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Pledge to one nation, under God, indivisible

June 14, 2002|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

We're teaching our 3-year-old the Pledge of Allegiance.

Actually, after hearing it in our home school every weekday for the past year, she has pretty much learned it on her own.

She timidly looks over to see if the hand she has over her heart is the right one, and she stumbles over some of the words - indivisible is hard to say - but I think she can sense that we place great importance on this ritual.

I know she doesn't grasp the full meaning of the Pledge, but sometimes I wonder if many of us adults really stop to contemplate what we've recited for years.

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What better time to revisit these 31 words than today, Flag Day, June 14, 2002:

"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."

To instill patriotism in children, parents should have respect for the symbols of our nation, including the flag, says Deborah Kaye Webb, author of "I Pledge Allegiance: A Recommitment to America."

"If we really lived the oath we take, it would not be a matter of routine," Webb says. "It would be a matter of integrity."

In the book, Webb reflects on each word contained in the Pledge.

She stresses the significance of the first word - I.

"The strength of our numbers begins with the solitary commitment of each individual - each patriot - determining in his or her heart to become an integral part of something bigger than self," Webb writes.

Children are shaped by the attitudes they see in adults. If they see adults treating the flag with honor and respect, they will learn that this is expected behavior.

If they see sincerity in our faces as we say the Pledge or sing the National Anthem, they will be more apt to take the words to heart.

"May we exchange shrugs of insensitivity and nods of nonchalance for hearts of ardent zeal, attitudes of eager devotion, and spirits of deep conviction," Webb writes.

Children notice when adults make a small sacrifice - get up early, have dinner late, etc. - to get to the polls on election day. They notice if you attend a community event or go shopping on a patriotic holiday. There's no act of indifference.

"It's more the act you commit than the words you say that children catch onto," Webb says.

When your children observe your behavior, little things really matter.

Talk to children about what patriotic holidays mean to you as an individual, and to those in your family. Has anyone in your family served in the military? Share those stories.

Even something as simple as making a red, white and blue dessert can give children a special memory of the day.

(Need an idea? Check out the flag cake recipe at www.allrecipes.com/cb/sbs/flagcake.)

"We have such a passionate history," Webb says.

It's a shame when we don't hand down that passion to our kids.

When we lose that drive for patriotism, we lose our concern for community, for a nation "with liberty and justice for all."

"It is one thing to come together as one; it is quite another to stay together as one," Webb writes. "We began in consideration of I. We end in consideration of all. Loyalty is a matter of commitment by the individual on behalf of all."

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For more information about "I Pledge Allegiance: A Recommitment to America," go to howardpublishing.com on the Web.

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Did you know?

Flag Day is the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777, when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.

Want more information? Check out these Web sites:

-- www.usflag.org/flag.day.html

-- www.flagday.org/Pages/StoryofPledge.html

-- www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson005.shtml

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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