Recently, we wrote/wondered how often, as “regular citizens,” we hear our National Anthem (outside of sporting events), or hear/read/see the fundamental founding documents of the United States, such as the Preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, etc. I can remember a time when every student had to memorize these, and recite them … including the Gettysburg Address.
So, I wonder about the Pledge of Allegiance. I am blessed to work in a School, and we recite the pledge every morning. This morning, for example, I led a class of kindergarten students in reciting the Pledge. It is my understanding that this is a regular part of most school’s morning schedule. Many schools also will feature the National Anthem at least once a week.
So … if we weren’t in School … for those of us who don’t work in a school … when would we ever hear or say, or see the words to “The Pledge of Allegiance?” I do understand that Congressional sessions open with the recital of the Pledge, as do many government meetings at local levels, and meetings held by many private organizations. A friend of mine, for example, is involved with Veteran and military organizations, and she tells me that the Pledge is included as part of the opening ceremony at various meetings of these groups.
So, I wonder, for the majority of citizens … how often do we hear or say the pledge? Outside of school, I’m trying to remember where I may have seen the words to the Pledge posted.
Many of us know the history of the Pledge, being composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress as the Pledge in 1942. What I didn’t know was where the phrase “Under God” came from, as it wasn’t part of the original pledge, but was added (on Flag Day) in 1954. Here’s what I have read about the phrase “under God,” and how its addition to the Pledge came about:
Louis A. Bowman, an attorney from Illinois, was the first to initiate the addition of “under God” to the Pledge. He was Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. At a meeting on February 12, 1948, he led the Society in swearing the Pledge with two words added, “under God.” He stated that the words came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Though not all manuscript versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words “under God”, all the reporters’ transcripts of the speech do, as perhaps Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said “that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.”
Prior to February 1954, no endeavor to get the Pledge officially amended succeeded. There were some United States presidents who honored Abraham Lincoln’s birthday by attending services at the church Lincoln attended, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, by sitting in Lincoln’s pew. On February 7, 1954, with President Eisenhower sitting in Lincoln’s pew, the church’s pastor, George MacPherson Docherty, delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address titled “A New Birth of Freedom.” He argued that the nation’s might lay not in arms but its spirit and higher purpose. He noted that the Pledge’s sentiments could be those of any nation, that “there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life.” He cited Lincoln’s words “under God” as defining words that set the United States apart from other nations.
The phrase “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance on June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), by a Joint Resolution of Congress, and President Eisenhower signed the bill into law.
On January 14, 1969, on his weekly television show, Red Skelton gave a remarkable performance, explaining the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Here’s the way it looked,
45 years ago: