Showing posts with label Pledge of Allegiance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pledge of Allegiance. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mike Christian: A True American Hero

For some reason I’ve been receiving some really great emails lately. You know the kind…the ones that have been around the world and have a kagillion email addresses attached to them. These are the kind of emails you often just delete because you simply don’t have the time to read them or forward them on like a good girl or boy. They can all be pigon-holed into various categories like all of the forwarded emails detailed here, here, and here.

For all the times you receive a forwarded email that just doesn’t appeal to you occasionally you receive one that really speaks to you in some way. Perhaps it’s the safety tip you need, the joke that makes you laugh after a long day, or it involves a little known or easily forgotten event, fact, or theory that intrigues you.

The other day Dear Sister forwarded an email to me and at the top she typed “Do you know about this?” Well, I vaguely knew about the subject of the email, but I had never checked it out to verify the information it contained.

I’m glad I did.

This week for my wordless entry I posted an image of Mike Christian. Mike is the subject of a story that Senator and presidential candidate John McCain speaks about when discussing his imprisonment at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. Senator McCain tells the story much better than I can. Watch and listen and then finish my post below.

Most people in this country don’t get the privilege of saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag each day. They begin their work day with a bagel, a cup of coffee, a newspaper, a conversation around the water cooler, or catching up on reading their favorite blogs and websites.

As an educator I get that privilege I’m so grateful for. Each day I get to stand, place my hand over my heart and recite the words to pledge my honor and allegiance to the county I love. I cherish that.

I understand that there are some, a small minority, which for religious reasons or lack of any religion do not wish to say the pledge. I have no problem with this as long as it does not interfere with my right to say it.

There are some who want to enjoy all of the privileges of living in a free society, but want to see to it I don’t get to say the pledge the way I learned to say it and the way I think it should be. I understand those opinions and I do respect them, but I don’t understand their fight.

It’s your choice as an American. Say it or don’t say it, but don’t stop those who want to say it because you can’t. The prison guards at Hanoi Hilton couldn’t stop Mike Christian, and no editorial piece, no directive, no ruling, no law will stop me.

The information I found at POW Network advises Mike Christian died in a fire in 1983. There are also other interesting details there. Senator McCain’s written account of his story concerning Mike Christian can be found here, and Joan Clifton Coster crafted a poem about the incident.

Related Posts: Ever wonder about the meaning behind the words of the pledge? Read an explanation here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Red Skelton Pledge

Last year I was honored to lead our entire fourth and fifth grades in the recitation of the Red Skelton Pledge for an end of the year program for parents. Students researched flag history, flag facts, important times our flag has flown, and even researched who Red Skelton was. Students presented their research with posters and power points including a demonstration on how to fold the United States flag. Our cafeteria was filled with evidence of student research and a few of the power points were presented at our program to much acclaim.

Our fourth and fifth grade choir sang several patriotic song and as the finale we recited the Red Skelton Pledge for parents. I was honored to lead the children in this since I had taught almost every single child in the 200 strong member group. It was a real thrill to work with the fifth graders again after not being their teacher for almost a year. In order to learn the proper way to recite The Red Skelton Pledge I gave each student the script that follows:

The Red Skelton Pledge of Allegiance


Me; an individual; a committee of one


Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity


My love and my devotion

To the flag

Our standard; Old Glory; a symbol of courage and wherever she waves there is respect; because your loyalty have given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody’s job


That means that we have all come together


Individual communities that united into fifty great states. Fifty individual communities with pride, and dignity, and purpose. All divided by imaginary boundaries; yet united to a common cause; and that is; love of country…of America.

And to the Republic

Republic---a sovereign state in which 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

Under God

Meaning; so blessed by God


Incapable of being divided

With liberty

Which is freedom; the right of power for one to live his own life; without fears, threats, or any sort of retaliation

And justice

The principal and qualities of dealing fairly with others

For all

For all---that means, it’s as much your country as it is mine.

I recited the actually words of the pledge and students recited the explanation portions that are bolded. I worked with four different homerooms of fifth graders and four different homerooms of fourth graders everyday for two weeks to get them used to the wording and used to which areas of the speech should be emphasized. During the last week of practice the entire 200 member group got together to practice for a few minutes each day. At first it was slow go…..I was worred we would end up sounding more like a musical round than a spoken speech in unison.

We finally ran out of practice time and the big event was moments away.

I knew that the kids wanted to do a good job and I knew my seven other colleagues were depending on me to make us all look good. I had taken the words to the pledge and placed them on power point slides so that as the students and I recited the pledge our audience could see the words as well. Our practice paid off.

Two hundred voices recited the entire Red Skelton Pledge in total unison just as it should have been….no mistakes. At the end the kids cheered more than the parents. Then we invited everyone to stand with us and to recite the pledge again.

It was a great way to end the year.

Here is Red Skelton performing his pledge as he did on his show in 1969.

There was a reason why Red Skelton felt it was necessary to present something so serious on a comedy hour. The year was 1969 and the Vietnam War was being protested daily. Images of our flag being drug through the streets, worn, trampled, and burned were presented almost nightly on the news. Also the Supreme Court cases Abington School District v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett had been decided six years earlier which removed prayer from our public schools.

Mr. Skelton was using his freedom of speech as well….but how prophetic his final words were. You see, the words ‘under God’ were never in the pledge that was originally approved when Congress added the pledge to the United States Flag Code in 1942. ‘Under God’ was added in 1954 when President Eisenhower signed a bill to include the words in the pledge. This was in reaction to the Red Scare during the McCarthy Era. For many people thoughts of Communisim lead to thoughts of Atheism since Communist governments regulate religious practices.

President Eisenhower supported the words ‘under God’ being added to the pledge after hearing a sermon from Rev. George Docherty that was also attended by many in the National Press Corps on February 7, 1954. In his sermon Rev. Docherty lamented, “Apart from the phrase ‘the United States of America’, it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer and sickle flag in Moscow.” News spread, and public opinion began to immediately support the addition of ‘under God’ to the pledge.

I can’t wonder but think how the pastor’s sermon would be interpreted by today’s National Press Corps.

As you might already be aware the Pledge of Allegiance was banned from public schools on June 26, 2002, in a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals due to the fact that the phrase ‘under God’ is an unconstitutional establishment of a religion. Naturally there was plenty of outcry. Attorney General John Ashcroft condemned the decision and stated, “[the Justice Department will] spare no effort to preserve the rights of all our citizens to pledge allegiance to the American flag.”

Two years later on June 15, 2004, the Supreme Court of the United States in an unanimous ruling said the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance could remain intact as a patriotic oath in public schools. However, the ruling was based on a technicality since it was found that the gentlement who filed the original action did not have the legal right to do so. The court did not actually rule on the constitutionality of the ‘under God’ phrase nor on the ‘separation of chuch and state issue.’

In January, 2005 a new lawsuit was filed (Michael Newdow, v. John Carey, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California on behalf of three unnamed families. Federal Judge, Lawrence Karlton, ruled in September, 2005 that it is unconstitional for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.

In strong reaction the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a proposed Pledge Protection Act (H.R. 2389) to ‘protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop school children and others from reciting it.' It failed to be voted on in the Senate.

Todd Akin, a Representatives from Missouri, introduced H.R. 699, or the Pledge Protection Act, in January of this year. It is currently awaiting review with the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.

This is a very tense issue. The Pro/Con Website has an excellent presentation on every side of this issue including poll results and the text and supporting documents for the lawsuits mentioned above.

I would like to point out that when we presented our program for parents they were fully informed about what we would be doing, and any student who did not wish to recite the pledge was not required to do so. Every public school student has this right because of a lawsuit filed in 1943 that states public school officials cannot make students recite the pledge. Also, during the course of our learning the Red Skelton Pledge I discussed the current legal actions concerning the words ‘under God’ and the course of history that caused the words to be added in the first place. I don’t really see how you can teach the history of our flag and of our pledge without getting into this issue, and most states include teaching the history of our flag in their state standards. It should not be left out, however, some parts of the issue are a little over the heads of nine and ten year olds.

Many stated in our discussions, however, if someone objected to the wording why couldn’t they simply not say the words, or if they object to the pledge all together why couldn’t they simply sit and not say it. Some didn’t understand because through the years they have known many students who didn’t stand to say the pledge, and to them it wasn’t a big deal. Many inquired about saying it anyway if it was ever cut out from our morning routine by state and school officials.

They wondered what would happen if they stood on their own did it anyway.

Basically the concensus was, “I don’t mind it you don’t say it, but don’t keep me from doing it if I want to.”