Things we can learn from the pledge

Published 7:51 pm Monday, October 19, 2015

By Rep. Randy Forbes

The 31 words of the Pledge of Allegiance make up one of the most widely known sentences in America.

Let’s look at this national symbol and what it means for our nation today.

Email newsletter signup

‘I pledge allegiance’

The pledge begins with a simple but powerful declaration for citizens of our nation. The act of allegiance is an option, something to be freely committed by its people. Even the recitation of the pledge itself is voluntary. This kind of allegiance is powerful because it is a choice.

Today, our pledge offers a challenge to our government’s leaders — to commit to making decisions that strengthen our nation’s core values, so Americans remain proud of America.

‘To the flag of the United States of America’

After Sept. 11, three New York City firefighters raised the American flag on top of the smoldering rubble at Ground Zero. The symbol of patriotism cut through the devastation and offered hope. Decades earlier in a similar act, five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman hoisted Old Glory above Mt. Suribachi at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Every day, visitors at Arlington National Cemetery place small American flags beside white grave markers.

Ask any of these individuals what went through their minds when they raised the Stars and Stripes, and they probably won’t say anything about the flag itself. Instead they would describe values: freedom, hope, liberty, unity.

Our flag is more than just a cultural symbol for our nation. It represents the freedoms that set us apart from other nations. In our nation, every person is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No matter the turmoil and challenges, there is more that is right and good in our nation. There is more worth fighting for.

‘And to the republic for which it stands’

U.S. citizens are guaranteed certain rights: the right to due process of law, the right to vote, the right to be free. Because of those rights, America is a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope to millions around the globe. The pledge reminds us who is at the helm of this American experiment: citizens.

We must commit to a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. This model is necessary for justice and liberty to work and for tranquility to exist in our nation.

‘One nation under God’

George Washington said in his final address as president, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Rooted deeply into our form of government and throughout our nation’s history is the belief that all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights. We are free to live according to the dictates of our conscience and to live every aspect of our lives according to our faith. Our pledge asserts that this is a value that is worth protecting and worth expressing.


Americans are wondering lately: “Can we return to unity? Can we reclaim the spirit of America?” Being indivisible doesn’t mean being without conflict. It means being committed to a common goal.

The pledge reminds us that there are core values we can stand united upon. I am reminded of it most when I see the way communities come together after crises and tragedy, the heroes who teach our school children every day, the men and women who stand for freedom across the globe. We can be indivisible, but we have to earn it daily.

‘With liberty and justice for all’

The pledge reminds Americans of their precious freedoms. We must protect and pass on this great gift of liberty. By upholding and passing down our civic history and traditions we preserve our core belief that United States citizenship is an honor that transcends race, religion, privilege or politics.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at