by Hannah Stokes ‘11
In recent years, the Pledge of Allegiance has unfortunately been turned into a political sore spot by a small minority of people who personally take offense to the tradition and its meaning. As a result, this once honored and respected tradition has now become some sort of albatross to America’s youth. A tradition that should be celebrated as a demonstration of national unity has almost lost its meaning completely. It is truly in America’s best interest to restore the tradition and honor it with the respect it deserves.
Every day, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited by millions of children in schools from coast to coast. Unfortunately, most of the time, they are merely reciting a ritual blindly without knowing its true meaning. This is why many argue that it is unnecessary and should be eliminated from the typical school day. Well, the Pledge’s basic meaning is that we are loyal to our country and united together. Just because people have recently disconnected themselves from the Pledge—and national unity in general—doesn’t mean that we should continue going in the wrong direction. It is very important, especially in today’s world, that the United States does stand united. Getting rid of the Pledge completely for this reason would be a tragic end to a tradition that has a very important meaning and could be a great asset to our country.
In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not force students to say the Pledge. Anybody who argues that they are or have been forced to do so is either misinformed or ignorant of their personal freedoms. Teachers are required to respect the rights of their students, and, if they fail to do so, are violating the law. Saying the Pledge does not infringe upon personal rights for the same reason that we are allowed to burn the flag in protest or refuse an unwarranted search from police. We have been granted these freedoms by a country in which we are fortunate to live.
Despite numerous protests, the biggest complaint about the modern day Pledge of Allegiance is that it includes the phrase “under God,” which many argue violates the Establishment Clause (of the Bill of Rights) by establishing a national religion. People have the option of not saying this phrase if it somehow violate their personal beliefs. President Barack Obama has said, “[A] sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God is a breach to the wall of separation.” Though it is my personal opinion that the Pledge does not breach the wall of separation, many disagree. “Under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954, demonstrating that the Pledge is a work-in-progress—it has changed in the past and will undoubtedly change in the future. But these two words should not be the downfall of the entire Pledge.
What many fail to realize is that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t simply an oath of loyalty to the U.S. Government. It’s a pledge of loyalty to the people on either side of you. Unfortunately, we live in a world that can be hostile, especially to Americans. It’s a promise to recognize and respect your fellow Americans, and to remember that no matter what happens we are still one unified body. If people recognize that we are all in this together, we could truly be a great nation.