In making the decision, we had to start at the beginning and think through what the Pledge of Allegiance means to us. We view the Pledge of Allegiance as an oath to the flag, which represents the ideals of the United States defined in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [Equality], that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights [Rights], that among these are Life, Liberty [Liberty] and the pursuit of Happiness [Opportunity]. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed [Democracy].”
I’m a first-generation immigrant to the United States. My father was born in Cambodia and myself and my mother in Venezuela. I emigrated from Venezuela when I was seven. When I started school in the US, I remember trying to learn the Pledge so I could recite it with the rest of my class every morning. I barely spoke English and did not understand what it meant, but I wanted to fit in, so I said it like all of the other kids in my class.
It wasn’t until 7th grade when our Humanities teacher taught a lesson on the Pledge and what it stood for that I finally understood what it stood for. Even though I wasn’t a US citizen yet, I now stood proudly and recited the Pledge, no longer out of routine, but because I felt American and believed in the ideals of this country. Finally, in college, when I was able to become a citizen of the United States, I proudly took the naturalization oath.
When I remember my cousin, as a 12-year old, telling me about what she would do to survive the rice fields of Cambodia or when I think about another cousin and her newborn daughter in a bathroom so that the tear gas from last year’s protests in Venezuela wouldn’t harm the baby, I am thankful for the peaceful life my children are able to live.
When I think of the currency exchange restrictions placed on my family that makes it impossible for them to travel outside of their country, I am thankful for the freedoms I have.
And when I think of my father’s family, who I never met because they died for being educated, I am thankful for the men and women, including Ryan’s grandfather, father and brother, who have defended my and my children’s way of life.
So, when we had to decide if, as a school, we would say the Pledge of Allegiance, it was a very easy decision to make. As a school we will stand and say the Pledge. As a school, we will also provide students with the lesson that my teacher provided me, which gave me freedom to make an informed decision on whether or not I wanted to continue to say the Pledge. Finally, whether or not to say the entire pledge, or parts of the pledge is a very personal decision each student and teacher makes for him or herself, which we respect.
I hope that you have a wonderful Independence holiday weekend!