My Choice to Pledge Allegiance

As I watched hours of the Olympics these past few weeks and observed our athletes place their hands over their hearts when our National Anthem played, I noticed the gesture seemed to be unique among U.S. athletes. Which got me wondering…do citizens from other countries recite a pledge of allegiance?


One nation

The surprising answer – mostly no. Here are a few exceptions:

  • In North Korea school children pledge allegiance to their supreme leader Kim Jung-un, not the national flag.
  • The Philippines. In 1955 the court decreed there would be a mandatory daily flag ceremony. According to Josh Lim, (@akiestar), writing in, the ceremony includes singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance and in some cases, reciting a school pledge.
  • Many countries require an oath or pledge from immigrants applying for citizenship. The U.S. custom of pledging the flag is considered an unusual custom. This dated, but humorous exchange on relates some of those views from around the world.

In the Beginning

Our pledge has a colorful history, having originally been written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist pastor and journalist. The original pledge was written as part of a marketing campaign to promote sales of a youth magazine, and read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923 it was amended to:

“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.”

And finally to its current version, in 1954, signed into law by President Eisenhower as one means to counteract the threat of Communism. This time the phrase, “one nation under God, indivisible,” was added.

To Pledge or Not to Pledge

From its inception the pledge has spawned controversy. In 1923 “My” was changed to “the” Flag, and “of the United States of America” was added, in case there was any confusion over which flag was being saluted and pledged.

As early as 1942 there were protests about school children reciting the pledge, and those protests endure today. Although the words “one nation under God” were not added until 1953, in 1942 some religious group’s literal interpretation of saluting the flag equated to going against the Bible’s admonishment not to idolize a graven images, not lack of patriotism as some would assert.

Other critics claim the Pledge is nothing more than the indoctrination of children who have no idea what the words of the Pledge mean.

The original gestures associated with saluting the flag were to begin the pledge with the right hand over the heart; after intoning “to the Flag,” the right arm was extended, palm down, to the Flag, in a gesture reminiscent of “Heil Hitler”. You can just picture the controversy that caused after the start of WW II!

The controversy of students reciting the pledge in school continues to arise periodically, although the 1943 Supreme court ruling, West Virginia Board of Education vs Barnette, pronounced that students cannot be compelled to pledge or stand for the pledge – or be punished for failing to do so. Protests inevitably arise from the religious aspect of the pledge and not from absence of patriotism.

Looking back at the history of the pledge, religious protesters who otherwise embrace the patriotism symbolized by The Pledge, could elect to cite the pledge as written by its original author.

Patriotic Reminder

In a nation often divided by politics, racism, religion – you name it, pledging allegiance to a national symbol can be unifying if you accept the message at the highest level. The word “indivisible” shouldn’t have the opposite effect and cause division because some choose not to pledge!

Call me indoctrinated – I truly appreciate the opportunity to pledge allegiance and sing our National Anthem at the various professional and recreational gatherings I attend. Although it’s been 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, patriotism remains prevalent where I live. Northeast Florida has a strong military presence in NAS Jacksonville, Mayport NAS and Kings Bay, and is also a city of choice for retired veterans.

Now that I know how special the Pledge is compared to other parts of the world, I will appreciate it even more. And I understand and respect those who choose not to pledge. In North Korea they don’t have a choice – and isn’t choice what our country was founded on?

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