The American flag is the greatest national emblem to ever fly over land or sea or in outer space. It is the symbol of visions, of dreams, of the hopes of all who have come to America seeking liberty. To Americans, it is a living symbol, the very soul of our nation which announces who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for, namely Freedom, Duty, Responsibility, Justice. It represents our right to choose our friends, our vocation, our church, our politics, to fail or to succeed -- all without any unlawful interference or fear of punishment. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:The flag is living testimony to the life
of our nation and the heritage
from which it sprang.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
There, in 1775, at Lexington and Concord, this flag, our flag, was born in combat and baptized in blood. The bleeding continued for six more years. Then, in 1881, on the battlefield at Yorktown, Virginia, our flag flew victoriously over its newly independent nation. “We, the people,” are “we, the beneficiaries” of these legacies so hard-won by the courage and sacrifices of those patriots who have gone before.
The Stars and Stripes now fly over a nation matured by war within and without, a nation which has grown in population to a quarter billion, from a struggling agrarian society to one with the world’s highest standard of living for its citizens. As the world’s only Super Power, our national banner flies proudly over the scientific, technological, industrial giant we have become.
How do we honor our flag? Congress has made laws for how we carry, display, store, and even fold it. In 1949, President and Ill. Bro. Harry S. Truman, 33°, signed Flag Day into law. And, 117 years after Francis Scott Key composed “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814, Congress adopted it as our National Anthem.
In December 1896, another composer, inspired by the American flag crackling
in the wind on ship during a voyage from Europe, wrote the most popular
and beloved musical composition about our flag ever written, Illustrious
Brother John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” This melody became
our nation’s official march in 1987.
Our flag has been brilliantly captured on historic canvases such as Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and Bro. Archibald M. Willard’s “The Spirit of ’76" as well as in photographs like the world-renowned picture of our flag being raised over the small, bloody pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II. We have even seen pictures on television of our flag being planted on the moon. Our flag has draped the coffins of countless American heroes, an everlasting tribute to every patriot who gave that “last full measure of devotion” to our country.
Every day, our flag flies over our nation’s and state’s capitols. It is a unifying symbol and a reminder that we are a truly one nation under God. Our flag sends this message to every corner of the globe, and as our flag is displayed in our Masonic Lodges, schools, churches, hospitals, public buildings and courtrooms, it is living testimony to the life of our nation and the heritage from which it sprang.
In 1892, Brother Francis Bellamy wrote our “Pledge of Allegiance” to
the flag. Every time we repeat it, we reaffirm our dedication, loyalty,
and support for those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity
upon which our nation was founded.
So, my Brethren, as long as the American flag waves over land, sea, and in outer space, and as long as we and future generations continue to love, respect, honor, and protect it -- only for this long a time will our great republic continue to flourish as the land of the free and the home of the brave. God bless our national flag and the country for which it stands!