October 11, 2001 11:00 pm

It was a pledge that could be heard around the nation, except here in Oregon. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige contacted more than 100,000 public and private schools throughout the country to encourage them to have students participate in a simultaneous Pledge Across America.

The nationwide, synchronized Pledge of Allegiance, involving more than 50 million students, was held today.

Secretary Paige set it up so students would be simultaneously reciting the pledge at 2 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. CDT, noon MDT, 11 a.m. PDT, and at 10 a.m. in Alaska and 8 a.m. in Hawaii. Unfortunately, because of a statewide in-service day, not many students in Oregon participated.

Paige is to be commended for his efforts in emphasizing the importance of the pledge, especially during a time when America is responding to the terrorist attacks.

We wonder, however, how many parents would be able to explain the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to their children? The pledge, which only takes 15 seconds to recite, has many complex, multi-syllable words. How many youngsters understand words like republic or indivisible? Are parents able to explain the words:

Allegiance: the obligation to show support and loyalty to a government or country.

Flag: a piece of cloth with distinctive colors, patterns, and symbolic devices used as a national or state symbol.

Republic: a state or nation in which the supreme power rests in all the citizens entitled to vote, and is exercised by representatives elected by them and responsible to them.

Nation: a stable, historically developed community of people with a territory, economic life, distinctive culture and language in common.

God: a being conceived of as supernatural, immortal and having special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature.

Indivisible: something that cannot be divided, such as the United States following the Civil War.

Liberty: Freedom or release from slavery, captivity or any other form of arbitrary control.

Justice: The quality of being right or correct; a sense of impartiality and fairness applied to a people.

Teachers should use todays national pledge event as a springboard for a discussion with students about the meaning of these words. A series on the pledge could be expanded over a week or two. What a great civics lesson that would be.

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