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Joe Rosenthal’s photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima won a 1945 Pulitzer Prize. Associated Press file

Friday is Flag Day, the national observance of the adoption of the flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

President Woodrow Wilson declared the June 14 observance of Flag Day in 1916, on the eve of U.S. involvement in World War I. Congress enacted it legislatively in 1946, just after the end of World War II.

The current 50-star design of the U.S. flag has been the unifying symbol of our nation since 1960. Its 13 stripes, alternating red and white, represent the original 13 colonies. The white stars in the field of blue represent the 50 states.

There are a variety of explanations of the red, white and blue color scheme. We kind of like the words of former President Ronald Reagan, when he declared 1986 to be the Year of the Flag.

“The colors of our flag signify the qualities of the human spirit we Americans cherish,” Reagan said. “Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice.”

The flag is the emotional centerpiece of national memory. We remember it atop Mount Suribachi, saluted on the moon and draped over the coffins of war heroes. We’ve cheered when Olympic champions wave it in victory. We’ve cried when New York City firefighters raise it in defiance over the smoldering rubble.

It leads the parade, and we stand when it passes — with lumps in our throats.

It is, as the George M. Cohan song says, the emblem of the land we love ... the home of the free and the brave.

“I pledge allegiance ... to the flag ... of the United States of America,” we are taught to recite as children. “And to the republic ... for which is stands: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Fly your flag proudly today.

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