CLEVELAND - It is Flag Day all across America, a time to give special thought to the American flag.
But in Alexandria, Va., as the Stars and Stripes flew in the bright sunlight, also in the sunlight was the gunpowder flash of a rifle barrel. A gunman had taken aim at several Republican members of Congress and their staffers, who were practicing baseball for Thursday's charity baseball game against Democratic members of Congress.
A few hours later, both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the U.S. House, setting aside the strong political disagreements the nation has watched for many months.
"We are united in our shock; in our anguish," said Ryan as he spoke of the gunman who opened fire on the baseball practice field. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," he said.
There was thunderous applause from House members. Seconds later, Pelosi echoed the sentiment. She reminded all who heard her voice that the Capitol Building was "the great edifice to democracy known throughout the world."
The U.S. flag is the banner under which Republican, Democrat, and independent elected leaders all serve. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established this day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. It is not an official federal holiday, but it calls for special celebration of the Red, White, and Blue.
All in this country live under the flag. Before today's speeches in the House, members recited the Pledge of Allegiance. They stood as one, spoke the words as one, thundered as one in applause in agreement with what Ryan and Pelosi said about the gunfire which wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a House staffer, and two Capitol police officers.
The shooting gave political figures in Washington a sobering pause. They are looking for ways to find common ground and agreement at a time when the two parties have been at each other in vocal and angry ways. They must remember this moment and how tragedy prompted them to find a common bond.
It is the Flag of the United States which unifies them, not only when such tragedy occurs and not only on Flag Day. But every day, political leaders must realize they should work to find a common ground.