Red Flag Days Essay

Look out for the red, white, and blue this week as the United States celebrates Flag Day. Here's what you should know about the special occasion, which pays tribute to the Stars and Stripes on June 14.

Why is Flag Day celebrated? 

Flag Day honors a June 14, 1777, resolution from the Second Continental Congress, which called for an official United States flag. 

The resolution called for the flag to "be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."

What is the history behind Flag Day? 

A number of figures in the 1800s led the charge to recognize the importance of the flag.

Hartford, Conn., resident George Morris in 1861 got his town "to undertake a patriotic celebration on behalf of the Union," according to a report, which said the idea failed to become popular. 

Flag Day was unofficially observed 16 years later on June 14, 1877, the Department of Defense said in a blog post. The flag waved nationwide from public buildings for the occasion, a report from 2011 said. 

One of the more famous figures was Wisconsin teacher Bernard Cigrand. In 1885, he put a flag in an inkwell and tasked his students towrite essays about the flag, the National Flag Day Foundation says online. Cigrand would spend decades championing the flag, and even became the editor-in-chief of the “American Standard,” a magazinedevoted to American emblems, according to the foundation. 

William Kerr established the American Flag Day Foundation of Western Pennsylvania in 1888, reported in 2012. Kerr reportedly met nine presidents and contacted many politicians over the 67 years he spent seeking an official day for the flag. 

"He was a strong personality, a force of will," his grandson Thomas Kerr told the paper at the time. "He had no secretary. He did it all himself."

There were also other efforts. In 1889, George Bolch, a New York City principal, made his school have events in observance, and in 1893, Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania's Elizabeth Duane Gillespie fought for Philadelphia's public buildings to have flags, according to 


When was a proclamation for Flag Day issued? 

May 30, 1916. "I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises," President Woodrow Wilson wrote. Wilson had been stirred by a conversation with Kerr, according to TribLive. 

President Harry Truman later signed Flag Day's permanent observance into law in 1949, according to 

Is Flag Day a federal holiday? 

No. However, Flag Day is a state holiday in New York and Pennsylvania. 

What are some Flag Day traditions? 

Some places in the United States hold Flag Day parades. Presidents have also issued proclamations for National Flag Week. Former President Obama's 2016 proclamation called on both federal government buildings and all Americans to display the flag. 


Last week, a new student came to my home for help on his college application essays.

I asked this eager senior about his target schools. He told me Stanford was his top pick, but he was applying to most of the ivies, along with a couple UCs (Cal and UCLA).

Then he handed me a printout of his essay. It was one he had written for his English teacher at our local high school.

It was about a mission trip. To a South American country. And he wrote how he loved working with the kids, and how he realized how privileged he was, and how he hoped to make a difference in the world.

I tried not to let my reaction show.

The essay was well-written, in that it expressed his ideas clearly and earnestly. But it was boring. And the topic was cliche. Oh so cliche.

I would say writing about mission trips for one of these essays is up there as not only one of the most overdone topics, but also a thankless topic to help you write something personal and memorable about yourself and stand out from the crowd.

And I sat there wondering to myself, “How many other super bright, promising students are applying to the most prestigious, competitive schools and are turning in terrible essays like this, and possibly jeopardizing or nixing any hope for getting accepted?”

(In the last couple days, I received other well-written essays to review from other high-achieving students on a dying grandparent, a Bar Mitzvah and a football injury. These were all red-flag topics.) 

It felt really wrong.

Do students really need to hire a private college admissions consultant for several thousands dollars (or more) to get the inside scoop on these essays? Maybe, if they can afford it.

Yes, you can do your online research. If you are industrious or lucky enough to land on the right Web site (like this one!), you can figure out quickly what makes a great essay and some tricks to making sure yours doesn’t end up in the reject pile—or at least significantly up your odds.

(Search things like “Help on College Application Essays” or “What Makes a Great College Application Essay?” to get started.)

Many students, however, like my recent client, either don’t have the time to do any extra research or it’s never crossed their mind or they are just trying to keep their head above water with their intense, pressure-driven lives of SAT prep, starting clubs, visiting colleges, playing sports, over-helpful parents, etc.

The reason certain topics are overdone is no fault of the students. They are only writing about what they know and think will make great topics, and they happen to be the same things (mission trips, dying grandparents, sports injuries, etc.).

My point is that many students are falling through the many cracks in this flawed college admissions system, not just those who are underrepresented or underprivileged, although they certainly lead the pack.

It isn’t fair no one is preparing all students to write these essays. Even the well-intentioned high schools and industrious English teachers who have incorporated them into their curriculum can miss the mark. (Just this year, our local high school was using outdated prompts.)

Until that changes, all is not lost. You can learn what you need if you’re willing to dig deeper and figure out what to do. It’s all online and mostly free.

At least you found Essay Hell here. Nice work!

On some level, this is a good thing, because it means that most of you are in the same boat when it comes to these essays—whether you are underprivileged or privileged or somewhere in the middle.

And a lot comes down to how much initiative, time, energy and creativity you put into figuring how to write these college application essays on your own.

Could the process be so unfair that somehow it’s fair, in a random, zen kind of way?

Maybe it’s supposed to work like this: Motivated, self-directed kids like you who do your homework are probably the ones who should get into the best colleges!





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