I thought I’d failed to show the danger of “under God” in the pledge . . .

I attended my high school reunion recently. There are many reasons not to go to a reunion [more than one classmate said so when the committee contacted them] but there are also many reasons to go.

I am too curious to let something like a personal ‘whatever happened to’ pass me by. Period. I’ve been in marketing and advertising, brushing up close to theater and performance, for most of my life. Grist for the mill, I figured.

Wrong. I would be taken by surprise. Not by what I remembered when I saw a face, morphed from age 17 to 68, rather by what people remembered about me.

The Love for My County

One woman told me how she felt after listening to my speech for the Henry E. Huntington School  8th Grade Oratorical Contest.

“You made me love my country, you made me glad to be a citizen. You gave the flag new meaning,” she told me.

I have a tape of that speech; however, time, a house fire and random heat spells ensured that it could not be saved, even by the most sophisticated equipment in San Francisco. The speech was about ten minutes long and I still have the trophy. Several times I’ve tried to toss it, or recycle it, but my daughters have stopped me. I have no idea what will happen to it after I’m gone, but that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I am the same person, the same passionate patriot I was in 8th grade. My politics, however, have shifted.

So, I’m One of Those . . . 

I just took one of those patriot tests. And came out a liberal.

That would have surprised me more than 50 years ago. I remember in black-and-white what influenced me in those days. In 1952, we had a straw poll in my Stoneman School second grade glass. One girl said she would vote for Adlai Stevenson. Nobody spoke to her the rest of the year.

In 1953, we had to add “under God” to the pledge of allegiance. I saw no point in that, as the mere insertion of those words divided what I loved roll off my tongue . . . “one nation, indivisible” In 1954, I read Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl [published in 1953], not knowing anything about concentration camps or Nazis. I remember Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about: “. . . the Congressional military industrial complex” because I overheard my grandmother talking to General Patton about it one afternoon.

I could say that I have always connected the dots. I was still upset about the “under God” in 1958. So, I wrote a speech and entered a contest. Hoping to turn the tide.

I thought I failed. Until my classmate at my 50 year reunion told me how she felt.

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