WHETHER YOU ARE traveling close to home or across the country, you are likely to see thousands of U.S. flags flying proudly in the wind. “Old Glory” is something special: the living symbol of our great land.

What American doesn’t feel a special sense of pride when our young men and women in uniform are seen carrying the flag in some faraway country, fighting to win our freedom?

What is it about our flag that makes it more than just a piece of cloth sewn together? It’s the symbolism. That symbolism reflects the history, the commitment and the heritage of this great nation.

The flag of the United States symbolizes the glories and greatness of our historic past, the duties of the present, and the hopes and prayers of the future.

Our flag was born June 14, 1777. It is the silent sentinel of freedom. It is the emblem of the greatest sovereign nation on Earth. It was the inspiration for which American patriots gave their lives and fortunes.

The flag led our sons and daughters into battle, from Valley Forge to the bloody ridges of Vietnam to the rugged terrain of the Middle East. The flag stands in silence with each of our honored dead in their final resting places beneath the silent, white crosses, row upon row.

The first Flag Day in 1916, Franklin Lane, secretary of the interior, shared his idea of what Old Glory would say to us if it could talk.

Lane said “I am all that you hope to be and have the courage to try for. I am song and fear, struggle and panic. I am the day’s work of the weakest man and the largest dream of the most daring.

“I am the battle of yesterday and the mistake of the men who do without knowing why. I am the clutch of an idea and the reasoned purpose of resolution. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself, the pictured suggestion of that big thing which makes this nation.”

America always faces a multitude of problems and many believe we are suffering from moral decay, a loss of spirit.

If we are suffering from a loss of spirit, then, it is up to each American citizen to begin to renew that spirit Flag Day 2018, which is this coming Thursday.

America stands for peace and justice. We believe people should be free and given the chance will choose freedom over tyranny.

The flag has flown through peace and war, strife and prosperity, and amidst it all, it has been respected. Its red stripes symbolize the blood spilled in defense of this glorious nation.

Its white stripes signify the burning tears shed by Americans who lost their sons and daughters. The blue field is indicative of God’s heaven under which it flies. The stars, clustered together, represent 50 states unified as one, for God and country.

As the essay “I Am Your Flag” said “Honor me, respect me, defend me with your lives and your fortunes. Never let enemies tear me down from my lofty position, lest I never return.

“Keep alight the fires of patriotism, strive earnestly for the spirit of your republic. Worship eternal God and keep his commandments, and I shall remain the bulwark of peace and freedom for all mankind.”

Look around you at the American flags flying proudly against the blue sky. Watch them for a moment and as you do, remember that those stars and stripes symbolize more than 240 years of freedom, purchased with the lives of freedom-loving men and women from generation to generation.

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A RECENT study released by Oxfam, a British campaign group, provided a look at the growing income and equality gap that has many people concerned.

There was a sliver of good news. The study showed that extreme poverty among the world’s 7.6 billion people is actually being reduced. From 1990 to 2010, the number of people living in extreme poverty was cut in half and is continuing to decline.

Oxfam based the following findings on data and research compiled by Swiss bank Credit Suisse, the World Bank, Forbes’s billionaire list and the International Monetary Fund.

Now, the news many people find worrisome. There are 2,043 billionaires worldwide and their collective fortunes grew by $762 billion in 2017, while the poorest half of humanity saw no increase in their wealth.

The world’s richest 1% own more wealth than the rest of the global population combined. The wealthiest 42 people in 2017 had wealth equivalent to the world’s poorest 3.7 billion people.

Despite those figures, Oxfam said people should not direct their anger at the wealthy alone. Do not look to tear the wealthy down. Your time is better spent finding more ways to lift the poor up. Don’t be obsessed with redistributing the wealth.

Oxfam did conclude that the inequality is driven by factors that include excessive financial returns to company owners and shareholders at the expense of ordinary workers and the rest of the economy. Executives do have a legal responsibility to do what is best for their companies.

Oxfam also said rich individuals and corporations have the ability to use tax havens that allow them to evade or shield trillions of dollars from tax authorities and influence public policy that permits market conditions that push down wages and infringe on labor rights.