Metro-East Living

Here’s when you should fly the flag commemorating Memorial Day

Q: If we are celebrating Memorial Day as a holiday on Monday, May 29, are we supposed to fly our flag (American) at half-staff that day and then again on the actual date of Memorial Day?

A: No, our American flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon only on Monday, the 29th, because that is the officially recognized national holiday, since June 28, 1968. It was on that date that Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a three-day weekend. Prior to that date, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 each year.

Q: What is the significance of passing out red poppies on Memorial Day?

A: The poppy is meant to be symbolic of the men and women who died for their country. The flower is intended to remind us, and reflect, on their sacrifices. The tradition itself originated as a result of a poem written by John McCrae in 1915, entitled “In Flanders Fields.” McCrae wrote the poem to honor the dead soldiers of World War I. In his poem, he mentions the poppies blowing “In Flanders Field” between the rows and rows of graves marked with a cross.

Q: With all the political ranker going on today, I was dismayed to see graduates walk out in protest when the vice president of the United States spoke at the Notre Dame graduation. I was always taught to be polite at a function such as a commencement, and if you do not like the speech, then don’t clap in approval. But to have drawn attention to themselves by walking out on the ceremony seems selfish and rude. A family millennial said that “political rights” always take precedent over manners. Really, when did this shift occur? My comment was if they didn’t want to listen to the commencement speaker then they should have not attended. Who is correct?

A: You are correct. Any graduate walking out of any commencement ceremony is being rude and disrespectful. If a graduating college student chooses to participate in the graduation ceremony, knowing full well who the speaker will be, he or she has the obligation to adhere to the customs and procedures of that ceremony, including respectfully listening to any and all speakers. Using “Political rights” as a justification to depart the premises, is not only inappropriate, but also irrelevant.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to her at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to