Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flag Etiquette and the Sticky Edge of the Envelope

   As a kid of the 1960's, I remember seeing Vietnam War protesters burning the flag, and knew it was wrong. As a Counselor at camp during flag raising, I remember knowing not to hang the flag upside down or drop the flag onto the ground. I also knew the flag had to be folded a certain way. But, did you know there are many other rules regarding the American flag. Some refer to it as the "Flag Code." So, this week when the Obama campaign released its new Obama version of the American flag, I paused and wondered, is this artist's interpretation, rendering, or remake of our American flag proper?

A few American Flag Code rules include:
  • "The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source."
  • "The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use."
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal."
  • "The flag should never be used for any advertising purposes. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard. "
  • "The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top."
  • "The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature."
  • The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • The flag should never be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman, and members of patriotic organizations.
American flag faux pas by the normal, the rich, the political and the famous have also made the news.
Some examples are:
  • Ralph Lauren 1984 Fall Ready-to-Wear collection shows his now iconic flag sweater.
  • Super Bowl 2004: Kid Rock wore a flag poncho.
  • July 2003: President Bush autographed a small flag.
  • 9-11-2003: President and Mrs. Bush stood on a flag carpet at a Ground Zero ceremony.
  • June 10 in Albania: a man in the crowd watching a parade wears flag shorts.
  • Reno, Nevada, 10-2-2007: The Mexican flag was placed above the American flag on a flagpole at a local bar.
  • January 19, 2009: newly inaugurated President Obama makes available to citizens flags with his image and name overprinted onto the flag.
  • May 31, 2011: MSNBC properly reports a painted flag on the side of Sarah Palin's campaign bus. There is a long unchallenged tradition of politicians using the American flag for campaigning purposes, but it is still against the flag code.
  • March 2012: Democratic headquarters, Lake County, Florida: A flag depicting President Obama's face in the blue field in place of the stars, was removed in response from complaints from local veterans.
Last week, the Obama campaign made available an artist's remake of the American flag with the Obama campaign logo in place of the blue stripes, and blurred and faded out the red stripes. There were no white stripes, they were interpreted as blank or intended in the body of the image. This artist's version of our flag was also available in the shape of the map of the USA.

What are your thoughts about this use of our American flag? Is it pushing the sticky part of the edge of the envelope?

"No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America."
"The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."

Flag Code information gathered from:
                                                              click on 'American Flag Etiquette' link

Thursday, September 20, 2012

4 Easy Steps For Writing A "Thank-you" Note

   Procrastinating writing the dreaded "Thank-you" note? Writing your note is not hard if you break your task up into 4 easy steps.
   In general, all "Thank-you" notes should be hand written within 24 hours. "Thank you" e-mail notes are slowly becoming more acceptable among close friends and family. However, older generations still enjoy receiving their "Thank-you" notes by snail mail. A "Thank-you" note should be written even if you receive a gift in person and verbally thank the gift giver. All "Thank-you" notes should be age appropriate and on age appropriate stationery. Check your sentence structure, grammar and spelling. A heartfelt "Thank you" should always be intrinsic within the body of your note. The words "Thank you" need not be on the outside of the note. Please do not ever begin your "Thank-you" note with "Thank you for the..." unless you are 6 years old. Parents may also, of course, help their children write "Thank-you" notes as this practice is fantastic training for a mannerly and eloquent life later on as an adult.

4 steps towards a completed "Thank-you" Note:
  1. "Dear ________,"
  2. "We had such a nice time seeing you last night in your lovely home (thank the host for their hospitality and including you)" or "Just loving my (insert gift)." (Describe how you have used, displayed or worn your gift).
  3. Now you may write: "Thank you for including us"..."Thank you for thinking of us..." or "Thank you for the..." 
  4. "Fondly", "Sincerely" or "Love" (sign your name)

   Remember, the best "Thank-you" notes come from the heart. You are done! See, wasn't that easy?!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do You Possess Diplomatic Skills?

The Sabot School of Etiquette touches on one of the definitions of a Diplomat which is:
"Doing nothing and saying nothing nicely." - Unknown

Diplomacy is a bit more difficult to define. The following is a list of quotes describing diplomacy:

  • "Diplomacy is thinking twice before saying nothing." - Unknown
  • "Diplomacy is the art of letting someone have your way." - Daniele Vare
  • "There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their          happiness to the unhappy." - Mark Twain
  • "Be polite: write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness." - Otto von Bismarck
   Diplomats have been around since the Greek and Roman Empires. When we speak of diplomats, we are usually talking about international diplomats and international diplomacy.
   To be a diplomat, one must possess many different charismatic manners, leadership skills and more specific skills including: tact, listening, sensitivity, positive body language, and politeness. One must also pause and reflect. One must listen and be able to arbitrate a mutually acceptable solution to the problem at hand, accept the result, and move on to solve the next challenge. One must remain non-confrontational, yet quietly strong and competent.
   One must also have a sense of humor, but humor is tricky. Humor does not always translate well, especially internationally. Self-deprecating humor is usually the best type of humor to show because you risk offending no one but yourself!
   Also, sometimes not talking or not answering is just as important as talking and answering. What is unspoken and unwritten is sometimes just as important as what is spoken and written.
   Whether one is negotiating an international treaty or negotiating nap time with your Mother, calm, steady, polite demeanor combined with a peace of heart wins out in the long run every time.

Bon chance!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Great Leaders, Example and Lip Service

   All effective leaders should strive to lead by example through not only their words but their behavior. The unintended consequences of a leader's behavior does subjectively rain down upon those who listen. When leaders say one thing and do another, it is not only dishonest but disheartening.
   Yes, leaders make mistakes. No one is perfect. Things do not always work out all the time, every day, all day long, but, the general intent of a leader should be clear and honorable.
   There are many types and levels of leaders within our communities and families. A father, an older sister, a Captain of Industry, a Minister of faith, the Lifeguard at the Community Pool, a mother, the privileged, the owner of a small local business such as the dressmaker or dry cleaner, an office manager. What is your level of leadership? What type of example do you set as a leader? How do you inspire others to strive to be better? How do you motivate yourself to be better?
   Especially in today's maximum paced, multi-media, multi-technology, multi-cultural society, the multi-effects of any number of actions or speech from a leader has many multi-effects on the listeners and participants. In other words, ask 20 people in a room what they heard and saw, and you will get 20 different answers. Again, the general intent of the leader should be clear.
   Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: "We teach other people how to treat us." And we really do.
   Being a leader is hard. Leaders set an unspoken tone through their actions. Leaders have to be able to communicate and state your case, then listen to all those who oppose your case. There will also be those persons who did not understand your case, or were not fully listening and only heard parts of your case, or only heard what they wanted to hear, or took offense to your case. Leaders should try to patiently explain their case. They also should strive to unite and include through their words and actions. If your words do not match up with your actions, your words are eventually heard as empty, lip service.
   Leaders should strive to inspire people. Leaders should be positive, kind, charitable, and forgiving. We should all treat others as we wish to be treated. There is always room to say; "I'm sorry." There is always a chance to say: "I have failed." It is through failure that leaders learn, adjust and succeed.