The Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag is really not that old. It was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy as part of a promotional campaign by The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine of its day. The Pledge was created as part of a public school program to celebrate the 400th celebration of Columbus Day.
The Pledge evolves
Originally written as, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," the original 23 words were amended for Flag Day in 1924. The National Flag Conference, under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's "my flag," to "the flag of the United States of America."
The words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance by Congress in 1954 after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic organization, and signed into law on Flag Day by Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
A proper salute
The original Bellamy salute began with a military salute, followed by the right hand "extended gracefully" toward the flag, palm up. Shortly thereafter, the Pledge was begun with the right hand over the heart, and, after reciting "to the Flag," the arm was extended toward the flag palm down. In World War II, the salute so resembled the Nazi salute that it was changed to keep the right hand over the heart throughout.
Section 4 of the U.S. Flag Code outlines the proper salute: "[The salute] should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, men should remove any nonreligious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.'
To Pledge or not to Pledge
While millions of school children recite the Pledge every morning at school, they are not required by law to do so. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that schools couldn't require students to recite the Pledge. Today, only half of the 50 states have laws that require children to recite the Pledge.
Still more changes
Today, some say the 31 words of the Pledge should be changed again. Some pro-life advocates recite the following revision: "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, born and unborn." Others recite, "I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with equality, liberty and justice for all."
While we do not know the future of the Pledge of Allegiance, we do know that when we place our hand over our heart, face the flag and recite the pledge, we are promising our loyalty to all that the flag represents about the United States of America.