"The Pledge to the Flag, as the 29-word declamation is called, the brainchild of James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy, appeared on Sept. 8 in the magazine The Youth's Companion.
"Congressional debates concerning the danger to the American Way of life posed by unchecked immigration would seem to indicate that national pride is not in short supply, but many apparently feel that today's youth could benefit from an injection of patriotism in their daily routine."
The above words appear on Page 497 of the book "Chronicle of America" and are on the same page as the announcement that Grover Cleveland had won the presidential election of 1892."
On Page 767 of the same book are the words: "President Eisenhower signed a congressional resolution that alters the words the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. The resolution adds the words, 'under God,' changing the phrase 'one nation indivisible' to 'one nation, under God, indivisible.' At the signing the president said that it served to rededicate the nation to its divine source and provided meaning to a world that recently experienced cruelty and violence and where a materialistic philosophy of life deadens millions."
The date of that signing was June 14, 1954. And as I reread the words I thought of the recent meeting of the Military Order of the Purple Heart I attended in Cheektowaga. At the start of each meeting we say the Pledge of Allegiance as we learned it in school. And since every man in the meeting was a WWII type, the words "under God" were not in our Pledge.
Then I found myself recalling that like most people we learned our Pledge at at an age when we did not understand its words. That in turn caused me to think about a fifth-grade teacher in Lancaster named Tina Krauss.
Like all good teachers, Mrs. Krauss knew the perils of learning by rote, and a light bulb went on over her head when a fellow teacher named Linda Draper showed her a clipping from a Florida newspaper last September.
The clipping told of a teacher in Florida who had asked celebrities for cassettes on which each famed person recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The response had been underwhelming.
Mrs. Krauss, who has had some success with unusual class projects, decided that the Florida teacher had made a mistake by writing her own letters. The other day she said, "I had the feeling we would do better if the students wrote the letters. And they started doing that in ln early November of 1993. They also asked the celebrities for a special inspirational they could share.
Among the celebrities who have sent the desired cassettes are Susan Banks, Bob Barker, Mike Billoni, Spencer Christian, Casey Kasem, Mario Cuomo, Sen. Bob Dole, Lancaster School Superintendent Joseph Girardi, Lancaster Town Supervisor Lucian Greco, Brian Kahle, Carol Kaplan, Rep. John LaFalce, Pat LaFontaine, FBI Director Louis Freehs, Kathleen Leighton, Barry Lillis, Laurie Lisowski, Pete Metzelaars, John Muckler, John Murphy, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Bill Paxon, Gregory Peck, Linda Pellegrino, Mike Randall, Janet Reno, Sen. Dale Volker, Art Wander, Irv Weinstein and CIA Director L. James Woolsey.
Among those who declined the offer to participate were President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Joan Lunden, Johnny Mathis, Elizabeth Taylor and Ted Turner.
All right. There is a natural inclination to say, "That should be expected of such people." But some of the reasons given are solid. All presidents and most first ladies get more requests than they can handle judiciously. Johnny Mathis has a clause in his recording contract that prohibits him from making outside recordings.
About now a quibbler is saying, "Mrs. Krauss seems to have borrowed her idea from Mrs. Irene Priore, who got a lot of attention with a Pledge of Allegiance deal."
In 1970 the late Mrs. Priore, a Cheektowaga teacher, organized a movement that had students in 49 states reciting the Pledge of Allegiance simultaneously. At that time Tina Krauss was 7 years old and was not not reading many newspapers.
On June 14, the 20th anniversary of Eisenhower's signing of the "under God" resolution, Mrs. Krauss will receive an award from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. With her for the occasion will be the school principal, Frank Rizzo, and 43 of the best letter-writing students in the area.
Some sentimentalists are saying that with the celebrants at the ceremony will be the ghosts of James B. Upham, Francis Bellamy and Ike Eisenhower.