STAUNTON, VIRGINIA—In recognition of President Woodrow Wilson’s establishment of Flag Day in 1916, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum will hand out flags to guests on Flag Day,  Friday, June 14.

President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day with a Proclamation in 1916. Communities across the nation began celebrating Flag Day that year. Below is an excerpt of the proclamation, as quoted in The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited for Princeton University Press by Dr. Arthur S. Link.  The entire text of the proclamation is attached.

"I, therefore, suggest and request that throughout the nation, and if possible in every community, the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political program of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance."

President Wilson gave two major speeches about Flag Day. On June 14, 1915, he gave an address honoring the flag. The next year, he gave a Flag Day address describing the proclamation and urging Americans to honor the flag. That day, he led the Flag Day parade in Washington. In addition to the proclamation, excerpts from these two speeches are attached.

The idea for Flag Day originated in 1885, when a Wisconsin public school teacher decided that his students should celebrate June 14 as “Flag Birthday.” That day marked the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes in 1777. In 1949, 33 years after President Wilson’s proclamation, President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress officially designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

Those interested in more information about Flag Day or visiting the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum should contact the Presidential Library at (540) 885-0897, ext. 100.

Flag Day Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson

May 30, 1916

My Fellow-Countrymen: Many circumstances have recently conspired to turn our thoughts to a critical examination of the conditions of our national life, of the influences which have seemed to threaten to divide us in interest and sympathy, of forces within and forces without that seemed likely to draw us away from the happy traditions of united purpose and action of which we have been so proud.

It has, therefore, seemed to me fitting that I should call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union, and to suggest to you that it should, this year and in the years to come, be given special significance as a day of renewal and reminder, a day upon which we should direct our minds with a special desire of renewal to thoughts of the ideals and principles of which we have sought to make our great Government the embodiment.

I, therefore, suggest and request that throughout the nation, and if possible in every community, the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political program of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance.

Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, “one and inseparable,” from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first views of independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded, and in which we shall stand with united hearts for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself, a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.

Excerpt from President Woodrow Wilson’s Flag Day Address on June 14, 1915

“The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history...”

Excerpt from President Woodrow Wilson’s Flag Day Address on June 14, 1916

“…(A)s I see the winds lovingly unfold the beautiful lines of our great flag, I shall seem to see a hand pointing the way of duty, no matter how hard, no matter how long, which we shall tread while we vindicate the glory and honor of the United States.”

The Proclamation and both speeches are quoted from The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited for Princeton University Press by Dr. Arthur S. Link.

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