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  • Reverend James Squire

July 4th and the Pledge of Allegiance

Tomorrow is Independence Day which celebrates our autonomy as a nation. Record travel numbers both on land and in the air have been documented. The Virus is still making its way through our nation with the greatest risk of infections to those who are unvaccinated. We are still praying for the families of those who have lost loved ones in Surfside, Florida. Record climate temperatures are present and we are watching a hurricane carefully that looks to descend on Florida and make the search for survivors more difficult.

President Biden has acknowledged, in his recent press conference, the potential problems of the Afghanistan people as our troops are removed. He has encouraged us on July 4th to focus on the good news of what is happening in our nation today with the recent jobs report showing a growth in our economy and that vaccinated people are virtually immune from the Virus.

Our favorite Senator Cruz, who suffers from foot in mouth disease, accuses President Biden of being Jimmy Carter 2.O, failing to realize that although Carter has been accused of many things during his administration, he never got us into a war and “there was never a shot fired.” His post presidency behavior building houses for the poor and disenfranchised and continuing to teach is a Sunday School class reflects his humility and continued support of social justice. Cruz received a brutal response on twitter including from the head of the Democratic Party, all of whom compared Carter to Trump’s post-election behavior.

There is something big that has been missed by both the right and the left, but more so from the right that would make tomorrow the important day that it should be. Critical Race Theory has been under attack literally and figuratively across the nation as something that would cause us “to hate each other.” I watched a school board meeting that had to be cut short because people were beginning to get physical. The author of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has just received a tenured faculty tract at UNC after some pushback from that school community. The board vote was 9 to 4 as concerns were raised about historical accuracy.

One of the things that I have been taught and, in turn, required of people who worked with me was that “if you are going to bring a problem to me, bring a solution for consideration to me as well. You don’t have to solve the problem but bring something that we can discuss.” We know the negatives. Let’s focus on the positives. This was the essence of President Biden’s most recent press conference.

One of the things that I have learned in 38 years in the education business, is that if you want to get a response from a community, present a person or program that you feel will hurt their child. My standard response to parents who would complain about a speaker that I was having speak would be that, “______ is a seasoned person. There will be time for Q and A. Bring your questions with you. Be respectful.” There was an open invitation for parents to attend chapel at any time. This happened big time when I had our first transgender person address chapel to kick off Alumni Day Weekend that was a request from a 50th reunion class. Following Clemmie Engle’s address, she received a five minutes standing ovation.

Here is what is missing that should have been encouraged on the right and the left. Sit down with your child on the 4th of July if you are serious about his or her education and read with them the Pledge of Allegiance. You don’t even have to discuss the Declaration of Independence. Focus on each phrase including that final one, “with liberty and justice for all.” Ironically, that phrase is the goal of Critical Race Theory in its most concrete form.

An early pledge was created in 1887 by Captain George T. Balch, a veteran of the Civil War, the

original struggle for “liberty and justice for all.” It has had several revisions along the way.

Many public schools do the pledge but a Supreme Court ruling said that “students cannot be compelled to recite the pledge or punished for not doing so.” At the Episcopal Academy it was optional, in part because we made such days as 9/11, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day such important moments in Chapel during the school year. We were patriotic.

But Dr. Susan Rubin, a chemistry teacher, and I let our homeroom which began every school day that that it was our wish that we do the Pledge. Yes, students had to stand and recite it, some with hands over hearts. The interesting thing is that on occasions when we were not in homeroom because of meetings, the students made sure to recite the Pledge, and they were proud to be doing so informing Dr. Rubin and me that they continued the important tradition. To this day they could recite it. It became part of them.

Can’t be done tomorrow? I think it can. We had a dress code at our school where uniforms were required. The kids had to dress up. They challenged that code until we said, “Uniforms make everyone equal. There is no disparity highlighted with clothing between the haves and have nots. More important, however, would you wear jeans and a tank top to a dinner party your parents were having, and they asked you to dress up for an important occasion? We think your education is the most important thing that you could be doing.” End of conversation! Students will do what makes sense to them.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and for the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Somehow, I think that the smart money is not on Ted Cruz starting his day with the Pledge tomorrow. We use the word “celebrate” to focus on what we are doing or achieving that is noteworthy and right. Let’s focus on that as President Biden indicated. It is a litmus test of the left and the right and those concerned with Critical Race Theory whether they either think of doing this or not if they are asked. How will you start your July 4th?

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