The Pledge of Allegiance: One Patriot’s View

Randy J. Harvey, PhD, JD
Attorney at Law
June 30, 2015

The Pledge of Allegiance

One Patriot’s View

Forward: The Pledge of Allegiance was originally written by Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) and Modified by U.S. History following two great wars to end all wars. It is often delivered in the sing-song rhythm used to teach it to us when we were children. This article represents my personal journey to understand its meaning and its proper delivery.

The Pledge We Deliver Today

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”

My History With the Pledge

On Sunday, January 19, 1969, I was sixteen. I sat in my living room with my mom and dad and like every Sunday night we watched the Red Skelton show on our new color tv. This night was different, at the conclusion of the show he spoke about the Pledge of Allegiance. When he finished, my father a Korean war veteran’s eyes were wet. Later when I became a teacher at age 23, I taught my fifth grade students to recite the Pledge with some of the insight that Red Skelton offered eight years before. My students had already learned the pledge using the sing-song rhythmics developed to teach the very young to memorize the pledge, it was time as we studied U.S. History in grade five to learn its meaning in light of our nation’s history.

The original pledge was written in 1892, by socialist minister Francis Bellamy, just 27 years after the Civil War. It was originally published in The Youth’s Companion, on September 8, 1892, and it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, just five years after the end of World War 1, in 1918, the words were changed to read “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. And then at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, two more words were added in 1954, nine years after the end of World War II: under God. He urged the addition of these two words I believe, because he witnessed the horrors and atrocities of the Godless government of Adolf Hitler at Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen. In Hitler’s camps the slaughtered political opponents, socialists, social Democrats, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Homosexuals, and Jews, and Eisenhower now feared that the communist governments who decried any God but government, would repeat the threat to liberty. Governments led by Stalin, who killed between 49 and 60 million of his citizens to achieve the goals of the godless communist party, and Mao’s Great Leap Forward, that killed 45 million in four years. Between these two communist leaders they slaughtered close to 100 million innocents, their own people in purges and cleansing for governmental purposes.

Eisenhower sought the addition of these two words, not for a distinctly religious purpose, but to make a distinct difference between a country whose citizens enjoyed the inalienable rights granted by their Creator. It expressed a moral right, to stand up for the rights of individuals who are oppressed by government seeking to destroy rights given them by a higher power. And it recognized the First Amendment of our own constitution, which proclaimed the right to believe and worship or not, without fear of oppression. Our country remains unique in the world because of this First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

All rights denied those oppressed by these regimes.

As Red Skelton said in 1969, it would be a shame to think of these two words “under God” as a prayer and have them removed from the pledge and from our schools.

Understanding A Speaker’s Proper Delivery of the Pledge

A unique quality of the Pledge of Allegiance and the secret to saying and understanding it is the use within its language of relational prepositions. For those of you who slept through 8th grade English, or who have your memories clouded by the decades:

Prepositions: Definition and Usage. A preposition may be defined as connecting word showing the relation of a noun or a noun substitute to some other word in the sentence. 1

The prepositions in the Pledge of Allegiance point the way to understanding how it should be delivered and what we should think as we relate its words to our own lives. The Pledge is a collections of declarative statements with relational parenthetic prepositional reflections:

Declaration: “I pledge allegiance”—loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, devotion
Preposition: “to the Flag of the United States of America”—old glory, our nation’s symbol of the continuing struggle for human kind’s independence and liberty

Preposition: “To the Republic”—A country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen (Merriam- Webster)
Preposition: “For which it stands”—fifty stars representing fifty states and thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies separated from a king, ruling itself by elected representatives.

Declaration: “One nation”—fifty states united in a common purpose
Preposition: “under God”—recognizing the inalienable rights endowed by the creator on its citizens to pursue life, liberty and happiness. A concept that distinguishes the United States from all countries in the world—both those who declare there is no God and those that declare you must die for not believing in the God and religion they practice. Americans are free to pursue any religion or no religion because our founders determined it was an inalienable right.

Declaration: “Indivisible”—a concept settled in the Great Civil War of 1860 to preserve the Union and establish the Civil War Amendments: the Thirteenth Amendment “Abolish Slavery”; Fourteenth Amendment “granted citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the Untied States, “ including former slaves and provided all citizens with “equal protection under the law” and led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Fifteenth Amendment “prevented states from disenfranchising voters based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Preposition: “With Liberty and Justice”- granting each of us the right to decide our individual path in life, but holding us each accountable for those decisions we make in this free society.
Preposition: “For all”— This Flag is an unlimited canopy large enough to provide refuge for all who seek its protection and the strength to stretch over the diverse views of its people.

I encourage you to deliver the pledge not in the sing-song rhythm of youthful memories, but to give it the full throated delivery of a mature adult who recognizes the declaration and reflection the Pledge deserves. Next time think of delivering it like this, without haste, with a brief pause after each declaration and prepositional reflection, to reflect on our relationship to this great country and our commitment to its success:

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.

_______________
1. http://rwc.hunter.cuny.edu/reading-writing/on-line/prep-def.html
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