Archive for Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Shouts and Murmurs

I pledge allegiance to the flag … .

October 17, 2001

At 1 p.m. last Friday, school children across America recited The Pledge of Allegiance in unison as a show of patriotism to our nation.

Almost an institution in itself, The Pledge of Allegiance is so ingrained in American life that we don't think about where it came from and we may not realize that it was written for children.

The original 22-word pledge was first published on Sept. 8, 1892, in a Boston-based children's magazine, The Youth's Companion.

The words have been attributed to Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, and to James Upham, an employee of the firm that published the children's magazine.

Both men were advocates of education and planned that the pledge would be said by children as a part of that year's Columbus Day activities.

A month later, during the Oct. 11, 1892, Columbus Day celebration, an estimated 12 million school children in 44 states recited the pledge.

The words in the original version were:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In 1923, the words "my flag" were changed to "the Flag of the United States." And a year later, the words "United States" became the "United States of America."

Not until 1942 did Congress give the pledge official standing by adding it to the United States Flag Code.

A year later, the United States Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the pledge. In 1945, the pledge was officially named "The Pledge of Allegiance."

On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the last change to The Pledge of Allegiance, adding the words "under God."

In making this addition, Eisenhower said, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

In the past, students at Tonganoxie Elementary School had recited the pledge each day, but at some point the practice stopped. However, a year and a half ago, students resumed the tradition when the school participated in a character development program led by Pat Walker, school counselor. At promptly 8:05 a.m., students recite The Pledge of Allegiance together, led by student council representatives speaking over the school's intercom.

Tammie George, assistant principal, said she likes to stand outside the classrooms and listen to the voices of children as they speak the same words at the same time. The words echo up and down the school's hallways, she said.

We who watch and wait as our nation stands up for freedom today can only hope this is an echo that never ends, as likely would those who more than a century ago authored The Pledge of Allegiance. Their words seem to have renewed impact now as children stand united, "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.