YOU DECIDEMarch 26, 2008
The Pledge of Allegiance ~ Circa 1942
Character will decide who will be the next President of The United States – period. In any election, each of the contenders will tell you they are the best choice for eliminating the inequities dividing our country, but in a multicultural society, no single candidate can bring about everyone agreeing and getting along. This, of course, is the beauty of America, and diversity is a good thing.
I do not believe one candidate has the plan for fixing the economy or getting out of Iraq, and must conclude the candidates themselves are too uncertain on these and other concerns. If this seems a bit scary, well, it is, and otherwise, there would by now be a clear favorite. But, voting is the process of decision, and when there is no “best,” the choice becomes; which is “better.”
Making the better choice is easier than the politicians and pundits would have you believe, and a decision based on character is often best. Samuel Willard, a prominent minister in Massachusetts, presented his thoughts as to what constitutes a good political leader in his sermon; The Character of a Good Ruler. The date was – 1694! Perhaps a bit heavy on theology for our times, witchcraft was a hot potato then, but the take-away remains strong in defining a leader of good character; “he must be one who prefers the public benefit above all private and separate interests whatsoever. (He) owes himself to the good of the whole.” Wow. Kinda makes you blush when thinking about Super Delegates and re-votes in Florida and Michigan.
What us “common folk” may lack in the way of smarts when it comes to economic theory and military strategy, we far outweigh with our innate ability to judge right from wrong, or that human condition called “character.” Admittedly, what is right or wrong for some may be a matter of degrees, but this is; “the measure of a man,” and, it’s tough to find fault with somebody displaying good form.
Senator and President wannabe Barack Obama has caught a lot of heat for his refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with photographed instances of him not putting his hand over his heart during recitations of National pride leading some to question his patriotism. While this is probably a bit of a stretch, outward displays of bad form do summon character to focus.
The Pledge of Allegiance was first published for Columbus Day, on September 8, 1892, in the Boston magazine The Youth’s Companion. It was written by a member of the magazine’s staff, Francis Bellamy. The publication of the Pledge, and its wide redistribution to schools in pamphlet form later that year lead to a recitation by millions of school children, starting a tradition that, for some, continues today.
In its 1940 Gobitis decision (310 US 586), the Supreme Court ruled that schools can compel students to recite the Pledge. The U.S. Congress recognized the Pledge officially in 1942, and in 1954 added the phrase “under God” to the text. In 1943, the Supreme Court overturned Gobitis and ruled in its Barnette decision (319 US 624) that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge as a part of their school day routine.
Today, the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance is set in the US Code, at 4 USC 4, which states;
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.
It is very important to note the Code’s use of the optimal word; “should.” Simply put, you are free to exercise any or no participation with others in the tradition of the Pledge. It is not “against the law” to opt-out.
The intent of The United States Code, as stated on the government site, is to present by subject matter the general and permanent laws of the United States. Dating to 1926, the Code has been published and brought current when necessary by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives. Think of the Code as the (my words);”Instruction Manual to the U.S. Constitution.”
At the end of the day, is any of this really important? I mean, will choosing one politician over the other on the basis of character get us through the mortgage morass or return our soldiers safely? Truthfully, probably not, as it’s much more complicated to be this simple. Times change as do people’s needs accordingly. So be it, but what should never change, and thankfully, has remained constant throughout history, is the necessity for leaders long in propriety. This is the person who, in the end, will wisely be chosen to rightfully lead as the next President of The United States, someone we can feel good about.