'Pledge Across America' to Honor Victims of Terrorist Attacks

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush will join as many as 52 million American children Friday in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Education Secretary Rod Paige has urged every public and private elementary and secondary school in the nation to participate in the patriotic exhibition organized by the nonprofit group, Celebration U.S.A.

Celebration U.S.A., established in 1992, encourages school age children to partake in patriotic activities that honor the principles of democracy and good citizenship. Friday's nationwide event will provide a unique opportunity for young Americans to "send a loud and powerful message that will be heard around the world," Paige said Tuesday.

In his letter sent to over 100,000 school principals, Paige requested that teachers encourage their classes to recite the pledge as a display of support for the victims, their families, rescue workers and military personnel affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union has no objections to Friday's Pledge Across America. According to an ACLU spokeswoman, the organization only requested that "Secretary Paige makes clear that participation in the pledge is voluntary."

A voluntary Pledge of Allegiance "is exactly what we would expect in an event designed to teach school children about the foundations of our free society," said the ACLU spokeswoman.

As such, students nationwide are encouraged, but not required, to recite the pledge in Friday's synchronized effort commencing at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

"I think it's great that this is happening," said the American Legion's Director of Americanism, Mike Buss. "Unfortunately, there's not been a lot of publicity about it," he added.

The Madison, Wis. school board did receive a lot of publicity this week following Monday's 3-2 vote to ban school wide recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in favor of an instrumental-only version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Some parents and students had reportedly complained about the pledge because it included the words "one nation under God."
In the hours following the vote, news of the board's controversial decision spread nationwide, yielding a barrage of criticism. By Wednesday, board members had agreed to reconsider the issue when they meet again Monday night.

School Board President Calvin Williams told reporters it was not the board's intention to ban the pledge from schools, but rather an attempt to protect the rights of students and teachers who choose not to recite the pledge.

American Federation of Teachers spokesman Jamie Horwitz said his organization is "not in favor of imposing it (pledge) on anybody that won't do it voluntarily." But he added that Friday's event is "something that should happen and it should be encouraged."

Buss said anytime kids and teachers "take a couple of minutes out of their day" to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, "it's a great thing."