Pupils will rise,shine and echo Pledge of Allegiance
Students at schools
across America have been asked to celebrate national unity tomorrow by joining together in a synchronized Pledge of Allegiance.
The call for a unified recitation of the pledge comes from Education Secretary Rod Paige to the principals at the nation's 100,000-plus public and private schools this week.
Mr. Paige is urging them to participate in a massive moment of patriotism as the country's military troops continue their battle in Afghanistan in the war against global terrorism.
"Teachers in every community in America have been working with students to help them understand what happened on Sept. 11, and to overcome their fears and concerns," wrote Mr. Paige in a letter to principals dated Oct. 9. "They have also worked to teach them more about our proud and rich national history and the foundations of our free society.
"Together," he said, "we can send a loud and powerful message that will be heard around the world: America is 'one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"
Mr. Paige, who also has contacted governors, state legislators, mayors and state education chiefs about the "Pledge Across America" event, will participate with students at a Washington-area school. The recitation is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT, which is 8 a.m. for students in Hawaii.
Celebration USA, a nonprofit group with its headquarters in Villa Park, Calif., organized the pledge campaign. The organization was formed in 1991 by public school teacher Paula Burton who was upset at student apathy toward reciting the pledge, and who wanted to find a way for students to value and appreciate their history.
Rules governing pledge recitation vary from state to state. In Virginia, lawmakers passed a bill in August that requires daily class time allotted for reciting the pledge and for teachers to teach the principles behind it. Schools in Maryland also are required to lead recitations of the pledge, but like in Virginia, students are allowed to opt out and remain silent.
In some schools where the pledge has always been a daily habit, the recent terrorist attacks have given the oft-repeated words added meaning.
"It was done out of tradition and habit, but now it's become more special. Now we think about it as we do it," said Ernest Smith, principal of Portland Elementary in Portland, Ark.
"Sometimes, regretfully, it takes an occurrence like this to really bring us back to reality and to make us feel what we are saying and doing," said Mr. Smith, who adds that some of his classes are now singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" each day.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy of Rome, N.Y., and was first published on Sept. 8, 1892, in a Boston magazine called The Youth's Companion.
Originally, it went like this: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Mr. Bellamy, the magazine's circulation director, composed those words for children to recite in celebration of Columbus Day. The pledge was reprinted and sent out to schools across the country, and more than 12 million students joined in that year. Soon thereafter, Mr. Bellamy's composition became a daily ritual in the nation's classrooms.
In June 1923, at the National Flag Conference in Washington, the words "my Flag" were replaced by the phrase "the Flag of the United States of America." Congress officially approved the pledge in 1942, but the Supreme Court a year later ruled that schools could not force students to recite it.
The words "under God" were added to the pledge in 1952 by an amendment.
"In this way," said President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the addition, "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."