Not even the observation of Flag Day on June 14 is immune to COVID-19’s shutdown. The residents of Quincy, Massachusetts, have held the longest-running Flag Day Parade in the nation. Last year’s celebration included a parade, ceremony, fireworks display and a 50-foot-by-20 American flag overlooking the water.
“It breaks my heart that we have to cancel Flag Day,” Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said last month about canceling 2020’s festivities because of COVID-19, including the parade his father started in 1952. Koch’s words from Quincy’s 2019 Flag Day parade are especially fitting right now because of the racial tensions following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
“There are many differences we have in society,” Koch said of the flag’s symbolism of unity. “But that flag is something we all have in common “
Congress adopted the first U.S. flag on June 14, 1777, which is Flag Day. A year earlier in 1776, Abigail Adams raised an important civil rights question. From her home in Quincy, she wrote her husband John Adams in Philadelphia and asked him to “remember the ladies” as he and other members of the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence.
Abigail believed that the Declaration’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applied to women. She embodied justice, the meaning of the color blue in the U.S. flag, which Congress defined on June 20, 1782: “Blue … signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.” Abigail’s call to remember the ladies became the women’s voting rights movement that launched in 1848.
Decades later in 1913, more than 5,000 women marched in Washington D.C.’s Women’s Suffrage Parade. With flags waving, they paraded for a Constitutional amendment giving women in all states the right to vote. One marcher also demonstrated another meaning of the flag’s field of blue: perseverance.
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