Yesterday, June 12, I was asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Actually, I was asked to do this back in April. I said "yes" and then envisioned myself walking to the front of the room and saying the 31 words of the pledge and that would be that. But I started thinking about it.
There is hardly a person who reads this that has not been asked to stand for the "invocation" or a "prayer" and then join someone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance - the 31 words - "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with justice and liberty for all." Then everyone sits down to eat or listen to someone start a meeting.
Something, in the back of my mind, told me that sometime in June was the flag's birthday. A computer check confirmed that the flag was born on Saturday, June 14, 1777, exactly two years to the day after the United States Army, of which I was a part for a career, was born on June 14, 1775. The occasion that Saturday in 1777 was a session of the Second Continental Congress when the Stars and Stripes were adopted by resolution as the flag of the newly developing colonial nation.
The Pledge itself was born in 1892. A man by the name of Francis Bellamy, a Socialist and Baptist minister, wrote: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." He wrote these words as a marketing tool for the then-popular children's magazine Youth Companion, whose publishers were selling flags to schools. It was seen by some to be a call for unity after the divisive Civil War.
President Benjamin Harrison picked this up, added "to" before "the Republic" and proclaimed this version to be the Pledge. It was used for the first time in schools on October 12, 1892.
The Pledge was modified two more times: in 1923 "my Flag" was changed to "the Flag of the United States of America"; and in 1954 "under God" was added by President Eisenhower.
The celebration of the event was big time during some periods of the country's history. Spikes of interest coincided with America's wars - interest waned from the time of the Civil War to World War I until President Woodrow Wilson attempted to inspire patriotism in 1916, on the eve of America's entry into WWI by proclaiming June 14 as Flag Day - not a recognized national holiday, but a day to recall the work of the 1777 Congress to honor the flag.
President Truman pushed our official Congress to confirm June 14 as "National Flag Day" - this in the face of severe rising threats from the Soviet Union.
The next time you repeat the Pledge, dwell for a minute on the words. They speak volumes about this nation. Then take a moment and look at a flag tomorrow, June 14, as you drive to work - and just reflect for a moment on what that flag means to you.
Dick Manion, Grovetown
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