Americans’ relationship with their flag is a special and patriotic one- so much so that they’ve devoted a day to celebrate the Stars and Stripes and the impact that it has made on flag displays in the U.S. In commemoration of the American Flag adoption in 1777, Flag Day is celebrated annually on June 14. While it’s not recognized as a federal holiday, many states have incorporated parades and ceremonial raisings into their observance of Flag Day. Twenty-six variations of the flag have flown since the first flag was adopted, and the 50-star flag that Americans know and love today wasn’t introduced until 1959.
The Star-Spangled Banner flies at Rockefeller Center, United Nations and even the moon, but the average American citizen isn’t all that familiar with Flag Day and the protocol for flying Old Glory. The International Center’s Certified Protocol Officer is not average. In fact, Peter Kirkwood is quite extraordinary, in part because his job requires him to know the flag code up and down.
On Flag Day in 1923, a new veterans association called The American Legion met with representatives of numerous organizations in Washington D.C. to compose a set of written guidelines for flying the American Flag. These compiled guidelines were named “The American Legion Flag Code” and were officially adopted into law on June 22, 1942. With their headquarters within view of The International Center’s offices, The American Legion has devoted nearly a century to educating citizens about proper flag etiquette.
The Center’s Protocol Officer has dutifully passed along this information to individuals and organizations requesting flags from our international flag collection. The section of the Flag Code that The Center most often takes into consideration is Section 7 Subsection G which states: “When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.” In having a wealth of knowledge about flags and Flag Code, Kirkwood has assisted his own legion of organizations around Indianapolis with their flag needs.
In 2018, The Center supported over 40 community organizations and 50 international, multicultural and ethnic events. These celebrations in Central Indiana reached an estimated number of 75,000 individuals. The Center provided 36 community organizations with displays from our flag collection alongside the equipment and expertise necessary to make the displays culturally appropriate. These events ranged from large-scale events, such as the 500 Festival Parade and the IUPUI International Festival, to smaller events like Taste the Difference (a multi-ethnic food festival) and Feijoada, an event celebrating Indiana’s partnership with the Brazilian state of Rio Grande de Sol. While most events only require one or two flags, some larger events require the use of all 193 flags of the United Nations. The Center also continues to be a partner of choice for the Nationalities Council of Indiana, providing flags for the 500 Festival Parade and the Indy International Festival.
THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER FLAG PROGRAM
The International Center maintains a collection of all 193 flags of the United Nations’ member-states and provides the flags to various community organizations hosting or participating in multicultural events in Marion County.
If you would like to learn more about our extensive flag collection or being a Protocol Officer, please contact:
Peter Kirkwood, Protocol Officer
The International Center/ Phone: 317-955-5150, ext. 225
Left: Flags are hung annually at the IUPUI Campus Center leading up to their International Festival.
Right: Members of the Nationalities Council of Indiana show cultural pride at the 500 Festival Parade.
By: Peter Kirkwood, Protocol Officer and Lindsay Grant, Marketing and Communications Intern