It sounds familiar right? These are the last five words of the Pledge of Allegiance. We used to say them every day at the beginning of school. I am reminded of these words at this time of year because we are starting the patriotic ‘season:’ Memorial Day, Flag Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. These days remind us to respect these words which tell us what is so important and unique about being in the United States.
Many memories are triggered when I hear these words. I remember the day my grandmother stood on the porch as I paraded by with my fellow Girl Scouts, holding the American Flag. I remember thinking how happy my grandmother would have been to see my daughter do the same thing with her troop, many years later.
Being in the US is one big experiment. We started this country with the idea to create something new, and we have succeeded in many ways.. However, we do not yet have liberty and justice for all.
I was in a library last week, picked up a book, and flipped it to a page with this quote:
“As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might”- Marian Anderson
It was the year 1939 when someone tried to hold that Marian back. She was not permitted to sing in the hall of the Daughters of the Revolution (the DAR) because of the color of her skin. Instead, it was arranged for her to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady at that time, resigned her membership in the DAR as a protest to their decision.
We hold people down in many ways: Call it exclusion; when the one person who does the task, knows it better than anyone else, is not consulted or included in making changes. Call it dependency; when we deny someone the opportunity to learn or try something new. Call it segregation; when we tell someone that they cannot consider an employment opportunity because a sheltered workshop is the only safe place for them.
What does liberty mean to you? The dictionary says: “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. The freedom to pursue your own interests and preferences”
Let’s take our WHY out and compare it to WHY this country was founded. Let’s be as optimistic as Marian Anderson. Let’s act on our beliefs and expect that others will follow.
“There are many persons ready to do what is right because in their hearts they know it is right. But they hesitate, waiting for the other fellow to make the first move–and he, in turn, waits for you. The minute a person whose word means a great deal dares to take the open-hearted and courageous way, many others follow. Not everyone can be turned aside from meanness and hatred, but the great majority of Americans is heading in that direction. I have a great belief in the future of my people and my country.”
— Marian Anderson