Millions of schoolchildren in the United States took a few moments out of their day Friday to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag, all at the same time.
At the Stockton Elementary School in Chicago, a group of second-grade children said the pledge with a few firefighters and policemen in the school library.
The pledge was first recited on October 12, 1892. This year, U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige urged school officials throughout the country to have all 52 million of the country's schoolchildren recite the pledge at the same time on Friday. Most of Chicago's 400,000 students joined in, including eight-year-old Rod Ramirez. "It makes me feel happy. Because I am proud of everybody," he said.
The pledge of allegiance is said in many classrooms throughout the country at the start of each school day. The nationwide simultaneous pledge was suggested as a show of patriotism and unity for the United States' anti-terrorism efforts and recovery from the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Eight-year-old Cinnamon Brown had the attacks' victims in mind Friday. "I felt happy, but I felt a little sad for the people in the airplane crash," he said.
Teacher Patty Whitehouse says her students are young to fully understand what happened last month, but they have talked about it in school. "We have a school newspaper and we asked the kids to include their feelings in the newspaper, any thoughts and reflections," she said. "A lot of the first and second-graders drew pictures. Most said they were proud to be Americans and [drew] pictures of kids holding hands next to an American flag."
Reciting the pledge of allegiance simultaneously is an idea that goes back about ten years. A retired teacher in California founded a group that supplies educational materials on democracy to schools, and recommends a nationwide recitation on October 12. It is an idea that has attracted little attention until this year.