In 1979, my daughter, Kirsten, came home from school and reported the disrespect her schoolmates were displaying during the Pledge of Allegiance. I was greatly disturbed and wrote the following letter.
To Mrs. HANNIBAL’S Home Room Class:
Hey there — YOU — young man, young woman, do you really understand what I am? You know I have lived a good long time, and over the years I have seen many young men and young women like you. I have always been proud of the youth of America — my America. From my vantage point, I have observed your struggle to learn. I have seen your mistakes and failures, but more than this I have seen you press on and to succeed.
You, youth of America, are my greatest hope. It is true that I have a great heritage, but you must never forget that your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents gave you and me that heritage by their constant vigilance. What are you doing with it? Millions of people, all around the world, would like to have what they gave to you, and if you ever lose your FREEDOM, you, will know why.
FREEDOM and LIBERTY are so very precious that many have died that you might enjoy them. I remember well the first ones – for I was there – over two hundred years ago. Then in the darkest days of my past, when father fought against son and brother against brother, I felt that I might be torn apart, but I came out of that time stronger and better. Then in two great wars, as I looked on, many of your grandfathers gave their all, their very lives, that you might have these precious gifts. Recently, I have seen some of your own fathers fight for this FREEDOM and LIBERTY and some of them even gave their lives. In many places around the world, they sleep and to you they have passed the standard of FREEDOM and LIBERTY. To you, youth of America, they have entrusted my care.
Will you reverence and respect me as they did? Or does it no longer matter? Be ever mindful that I will be the first to know for I will observe your actions from my vantage point – and I will know because I am – your flag – the symbol of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I implore you, youth of America, to never forget what I am — a symbol of FREEDOM and LIBERTY. Use me as a constant reminder that FREEDOM and LIBERTY are very fragile and may be lost without constant vigilance. Then grant me the reverence and respect that your ancestors gave to me and let your hearts also swell with pride whenever you see me. If you do this, I promise I will continue to wave “o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” and I will remember that I am –