GREENSBURG – They’re 31 words nearly every American knows by heart.
Each morning as school begins, millions of students rise from their desks, turn toward the American flag displayed somewhere in their classroom, put their right hands over their hearts and say in unison, “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.”
What many of those same Americans might not know, however, is that the Pledge of Allegiance they’ve recited since their kindergarten days was once two words shorter.
It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who encouraged Congress to add “under God” to the text in 1954, 12 years after the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was formally adopted and put into use. The addendum came after several years of lobbying by groups such as the Knights of Columbus.
Sixty years later, the final form of a text originated by Christian Minister Francis Bellamy, hasn’t changed at all.
To commemorate the anniversary of the 1954 addition, Greensburg Community High School teacher John Pratt has gathered 60 speakers for a unique historical happening aimed at giving the Pledge of Allegiance greater meaning for all who choose to recite it.
“We say the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day, but you can tell the students lack passion,” Pratt said. “It’s routine, and in some cases they don’t necessarily understand what it means. I wanted to do something that would reinvigorate the Pledge of Allegiance for students.”
The result was an endeavor set to bring together a mélange of speakers who will take turns reciting the pledge at the GCHS auditorium the morning of Nov. 7, either in person or via video conference.
Notable local speakers expected to the take the stage will include Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert, State Representative Randy Frye and Greensburg Community High School graduate (and Minnesota Twins pitching prospect) Alex Meyer. They will be joined by more than two dozen others, including veterans who have served in every American military conflict since World War II.
Celebrities and well known personalities from near and far will make up the rest of the presenters via Skype or a personalized video message. Among those are former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “Garfield” creator Jim Davis, and “Brady Bunch” actress Florence Henderson.
The only native Hoosier to become President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, will be making a posthumous appearance as well, thanks to the talents of an actor/impersonator.
In keeping with the event’s commitment to diversity, Pratt said one distinguished representative from each of four major religions will recite the Pledge. Father John Meyer of St. Mary’s Catholic Church will represent the Christian faith. He will be joined by a Buddhist Monk, and Hindu and Muslim Clerics during the recitation, and that group will later travel to Greensburg Junior High School for a special presentation that day.
The overarching goal is to instill in students a new appreciation for the words they speak before class begins each morning.
For John Pratt, the Pledge of Allegiance is something more than 31 words memorized and recited prior to sporting events or large social gatherings. It’s not something to be trivialized or downplayed, either.
“I think the Pledge of Allegiance is, similarly to the National Anthem, the Pledge is reflective of our commitment to democracy,” Pratt said. “When I say the Pledge, I think of our men and women in service … I think of all my relatives who served … I think of my Dad who fought in the Korean War with his six brothers … that’s what the Pledge of Allegiance means to me. One of the perks of being a teacher is that I get to say it every day.”
The Pledge of Allegiance recitation program runs from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. Friday, Nov. 7. The event is free and the public is welcome.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; email@example.com