It was all the way back in 1953 that little 6-year-old Jerry Stewart was in the first grade class of Miss Harris at D. McRae Elementary School. And on that first day, after she had to deal with Billy Brown defiantly sticking his tongue out at her, the first thing that Miss Harris did was to lay out what our daily schedule would be for that first-grade class. She told us kids that each school day we would start that day with three things.
First, the checking of the roll, who was there that day.
Second, we would pray, yeah, we’d pray in our public school. Oh, nothing fancy, we’d pray for anyone who was sick, for family members, to pray that God would give us a good day to learn and grow. Oh, the prayers of little kids. No wonder the Bible says, that, “a little child shall lead them” – Oh, the simple faith of a little child. We do so desperately need that today in our public schools.
The third thing we were to do each day to start off that school day? To say this set of words called our “Pledge of Allegiance”. We were to stand, face our flag there hanging in our classroom, to remove our hats or caps, to put our hand over our heart and to say these words.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
Then she explained to us that there was a reason for each part of what we did. She said that our flag was to be given honor and respect – that’s why we stood – it was one important way to show respect. It’s like when someone walks into a room – we stand to respect their presence – it’s the same with the removing of the hat or cap – a show of respect.
But why the right hand placed over our hearts? Just what was the importance of that? Well, first, the right hand is used because that is the hand that normally holds a weapon, so using the empty right hand here is a sign of a peaceful greeting. But why the hand over the heart? Because the heart is seen as the part of the body related to love. For example, you may hear someone say, “I love you with all of my heart.” Or when love is lost, it is seen to “break the heart”. So, when we put our hand over our heart, it’s our way of saying “I love you” – and that is what we should do – “Love our America”.
But did you notice a moment ago when I spoke the words to our Pledge of Allegiance, did you notice there were words missing? Yeah, two words were missing. You see, when I first recited that pledge in 1953, there were still two more very important words to be added – the two words? “Under God”. But you say, “Wait, I thought the words, ‘under God’ were in the Pledge from the beginning.” Nope, they didn’t come until later. It was 1892 when Minister Frances Bellamy first wrote and introduced his writing of this pledge for consideration. It wasn’t until all the way in 1954 that our U.S. Congress and our then President Dwight Eisenhower had these two words formally added; and notice, there is no comma there, no pause, no separation – we are “One Nation under God”.
So now be honest here – when’s the last time you really thought about these words to our “Pledge of Allegiance”? For so many today I truly wonder if the words are just a shallow set of memorizations, or if they are truly pledging themselves, their heart, their soul and very being, everything they are to our flag and our nation.
Years ago, there was a very funny comedian, his name was Red Skelton. He always talked about how much he loved our country. One evening on his television program he gave a commentary on our pledge of allegiance to the flag. Listen closely to what he said.
“I – Me, an individual, a committee of one.
PLEDGE – Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.
ALLEGIANCE – My love and my devotion.
TO THE FLAG – Our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves there is respect because our loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, “Freedom is everybody’s job”.
UNITED – That means we have all come together.
STATES – Individual communities that have united into 48 great states, 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose – and that is love for country.
AND TO THE REPUBLIC – Republic, a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern, and government is the people; and it’s from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
FOR WHICH IT STANDS – Meaning, so blessed by God.
INDIVISIBLE – Incapable of being divided.
WITH LIBERTY – Which is freedom, the right of power to live one’s own life without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
AND JUSTICE – The principle, or qualities of dealing fairly with others.
FOR ALL – Which means it’s as much your country as it is mine.
And he closed with this thought. He said, “Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
UNDER GOD – Wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer and that would be eliminated from schools too.”
Let us take this time in our nation and in our hearts not to be first a “D” or an “R”, but, instead, to be first and foremost an “A”, an American, a citizen devoted to our America, one nation under God.
About Jerry Stewart
I am a story teller. Since 1998, I have been telling the true stories of our nation and those Americans gone before us. To say the least, these stories have been well received by Americans, both young and old. So, here’s where the stories have taken me. In 1998, I was broadcasting my stories on just one radio station in Washington State. Today, from Texas 15 years later, these programs are now broadcast through a syndicated radio network to over 400 radio stations all across America, with literally millions of listeners.