Now Please Stand for the Pledge of Allegiance

“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.”

This is what is recited at the beginning of each day by millions of students throughout the country. 

As a 17-year-old boy with a growing opinion, I’ve chosen to take a seat during the Pledge of Allegiance because I do not fully agree with the Pledge’s words. There are also no laws that force me to stand, which allows me to make the decision to sit on my own.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the United States. I just hope to see a change large enough to make me want to stand and pledge my allegiance to my country every morning, and I don’t think that change has happened yet.

Personally, I don’t have any reasons to stand, as I believe that the country needs to be much more stable politically in order for me to truly appreciate it. However, I completely understand that others do, and those reasons are important to them. Everybody thinks differently and if they choose to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance due to their beliefs and opinions, I completely understand.

A lot of students choose to stand for family members that have served or currently serve in the military. “My dad was in the Air Force for 24 years,” says Kelly Merrill (‘21), a student at ORHS. “I feel that I have to repay him in small ways, as well as big ways, and one of the small ways I can do it is standing for the Pledge of Allegiance,” added Merrill.

ORHS is home to many students with strong political views, along with young voices that want to be heard. Many of these students choose to sit rather than stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance for various reasons. Hannah Grass (‘20) explains why she chooses to sit. “If there was an unarmed black man who was shot, then no, I’m not going to stand up and pledge my allegiance to this country,” she says.

I don’t have a strong opinion on whether or not students need to stand or sit, but I do believe that all students deserve a choice, and I think it should be easier for students to make that decision.

“I think that students should do what they feel comfortable doing,” says Suzanne Filippone, Oyster River High School’s Principal. “I hope there isn’t any implication that we expect everybody to stand, like it’s an obligation,” she added.

Many of the students that have chosen to sit during the Pledge have simply decided to do so silently. More and more students are sitting during the Pledge and without it being addressed, it makes it harder for students to make this decision.

We were basically forced to rise in lower grades every time the voice rang over the school, telling us to stand. I don’t know if it was due to curriculum or opinion, but in elementary school, you got in trouble with your teacher if you didn’t stand, even if it was just because you were busy with some other task, which I believe is not the teacher’s place at all.

The social pressure of continuing these norms keeps us standing unless we find a solid reason that we choose not to. However even when students make that decision, they still receive backlash for their differences in opinion.

The repetition of standing leads up to today, where so many more people stand rather than sit, just because they’ve been doing it throughout their entire education. However, the idea of breaking this routine came with the popularity of being different.

 I feel as though a big sign of our country’s patriotism slowly decreasing was the summer of 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the National Anthem at the final preseason game.

“He did it on the field in front of millions of people and since football is such an ‘American’ thing, I think that’s when it all started,” says Grass.

Since then, I feel as if politics in general have spiked in the United States. Obviously we’ve always dealt with arguments about opposing opinions, but I feel like this was the moment that I began hearing more about political figures and issues. I think this boom of politics is what really helped youth get involved and make decisions of their own, form their own opinion, and speak their mind more openly.

The 1st Amendment allows all people to speak their opinion without consequence and we cannot be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance, because that would take away our freedom of speech. Being in the United States, we have the opportunity to speak out about these issues because we are one of the countries in the world with an act such as freedom of speech. The option of choice itself is something we should be grateful for.

Because of the freedom our country offers, I was able to make the decision to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance, but I still want to feel confident after making that choice. Most of the time I do, but there’s a moment after the rest of the class stands up in which they all turn to you and realize that you’re sitting. It’s an alienating feeling. 

I don’t want to feel guilty sitting even though it’s what I believe in, and the country isn’t going to fall apart without my participation in the Pledge of Allegiance. I appreciate our country and the rights that I’m granted, I just hope to see it reach a place that I can be proud of before I decide to stand every morning and state how much I care about the United States along with the rest of my peers.