It is common practice in our schools for the students to stand at attention facing the flag of the United States, place their hands over their hearts and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They learn the words at a very young age and continue to recite them through their high school years. However, as a school administrator I would often write key words of the Pledge on the board and ask the students to tell me their meaning. Even at the high school level I found that very few students could define the words. For example, when asked what “indivisible” meant, they would invariably answer, “You can’t see it.”
There probably aren’t many around today who remember Red Skelton. When I was just a boy I used to watch Red Skelton on our little black and white television and I would laugh at the characters he portrayed in his comic sketches. Red loved being a comedian, a clown. Over a seventy year career as an entertainer Skelton believed his life’s work was to make people laugh. He was so taken with clowns that he became famous for his clown paintings, prints of which still today command high prices.
But Red Skelton also loved his country. I think he found, just as I did, that people were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and yet did not fully understand what they were saying. He did one sketch in which he defined the terms:
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 your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, “Freedom is everybody’s job.”
United—That means that we all come together.
States of America—Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight 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—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
One Nation—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 threat, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
And Justice—The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.
For All—which means, boys and girls, it’s as much your country as it is mine.
When Red had finished reciting the above, he asked the television audience to join him in the Pledge of Allegiance as he had given it. Then he continued:
“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 [The Pledge of Allegiance] would be eliminated from our schools?”
I believe it is our privilege and obligation to understand and to protect the principles set forth in the Pledge of Allegiance. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Every step we take toward making the State the caretaker of our lives, by that much we move toward making the State our master.”