As a child growing up in America, we had a moment every school day where we stopped and all exclaimed a series of words in unison: the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the current form, this goes something like this (as recited from memory alone):
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 liberty, and justice for all.
Any errors in punctuation or capitalization are mine, and mine alone.
Yes, there is a pledge that all young children were prompted to recite each and every day when starting their daily school routine. This tradition continues, at least in many public school settings, to this day and will continue as long as we can find ways to keep kids safe from the coronavirus.
Yet, there is a statement above that you might have missed. This is the current form of the Pledge of Allegiance.
You many not realize that there was no pledge in existence prior to 1892. You read that right. While our nation is nearly 250 years old, the Pledge of Allegiance has only existed for barely half of that time.
Another fact about the pledge is that while it was originally written by a Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, the original statement contained no religious references:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Bellamy was a believer in children’s education and worked with public and private institutions to distribute flags to schools and classrooms.
In order to give a full accounting of the history of the Pledge, it must be noted that a previous pledge had been written in 1885, some years prior to the publication of Bellamy’s, by a Civil War veteran, Captain George Balch.
This pledge, which was adopted by many schools and often recited in conjunction with Bellamy’s, stated: “We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag.”
The pledge has undergone changes and revisions along with adoption and confirmation as an official entry in the Code of Laws of the United States. This includes the first official recognition by congress in 1942 and the amendment to include “under God” in 1954, a move that is still considered by historian Kevin Kruse as a unified “effort by corporate America to instill in the minds of the people that capitalism and free enterprise were heavenly blessed”
While efforts to change the pledge have been attempted many times previously, there is no law stating that this cannot occur now.
As reflecting ALL social issues and discourses, there is a very large and conflicting history wrapped up in some simple words in the Pledge of Allegiance.
There have been many statements, attempts, and court cases attempting to change, modify, and use this statement for many purposes.
It is up to us as a society to understand the history and etymology of this expression. It is also our responsibility to change this to ensure that these words that are still spoken by schoolchildren in schools today are relevant and apropos to our current situation.
And what is our current situation?
We are starting to see a change in rhetoric. Whereas before people would make small changes or pay lip service to make the protests, riots, and other people’s problems go away, now we are seeing a true response and reaction to the systemic racism that has bubbled beneath the surface of our society since it was founded.
The responses are there. The attention is there. The change is happening.
To quote the song My Shot from the musical Hamilton:
This is not a moment, it’s the movement
We must sustain this momentum and carry it forward and this includes making deep and lasting changes to reflect this change throughout our shared land.
It is with this situation in mind that this proposal is introduced to leverage our current social consciousness to once again take up this banner for change and modify this pledge to better reflect us as a nation and a unified people.
The changes that are proposed below are small in count, yet large in ideas and rich in meaning.
The first change is to refer to ourselves as a “nation of many peoples”. This is done to reflect our varied and history and global origins, yet together in this pledge we are together as one people and one nation. We do not all look alike. We do not all think alike. Yet we share the same land and breathe the same air under the same flag.
The second change is to remove the religious reference. This is NOT done to remove religion from any person or group. This is done to embrace a universal society of freedom of choice and belief. While this may seem anathema to many, the truth is that not all people share that belief. In order to write a universal creed we must respect the freedom of choice for all people reciting this pledge. This change is meant to show respect to the beliefs of all people by not singling out any specific reference.
The third change is to refer to ourselves as “indivisible and unified” in our resolve and society. We do not agree on everything. The statement is not intended to convey a universal agreement on ideas. However, we all live together in this same land and under this same flag, and in that way, we are indivisible in the support of our nation and unified in our agreement to live together peacefully.
The final change is the most important one: “with liberty, equality, and justice for all.” We do not move forward from this movement without this crucial addition. We must demand equal justice for all people, without reservation or compromise.
Therefore, please join with me in an updated Pledge of Allegiance reflecting us as one people united in our desire for equal access to life, liberty, happiness, and common justice no matter our religious beliefs, political beliefs, or the color of our skin:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation of many peoples, indivisible and unified, with liberty, equality, and justice for all.