June 14 is Flag Day, celebrating the 13 stripes and the 50 stars that symbolize our humble beginnings and our growth into one unified nation.
On June 14, 1777, in Philadelphia, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution that stated: “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.”
But the resolution never said a word about the significance behind the choice of red, white and blue – because the three colors did not have any official meaning when the flag was adopted in 1777.
But have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of the flag’s colors? There’s plenty of symbolism there too. Red implies hardiness and valor. White stands for purity and innocence. Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. These qualities that our country was founded on should carry through in our lives and businesses today.
According to an article on Time.com, Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion, says that the most obvious reason for the flag’s colors is that they were simply taken from our mother country’s flag – the Union Jack of England. “Our heritage does come from Great Britain, and that was some of the thought process that went about in coming up with our flag,” Buss says of the American flag’s red, white and blue. “They come from the three colors that the Founding Fathers had served under or had been exposed to.”
Although most Americans today aren’t aware of the specific symbolism behind the flag’s red, white and blue, flag expert Buss is not concerned. Instead, he believes the flag’s power to evoke patriotism and pride after all these years is most important.
I think it’s also important to connect how these colors relate to our working lives.
RED: Hardiness and valor stand for the ability to endure difficult conditions; determination in facing great danger; courage and bravery.
Determination keeps people hammering away. Determined people possess the stamina and courage to pursue their ambitions despite criticism, ridicule or unfavorable circumstances. In fact, discouragement usually spurs them on to greater things. When they get discouraged, they recognize that in order to change their results, some change is in order.
Courage is regarded as one of the major human virtues. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets us apart from the crowd.
WHITE: Purity and innocence are synonymous. They stand for freedom from moral wrong and simplicity. Those are tall orders in our complicated world, but worth striving for. Way back in 1872, Missouri Senator Carl Schurz paraphrased naval hero Stephen Decatur with these patriotic words: “Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.” That sentiment is purity at its best.
Sen. Schurz would settle for nothing less than the best for his country. Similarly, we should demand the best of our businesses. Doing things right should be a way of life.
BLUE: Vigilance, perseverance and justice are self-explanatory. Justice translates to fair play, honesty and integrity.
Perseverance separates the winners from the losers. Success in life depends on your willingness to never give up, even when the reward is delayed.
Honesty, ethics, integrity – in my estimation, you can interchange them, because they all convey the single attribute that determines whether a person or an organization can be trusted. Honesty is always the best policy. You must be able to trust the people with whom you work. Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.
Integrity: either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something that you can have one day and not the next. Integrity begins at the top. As leaders we must set the example – that alone inspires employees to do right. We must live by it in all we do, starting in the corner offices and promoted and expected throughout the organization, ensuring integrity is first and foremost in our decision-making. Enduring leaders know that the numbers will be better if integrity is not optional.
Our national values are well represented in the colors of our flag. Fly it proudly.
Mackay’s Moral: People who love their country best strive to make it best.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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