Every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, we take out our flags and proudly hoist them in the air as an act of celebratory spirit. But has anyone ever stopped and ask, “Why is our flag red, white, and blue?” Why isn’t it, let’s say, yellow, green, and orange?
Each color on the flag has some meaning behind it. The flags around the world usually use colors to symbolize different national values. Same is the case with the American flag. The colors red, white, and blue are all symbolic of principles that represent the whole nation.
The Evolution of the Flag
On the historic date of June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia passed a resolution that read:
“Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”
And with these momentous words, the Star-Spangled Banner was born. However, the resolution never really said anything about the importance of choosing the colors red, white and blue.
It is perceived so because the American flag was originally believed to have adopted its colors from the British Union Jack. But perhaps the Congress realized that choosing the colors of the English flag while seeking independence from them was not such a great idea.
So, one year later, the Congress forwarded a resolution in which a seal was asked to be drawn up representing the Founding Fathers’ beliefs and ideologies, as well as the sovereignty of America. The colors red, white, and blue were chosen for the Great Seal and it was officially adopted on June 20, 1782.
The Meaning Behind the Colors
Once the Great Seal was created, the Secretary of the Continental Congress at that time, Charles Thomson, explained the significance behind the colors of the seal, and by extension, the American flag. He said that, “The colors are those used in the flag of the United States of America. White signifies purity and innocence. Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue… signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Since then, the colors have come to carry both similar and different connotations over the years. Even ex-president Reagan put his own opinion forward 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,” he said. “Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice.”
No matter the meaning behind them, the colors instantly evoke a deep sense of patriotism in us and we deeply cherish our Stars and Stripes.
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