'I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag.. .'

June 14, 1992

Baltimore, home of the Star-Spangled Banner, is the focal point today for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pledge of Allegiance. The locally based National Flag Day Foundation, which has worked tirelessly to generate enthusiasm for its "Pause for the Pledge," is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

This evening's 7 p.m. Fort McHenry event puts the emphasis firmly on the pledge that millions of school children and adults have recited hundreds of times over the decades. It is only 31 words long. Yet its powerful espousal of patriotism and devotion to country can be a moving experience.

Controversy has surrounded the origins of the pledge. A circulation manager for The Youth's Companion magazine, James B. Upham, wanted to promote a revival of "old-fashioned" patriotism, especially after one newspaper labeled flag-raising ceremonies as merely "the worship of a textile fabric." What was recited in many U.S. schools was simply, "I give my hand and heart to my country, one nation, one language, one flag."

By 1892, one of Upham's young associates, Francis Bellamy, had written a final draft of the new pledge of allegiance. It was first recited on Columbus Day, to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World. Today. Bellamy is generally credited with writing the words, though he admitted that the impetus came from his collaborator.

While the Fort McHenry ceremonies mark the pledge's centennial celebration, Congress did not incorporate the pledge into the national flag code until 1942. Thus, today's events mark both a 50th and 100th anniversary.

The thousands who attend the sky diving, parade of flags, concert, nationwide pause for the pledge and lavish fireworks at Fort McHenry ought to keep in mind what these activities are all about. Even 100 years later, the pledge achieves all that James Upham had wanted back in 1892 -- "in a few words, a sentiment as big as the day itself. It must be so fundamental, and so stirring, that it will live if possible long after this one occasion."

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