I own an overly large naval standard for the president of the United States. At 10 by 16 feet it takes up the entire living room at home. My 8 x 12 U.S. flag with 45 stars from about 1900 is big enough for anywhere, too. But, they are hard to appreciate all folded up. They both, though, have one other thing in common besides being oversized. First graders love ‘em.
Last Tuesday, I visited my son’s first grade class at his school in Fairfax County, Virginia to present my president’s flag in a show and tell. It is President’s month after all and they have been learning about presidents all this month. So, what better way to talk about presidents than with a very large presidential flag.
At the appointed time, they all gather in the school’s library. I am introduced as “Carl’s Dad”, but before I go on, my son, Carl William who is 6 and 9 quarters old (he says, about to be 7), got to say a few words before the presentation about how big the flags were. He’s getting good at these introductions.
So, with the help of several of the kids, the presidential flag is unraveled and all the kids in the class, about 20 of them, are able to hold onto it and see the eagle, count the stars, ask why it is blue, what the big white circle things are (clouds), name a few presidents, count the stripes (why red and white?), and count all the things that add up to thirteen (the first states right? right; the olive branches, the berries, the clouds, the stars). Very good, everyone.
As a treat, though, I bring out my recently purchased large 8 x 12′ U.S. flag with 45 stars. Now, it gets fun. Carl William hands out a sheet that shows how many states the U.S. has had when based on the number of stars in the flag and when the flag was adopted. One genius, looking at the sheet, had figured out that one of the earliest flags had 15 stripes and asked why this one only had 13? Good question. I said they originally wanted a new stripe and new star for every new state, but then decided to keep the stripes at only 13. How would you like a flag with 50 stripes and 50 stars, I asked? “Whoa! The stripes would be so tiny!” Indeed, they would.
And now, the questions. One wanted to know why the flag of Libya was only green (that really is a curious question). Well, we’re talking about the American flag right now. Can anyone name a president? “Benjamin Franklin”. Oh, oh. But, Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and a few others are mentioned finally. Curiously, George Bush is mentioned last.
What do the colors mean, I was asked. Actually, the colors of the flag were never given any official meaning, only the colors of the Great Seal were. They could mean justice, honor, love of country, anything you want really.
Ok, I ask, who likes flags. A few hands go up. Ok, who likes the American flag. Every hand goes up. But, they are even more antsy now and ready to go, so I thank them and off they go back to their classroom. There are a few stragglers asking about the meaning of the number of stars, how big a flag they have at home and other good questions. Some thank me and ask me back again.
A few moments later, I pick up my boy and head home. He liked the whole flag thing, he says on the way home, but I’ve seen them before, he says with a shrug. Well, how about hot chocolate and cookies? Ok, he says, I’m starving.