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the pledge

The Pledge of Allegiance – A Short History


[The] original Pledge read as follows: ‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ He considered placing the word, ‘equality,’ in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * ‘to’ added in October, 1892. ]

Dr. Mortimer Adler, American philosopher and last living founder of the Great Books program at Saint John’s College, has analyzed these ideas in his book, The Six Great Ideas. He argues that the three great ideas of the American political tradition are ‘equality, liberty and justice for all.’ ‘Justice’ mediates between the often conflicting goals of ‘liberty’ and ‘equality.’

In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the ‘leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge’s words, ‘my Flag,’ to ‘the Flag of the United States of America.’ Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.

It’s not like those words were always there. Just as the state of Georgia added the Stars and Bars to its state flag as a comment on desegragation, so too were these words added to the pledge. Both are relics of another time and just as Georgia outgrew its repugnant flag, the pledge can be returned to its inclusive and secular glory.