Q&A - July 1, 2016

This Fourth of July, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, we do so with flags, fireworks and patriotic fanfare. As generations before us, we pause to reflect on the fact that we live in the freest nation that has ever existed.

Q: We seem to be so divided as a nation anymore. What is there to unite us as Americans?

There are 31 words that unite this nation, and they go like this… “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.”

When I was in grade school, we started every morning by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We would stand at attention by our desks, facing the American Flag that was always on display at the front of the classroom. We would place our right hands over our hearts and recite in unison the words that were so familiar to each of us. We didn’t understand every word, but we knew they were important, and we treated them with respect as we also treated the flag with respect. Later in life, I came to appreciate that these 31 words are filled with meaning and that each phrase of the Pledge was carefully and artfully crafted.

“I pledge allegiance…” A solemn vow that I offer to hereby dedicate my life and commit myself to a moral cause of the utmost significance and consequence.

“to the flag…” A symbolic square of fabric stitched together with various shapes and colors representing something far greater than the sum of its parts.

“of the United States of America…” Fifty distinct communities of self-determining and self-governing people that have come together within this hemisphere for one common purpose.

“and to the republic for which it stands…” A representative form of government with sovereign powers enjoined by the people to the government, not by the government to the people.

“one nation under God…” A single collective population of kinsmen living in unity and in the view of a creator who has provided all that we know and cherish in this life.

“indivisible…” Incapable of being divided, not by political rhetoric, not by the forces of the economy, and not by outside governments or influences.

“with liberty…” The very freedom that we hold so dear, the right to live out our lives within a free society without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

“and justice for all…" A human act of kindness and compassion, the determination to deal fairly with all peoples regardless of gender, age, race, color or creed.

Perhaps we are becoming more divided as a nation because we are neglecting those things that unite us. In Oklahoma, our children are protected by law to recite the Pledge at least once a week in school. But due to legal challenges, some states no longer set aside any time at all for the Pledge in their public schools. For our greater union, should there not be some traditions worth defending?

Please continue to forward your questions for this column to osuit-president@okstate.edu.