Opinion: Shall We Pledge?

Every second period, half of my class stands up for the Pledge of Allegiance, then every ninth I’m the only one standing. I know that this situation doesn’t only happen to me. During a lesson on the Cold War, my AP US History teacher was discussing how half of her second period class stands up for the pledge. I was surprised that she said anyone who didn’t stand during the Cold War era would be labelled a Communist. Today, those sentiments don’t necessarily apply to our society.  However, participation for the Pledge of Allegiance has been declining in recent years as some schools don’t enforce recitation. Despite the decline in participation, I think we should stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge of Allegiance was not written for the US government to enforce but to promote unity and patriotism. Minister Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Bellamy also wanted to write the pledge to maintain unity considering the Civil War 25 years earlier. His pledge first recited at Columbus Day ceremonies that year. It was then adopted nationwide in 1942 by the US Congress.  The American flag is hung in many public school classrooms to symbolize the country.

The pledge is also a way of showing respect to those who served in the military. From local communities to the White House, citizens pledge to the flag to pay patronage to the ones who lost their lives for the nation. The flag became a symbol for those who served in the US as they themselves have served for the flag. People like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who lost his son to a bomb blast in Afghanistan, have emphasized the importance of standing for the flag to remember them. It’s law for members of the armed forces to salute military personnel and veterans when they are present during a recitement of the national anthem or any other national flag-related event under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008.

There was backlash against the words “under God”, which wasn’t added to the official recitation until Congress allowed it in 1954.  There are also students at Francis Lewis who decline to participate in the pledge for non-religious reasons, including protesting police brutality. Students who do not want to participate in the pledge do have the right under Supreme Court cases and laws. In 1943, Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette ruled that students can choose not to participate in the pledge as backed by the First Amendment. In addition, the NYC Department of Education bill of rights for students allows students to “decline to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or stand for the pledge.” For those arguing that the pledge is not necessary, you are given the right to decline.

However, I think we should stand and recite for the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.  It celebrates Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, promotes unity, and it is used to honor those who have served in the military.  I’m an immigrant who wants to show respect to the free country I grew up in for most of my life.