Hanging up his suspenders
Larry King is retiring. This morning’s CNN website reports that the TV interviewer will step aside from his prime time show later this year. Mr. King, born Larry Zeiger, had a career in late-night talk radio before Ted Turner persuaded him to try his hand at television 25 years ago. He has interviewed 50,000 guests; he says that Nelson Mandela was the most extraordinary person he has met.
When you think of Larry King, what comes to mind? Large glasses, the ever-present radio microphone on the desk, and of course the suspenders. Symbols are powerful and enduring things.
In anticipation of this Sunday’s Independence Day celebration, we’ve been discussing the historical facts and trivia surrounding our national birthday and their spiritual significance. We’ve explored the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence; today let’s think about the flag which symbolizes the nation birthed by that proclamation. You have likely never seen the Declaration, but you see an American flag every day. How did it originate?
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution which established an official flag for our new nation. It ordered that “the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” On August 3, 1949, President Truman officially declared June 14 to be Flag Day.
Tradition states that Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross sewed the first flag, designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson. The flag’s design was changed by Congress several times between 1777 and 1960, allowing stars to be added reflecting the admission of new states.
During the War of 1812, a Union flag survived the 25-hour shelling of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore by British troops. In response, Francis Scott Key composed “The Star-Spangled Banner” on September 14, 1814. It became our national anthem in 1931.
In 1892, the flag inspired Francis Bellamy and James Upham to compose a “Pledge of Allegiance.” It was first published in a magazine called The Youth’s Companion. The flag was placed at the North Pole in 1909, and on top of Mt. Everest in 1963; in 1969 it was placed by Neil Armstrong on the moon.
The flag is typically displayed from sunrise to sunset, barring inclement weather. When shown against a wall or window, the blue field is to be displayed on the upper left. When raised or lowered ceremonially, we should face the flag with our right hand over our hearts. The American flag should never be dipped toward any person or object, nor should it ever touch anything beneath it.
The enduring symbol of Christianity is of course the cross. Unlike the flag, however, the cross is significant for what it does not contain: a crucified body. “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6)—eleven words which changed the world.
When Larry King is asked if there is anyone he would like to interview that he hasn’t so far, he answers the question, “God.” Here’s the good news: the living Lord of the universe is waiting to talk with Mr. King and with you. What question would you like to ask him this morning?