps define a leader who knew the weight of his responsibility. 

Washington also believed in the power or education as something to be pursued, this during a time when libraries were not free and books were luxuries. In his later years, he would describe the power of government as something to be overseen "like fire." 

He also believed not only in the power of love, but in the strength of women. In his life, he benefited from the wisdom, the strength, and the unwavering support of his mother and also his wife. Perhaps this makes Washington sound corny or naive or simple. Or, perhaps, he simply was a smart man.

February 22 is George Washington's actual birth date although the federal celebration is the third Monday in February, otherwise known as President's Day.

Washington reading the Declaration of Independence to his troops.
Our first general was a reluctant president, a private man, and a dedicated public servant whose front door was, literally, open to travelers passing by.  

At the age of 16, he had already embraced a clear code of ethics, 110 rules by which he tried to live.  Washington's Rules of Civility
are a quick and useful read.

But as he lived through his letters, speeches, and through the correspondence that surrounded him, we can discern a picture of the man who ultimately did possess what he considered "the most enviable of titles", that of an honest man.

Here is a look at Washington through his own words:
... That little spark of celestial fire called conscience

* Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

* Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.

* It is better to be alone than in bad company.

* I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

* A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.

* Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those be well-tried before you give them your confidence.

* Truth will ultimately prevail where there are pains to bring it to light.

... A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool 
George and Martha Washington (Library of Congress)
* Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.

* Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
* All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.

* I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.

* A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool. (Advice to his step-granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis)

... The surest basis of public happiness

* Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.

* There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature.

* A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? What duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?

* It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.

* Laws made by common consent cannot be trampled upon by individuals. 
Washington before Valley Forge (by Friburg)

... I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country

* Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country. (Washington's preamble in a speech to officers about to strike over unmet pay and pensions – and chose not to – the Newburgh Conspiracy, 1783)

* I shall not be deprived of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment.

* Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and fearful master.

* The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.

* Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.

George Washington with the "Betsy Ross flag"

  George Washington's official White House biography.

Let if fly!


Foundations Magazine

Library of Congress

The Papers of George Washington (UVA)