Story Behind "I Pledge My Allegiance"

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Excerpt from Something Beautiful - by Gloria Gaither   

In 1892 Francis Bellamy, editor of Youth Companion Magazine, wrote and published a pledge for students to recite on October 12 in honor of the four-hundredth anniversary of the landing of Columbus on our shores.  More that 12 million children recited it that year and a tradition was started.  On June 14, 1923, the First National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C., added a few changes to that pledge.  But it wasn't until June of 1942 that Congress officially recognized what we now know as the Pledge of Allegiance.

Only one year later the Supreme Court ruled that because this country guarantees freedom to all people, that very freedom also meant that no one could be forced to recite the Pledge.  In 1954 the words "under God" were added.  Dwight Eisenhower declared that these words affirmed the transcendence of religious faith in American heritage and future.  “In this way,” he said, “we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be in our country’s most powerful resource in peace and in war.”  Now, more than one hundred years since the beginning, the Pledge of Allegiance is itself an exercise of our freedom.

We wrote this song to celebrate that freedom.  We couldn’t help thinking about the communities like ours across this great country that have paused to recite the pledge together before farm bureau meetings, town gatherings, or high-school graduations.  We thought of the times children in schoolrooms have stood to start their day with this pledge, some of whom had recently learned that their fathers would not be returning from Vietnam, or Germany or Pearl Harbor.

We thought about the national anthem too, and the many times players on football and soccer fields or basketball courts have stood with thousands of their fans to pay respect to the flag and those men and women who gave their lives for the freedom to assemble in this great country to play or worship or debate.

We also wrote this song to celebrate the genius of the founding leaders of our infant nations who had the vision and audacity to believe that people could rule themselves in a manner called a republic, a system far more fair, just and balanced than a simple democracy.

What they believed could succeed was a courageous experiment later tested to the farthest limits by the bloody Civil war – so tested, in fact, that Abraham Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address:  “We are now on the battle field of that war, testing whether this nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

But endure it has.  And we still test the resilience of this vision every day, knowing that it cannot endure if our trust is in this or any form of government.  It can only endure as long as we as citizens here hold up for ourselves not selfish expectations but responsible and eager expectancy, looking forward to what could become more than any founding fathers – or mothers – could ever have envisioned.  This nation will endure as long as we as private citizens are dissatisfied with ourselves because there is someone going hungry or destitute, or there are families without a place to belong, or there are children being abused who have not been rescued or women being used and abandoned.

As long as each of us still believes that we are the answer to the problems we face as a nation, that there is no faceless “they” on whom we can blame our issues, we still can pursue the great dream of “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

 

I Pledge My Allegiance

 

In a midwestern town

Children form a parade,

With the flag bearer

Leading the way.

Farmers and teachers,

The old and the young

Lift together

Their voices to say . . .

 

I pledge my allegiance

To the grand old flag,

And the promise of hope

From sea to sea.

Under God one nation,

Undivided we will stand,

Lift the banner of liberty.

 

 

It’s the final kickoff

For the NFL

And the stadium is packed

With screaming fans.

All the banners are flying,

The color guards advance,

Like a wave

Silence moves through the stands.

 

Where a child is hungry

Where men have no homes,

Where the powerless

Are yearning to breathe free—

May we fight for justice

’Til there’s justice for all

And become

What God meant us to be.

 

I pledge my allegiance

To the grand old flag,

And the promise of hope

From sea to sea.

Under God one nation,

Undivided we will stand,

Lift the banner of liberty.

 

Lyric: Gloria Gaither

Music by William J. Gaither

Copyright © 1990 Gaither Music Company. All rights reserved.