On September 8, 1892, 22 words that were destined to become part of the American fabric were published in The Youth's Companion, a well-known magazine for boys and girls. Those 22 words, encapsulated as the Pledge to the Flag, would soon earn a well-deserved spot in the hearts of all Americans.
We recite the Pledge of Allegiance not just to honor the flag, but to reaffirm the principles upon which our nation was founded. As Justice Harlan wrote in 1907, "The flag is a symbol of the nation's power,- the emblem of freedom in its truest, best sense." It represents "government resting on the consent of the governed; liberty regulated by law; the protection of the weak against the strong . . ." In 1954, another reflection of our nation's founding principles was added to the Pledge when legislation adding the words "under God" was enacted.
Over the years, some have objected to those two words, arguing that their inclusion in the pledge is contrary to the constitutional doctrine that government can't interfere with religion. A few years ago a man in California complained that his daughter should not be exposed to hearing the words "under God" when they were recited by the kids in her classroom. Most recently, NBC began coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament with a patriotic opening where the words "under God" were purposely omitted from a recitation of the Pledge performed by children. The courts have ultimately decided that the words "under God" are not unconstitutional and NBC, after being flooded by complaints about its omission, was forced to apologize.
It cannot be denied that our great country was founded on the principles of freedom, liberty and democracy by men and women whose faith in God sustained them through a war that saw them throw off the yoke of British oppression and provided them with the courage to found a nation dedicated to the rule of law and not the dictates of man. In signing the law adding "under God" to the pledge, President Eisenhower said, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."
As you celebrate the 235th anniversary of our independence, I urge you to reflect upon the principles our flag represents. Acknowledge the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who laid the foundation for the greatest nation the world has ever known. And, give thanks to the One who has blessed us so much.